Reflections on my termination

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It’s exactly one full year since I stopped writing on my blog. I blogged from 20 Oct 2011 to 20 Oct 2012. Many of my friends and followers urge me to continue writing. I did not realize that I have so many friends and followers out there. Much has happened since then. Most importantly on a personal level, I have lost my job. I am now unemployed.

After 18 long years of driving trains, I’m now told that I was not fit or competent to drive trains. I was terminated from my job end of last month. It’s now more than 3 weeks since I stopped reporting to work. In such a big organization, I was even deemed unfit for any other job. I was compensated with one month salary after I was told to leave.

For almost 18 years, I live, sleep and breathe within the train system. I worked almost every day including off days unless I was on courses or on leave. I can’t even recall when was the last time I reported sick. I work with all kinds of odd hours with bizarre reporting timings and rotating shifts with rotating off days. Almost everyday, I had to remember my train timings, places (depots, stations and different platforms etc) to take the trains and worry about my train schedules. If I miss taking the train, the handing over driver will need to continue driving the train. With few misses within a short time-span, it’s out you go. That is one example of many where I was always pre-occupied with trains – even in my sleep; over the last 18 years. I had to force myself to sleep if I were to wake up at 4am the next morning to prepare for work sleep or no sleep! The train must be launched from the depot! No one will understand what I’m trying to say here except the 400 over train drivers in the system whose job is to move millions of passengers regardless of rain or shine, flooding or ponding, lightning or thunder!

Even though I no longer work in my previous company, I still can’t go into the details of my termination and other work related issues here. You know they are big powerful organization and I am just a nobody. Shakespeare is correct when he says,

“As flies to wanton boys;
Are we to the gods.
They kill us for their sport.”

I’m just like a small fly where they can just kill me for their sport! I really can’t afford those legal tussles in court. We must bear in mind that this is Singapore. We are unlike those first world developed countries.

Actually they are not wrong in terminating my service if they feel that I am not up to their expectations. Just like if I were to get another better job offer, I could also give one month notice or pay back one month of salary if I were to leave immediately. In my case, it is they asking me to leave with one month extra salary. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with it. No one can fault them. But then as in the Chinese saying, “我这鞍前马后的,没有功劳也有苦劳呀。” (After all my loyal service I at least deserve some recognition for my efforts.) But then like I said earlier, this is Singapore. We are unlike those first world advanced countries.

My friend “Dark Knight”, a regular visitor to India who has friends and relatives in that huge developing third world country told me that they treat their workers much better. In the railway industry there, it is usually the son taking over the father’s job when the latter retires. They always try to re-deploy their workers if they no longer able to perform in the designated job due to whatever reasons. If the worker dies on the job, they would try to find a suitable job for the widow or son just to ensure that the family could survive with a source of income. Their salary may be much lower than us, but they do take care of their workers well in that sense. Here it is different. Everything boils down to bottom-line and costs. It’s too profit driven even for a mass public transport operator. So I say again, this is Singapore. We are different from them even as we compare ourselves with a poor 3rd world developing country like India.

My FT Indian friend Manish had this to say, “… India maybe 3rd world country but it seems that Singapore is poorer than India in all respects now. If they can’t take care of a person who served 18 yrs loyally, then it’s curtain down for them where human values are concerned. You take care my friend.” PS: Reproduced with permission.

Throughout the 18 years in my previous company, there were at least 3 job offers along the way. My friend Yam who ever worked with me (he was my field Sgt in CID) never gave up until the 3rd and last time about 2 years ago when he encouraged me to try as CSO in a big organization with nearly $3.6K. I told him that I could earn much more than that. He was aghast. He did not know that my gross salary could go up to more than $6k a month. That is what I meant by working round the clock without any rest to earn that much. Money doesn’t fall from the sky like they say.

Enough of my rantings about my previous employer. It really serves no purpose to talk bad about them. Sometimes, people take it as “damaging their reputation and image” when I was merely stating the facts. In fact, I must thank them and be grateful to them for giving me 18 years of employment when I left the Police Force as an Investigation Officer on my own accord due to the extreme stress, never ending court cases and investigation papers. I was then so glad that I found my dreamt job operating trains until end of last month. I am a realist and I accept that it is better to move on. What else can I do?

My good friend Sgt Lee says, “One door is closed, hopefully another door will open.” He could say that cuz he’s armed with a string of diplomas, certificates and courses such as taxi license, tunneling supervision course, Safety Officer, Tourist Resort diploma, Foot massage diploma etc.. Everybody is waiting to take away your lunch if you are not careful. This is Singapore and no one owes us a living here.

I was working most of the time. Whenever my friends called me or messaged me, I would tell them I’m at work. I even had a template ready to reply them. One of them goes like this, “I’m now working. Even though you have shark fins or abalone, I also can’t join you. My sincere apology. Will meet you other day!” One of my friends used to say “your other day will never come!”

Once they came to know that I was terminated, calls and invitations started coming in. For more than 3 weeks, almost everyday especially evenings, I would get invitations from my friends to join them in EM, Kovan, Yishun, Ang Mo Kio and even Pasir Ris Dr 6 coffeeshops! They know there is now no excuse to turn them down. When I tried to pay, they always declined especially Wilson who frequently asks me to go lunch with him. Last Friday, Dark Knight brought me to JB. We spent the whole day there roaming JB where he introduced me to his regular car workshops, best roti prata, fish head curry, foot massage etc. It’s a luxury I rarely indulged!

After 18 years in the company, there are many colleagues expressing shock and concern at my sudden departure. Another dark knight Joseph called me few times to offer me a security job in his brother’s company. Some called to offer suggestions and advice on my unemployed status. Many talked about me at work in my absence. Generally they miss me around. Dr Dos was quite upset from what I heard even though he never spoke to me. We are so closed that we understood each other. No need to talk physically. We communicated telepathically.

Now that I got so much time on my hands, I get myself organized. I did lots of housekeeping in my own house. I have finished half a dozen of novels. The two Ian Hamilton’s Iva Lee novels Lohcifer gave me months ago, I finished within a week. I’ve even visited those places usually I would like to go but could not due to lack of time when I was totally committed and devoted to my work.

At least I am still fit and alive. Throughout my 18 yr career in my previous company, I have seen at least 5 of my colleagues dropped dead due to heart attacks, accidents, cancer or other causes. The past few weeks have given me much reflection and thoughts about work and living as my finishing line draws nearer. I didn’t have much time to ponder all those issues. There was no time to stand and stare! Now I do. If I was not terminated, I could have ended up like one of them dropped dead madly chasing the last few dollars and pushing tolerance to the limits with little rest and no work-life balance.

It’s only less than one month since I left my previous job. I plan to take another month break or maybe start working again next year. It’s going to be the longest vacation I ever take! Thank you all for your good words and concern. I am so overwhelmed by all of you – I can’t name them all; that I had to break my silence to go public about my current status.

3 Responses to Reflections on my termination

  1. iis21 says:

    Hi there! I enjoyed reading your articles. Besides this, I’ve also read the one on the lack of hygiene from the Cai Fan stall and the drinks stall. They are really insightful. I’m also an observant street-walker who works long hours with no day off. That could explain why I felt really intrigued and connected to your writing. Cheers! Keep writing.🙂

  2. Anonymous says:

    Losing your job – a real blessing in disguise ! You have time to stop and stare; enjoy the pleasurable things you always wanted to do . Good for you ! Enjoy reading your writing !
    From : Agnes Loo

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