Chia Ti Lik’s Blog

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I found my black dog :) and I shall call it blackie

Stumbling out of a series of ongoing personal cases, which seem to have no conclusion and which never seem to end, I was not a person to surrender and give up easily. I pushed on with life. An attempt to be a half-baked investor in a friend’s startup business turned me, as a matter of ad hoc expediency, into a stand-in bike delivery boy.

I found myself doing door to door delivery for this friend’s food start up business. This ordeal lasted a whole ten days and about a hundred deliveries i guess. It basically brought me to my knees. My body surrendered and I came down with flu (heh heh what’s new? :)) and after two weeks of being put out of action, I had to end my involvement and I arrived at some conclusions myself about many things.

The going on the roads over the ten days was so tough, my 3 year old Bajaj Pulsar just gave up and stalled on me on one night. The cause was overheating. I had run almost 160km that day. 4.5 continuous hours on the road. My arms hurt, my butt hurt and my ego wounded. The bike had failed me. I just sat down on the kerb by the road and faced my own thoughts.

Has anyone ever tasted what is it like to be a despatch rider at 36 years of age as a matter of choice? Similar to the kind McDonalds use to send food with a huge thermal bag on bike right to your doorstep. Was it something that i could not take or bring myself to do? I seriously had to answer that myself.

Running around East Coast GRC making food deliveries was something that no electorate would expect of their previous opposition candidate :).

Running around with my Bajaj and later my Shadow, i was always had a little fear about being recognised. One close friend and supporter had reservations when i told her what i was doing. She had remarked “Don’t you think that it is a little unbefitting your status? Somemore, it would look bad that the PAP gets wind of it and takes it up in the next General Election to slime you of being a deliveryboy.”

My answer to that was “Firstly, I cannot let three or more other friends’ venture fail simply because they did not have anyone to help them cover the vacuum, Secondly, i do not know when the next GE was. Thirdly, I might not be a candidate in the coming GE. Fourthly, people might not recognise me at all.” 🙂

Secretly, i was actually a pervert. Not the Tiger Woods kind though. But I actually wondered if indeed people would recognise me, in fact i relished the thought of being seen in that light. Perhaps to elaborate, being in the service line was nothing new to me. And no I was never a Singapore Airlines Flight Steward, though my ex-wife was a Singapore Airlines Flight Stewardess. I was actually a Bellhop at the Laguna National Golf & Country Club at the Club’s front desk sometime from 1996 till 1998 during the school holidays.

Getting unpleasant remarks for lateness in service and feeling the tempers of dissatisfied customers was nothing new to me. However, this was a little different when i became a lawyer. I realised that i seriously had no qualms about telling clients off if something they did or said did not agree with me. Rightfully so. This is because when you are dealing with the law, the application of rights, the question of morals and ethics was something that cannot be compromised.

That, however, was not the only reason. There was a thing called EGO that was lurking in the background. As a lawyer, you are accorded status. you are accorded respect. You have the right of audience before the Courts. This did something to many lawyers in Singapore. Not only was ego inflated, the sense of right and wrong was sometimes also blurred when pride gets in the way.

I had wanted the exercise of doing home deliveries to see if people recognised me. I think a couple of them did. I remembered making one extremely late delivery to Haig Road on one of the chaotic nights. The customers were rather peeved and irritated. In fact they had called to cancel the order jast as i reached the place. They had a party and some of their guests had left.

Imagine standing at the door, facing the gaze of disapproval from the many guests in the huge huge house. Dripping wet on your raincoat on the outside. Reekingly wet with sweat under your raincoat on the inside. The client had no reason to pay or oblige me. In fact was thinking to myself that i should just beat a quick retreat from the embarassing situation i had gotten myself into. Things changed very quickly though. Perhaps, it was the colour of my skin, my tone and surprisingly grammatically correct English that surprised them. Perhaps i was not the usual despatch rider. Perhaps i was recognised but the sweet thing was, the lady reached for her purse to gave me payment and accepted the delivery. Due to a breakage in the packaging, i gave her a discount.

Heading back to base, the bike stalled. I left it on the roadside and sat on the pavement waiting for it to cool down. Buses and cars whizzed past. The bike had failed me. and though it was pleasant to have been treated differently on one of the deliveries, i decided against risking another bike stalling that might delay some future delivery.

I managed to find someone interested in my bike. It was a swap situation, i was to swap my 3 year old Bajaj Pulsar for a 13-year old Yamaha XJR400R. I had to top up the other party abit and also i had to spend money to get the bike repaired. There was something not too right with its carburettor. The bike sounded like it was about to die and it spewed black smoke. The kind that would send the Inspection Officers under LTA into convulsions and fits. It was not fit to be on the road.

So in the midst of tending to my cases, i had to take some energy to find a friendly mechanic who would spend time to isolate the problem plaguing the famed bike. It spewed smoke whenever the throttle was turned up. When the first mechanic opened it up, darkened spark plugs came into view and he clucked his tongue “tsk tsk tsk tsk”.  The bike was then hospitalised for a week. At the end of the first week, the bike was discharged but the problem was not solved.

I was quoted S$800 for a complete carburettor replacement. Even then the parts were not available in Singapore.

A friend helped to make some enquiries with his mechanic and the word came was for me to send the bike there for a checkup. Now i had always wanted to avoid this mechanic. He was an old man. I did not avoid him because he was old. I avoided him because in one of my earlier bikescapades, i had come down with a pratricularly problematic but lovely bike. I got the bike cheap but as the repairs were chalking up, my friend had insisted that i go to his mechanic friend because he was sure that it would save me money.

However, when i reached there the first thing what my friend did was to extoll my political exploits – my contest in the last elections, my status as a lawyer [and interestingly I was on a cheap bike] and my penchant for repeatedly finding half-wrecked bikes to fix.

I remembered the old mechanic smile at me kindly and decline to charge me anything after that. Acting on my complaints, he adjusted the brake and clutch lines on my SR125, tested the engine and refused to charge me.

Now everyone wants to save money, but i was not used to taking advantage of people at all. I avoided the shop after that because I felt strange.

My friend dragged me back when he found out about my expensive adventure in a sick and smoking Yamaha XJR400R. I hesitated. I said i was not comfortable about people not charging me. I feel i would be making them prone to abuse by others if i were to condone the behaviour. As it turned out, i found out from my friend that this was really a friend friend thing not to charge because he had previously tutored the mechanic’s son for free for a number of years.

Therefore, the bike was brought there and left there. After the same parts were dismantled, the problem was finally isolated. In the carburettor, 3 out of 4 diaphragms were torn. The mechanic called the agent Hong Leong and was told that the parts were not available in the whole of Singapore. Thankfully my friend did not give up. He called up all the parts suppliers of Hong Leong. We found at one shop only 3 pieces of the diaphragm. These parts, plastic, metal and rubber bonded together to look like a mushroom cost a whopping $83 per piece before GST. Seeing the coincidence of the universe, that i had 3 diaphragms torn and needed replacement for 3, the entire Singapore had only 3 left. This was a sign that the parts were meant for me. This was also a sign that the bike was meant for me. I paid the shop and troubled my friend to bring it to the mechanic.

The parts were replaced in a day and on Friday i received a call that the bike was ready for collection. The repairs were done at a cost of S$100/-. Amazing! This was certainly better than the earlier mechanic who had to charge me S$190 for his efforts but had failed to rectify the problem.

Since Saturday morning, i have been taking the Yamaha XJR400 through the paces all over Singapore. Running my errands, clearing my mind. One thing i noticed however was that the Yamaha engine growls. It growls like a dog waiting to attack. Not sounding exactly fierce or ferocious as how one would describe an R1 or Hayabusa but somewhat meek and nice in a way. Like a timid dog pretending to be fierce before it feints an attack. Furthermore, it was also painted over in black in areas where it should not be black.

It reminded me so much of my beloved black dog – Blackie.

In short, that was how i scraped through another month of hell bungling with court proceedings, activism, my issues, emotions and problems (internal and external).

One might wonder why i someone like me, not perfect but very much flawed and human would have the luxury of troubling people to run my errands at times. People who openly express support and encouragement for the crazy things i do. People who would come all the way to my office to counsel me when i am too passive to seek help even though i needed it. He and another would be always listening and waiting to give advice on the side.

Friends who have repeatedly stated that they no qualms about volunteering to help me again when the next elections come. Friends who would drag their other friends and who would apply pressure on others to help me. The same friends whom i have not been diligent with in keeping up with. I have made mistakes but with them there is no judgment – only understanding. I myself wonder why as well.

The only possible answer can be found from another friend’s description of me “mistake prone, dogmatic, flawed reasoning, strange thinking, prone to firey tempers, impulsive, reckless, at times suicidal, but downright honest and genuine, someone who enjoys taking on bullies, someone who would not turn his back on a friend”. Which may be the very reason why my friends never turn their backs on me.

In the streets, avenues and expressways playing between Pasir Ris to Tanjong Rhu, I found a part of myself. I found  a deeper understanding of the dynamics surrounding friendship. I found a bike which i liked and which was destined for me and reminded me of my black dog that I have decided to call it Blackie.

This time round, on top of my renewed Honda Shadow 400,  i will keep this aged and growling Yamaha XJR400R. The 2 of them will keep me company on my journeys – they are so aptly named as my shadow and my black dog.

My critics and people who hate me will be proven wrong these days. When asked who is Chia Ti Lik, the answer used to be that I was concerned with only “I, me and myself” 🙂

These days the answer has morphed into “I, my Shadow and my Black Dog” 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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December 14, 2009 - Posted by | Life

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