Learning Something New Again

"Teach me how to drive this," I pointed to the forklift. Dave looked at me blankly and hopped on. He lifted my work material and dropped it in the workshop.

"Teach me how to drive this," I pointed to the forklift. Jang Hoon looked at me blankly and hopped on. He too, lifted my work material and dropped it in the workshop.

"Teach me how to drive this, god damn it!" I pointed to the forklift. Patrick said, "I'll do it buddy," and hopped on and lifted my work out of the workshop into the delivery yard.

With colleagues like that, for months I never got around learning it.

Steve is on a two weeks holiday. Leslie is covering him a night-shift supervisor for the period. "Nix, do the dressing outside the workshop because it's faster that way. Use the forklift to adjust the height of the frame." That was the instruction given to me and Les disappeared.

This time I pulled Jang Hoon over and made him conduct a crash course. Within minutes, I was operating the forklift like I had drove it for months. Yet when I sat on one of them during the breaks with the intention to learn how to drive, I was so hesitant that I couldn't make myself turn the ignition key.

I used to rollerblade when I was a young chap. Once, I was asked to join my friends for an ice skating session. The feeling of stepping into ice for the first time was exciting of course. Especially if you are not trained. With some basic skills in me, I did not bat an eyelid when I stepped into the ice rink. I glided off cautiously but steadily.

I can drive a manual car very comfortably by now, a van or small lorry. Yet when I face a forklift, I felt like back in the army days when I was in Armour Training School where I took lessons to drive the M113 and SM1. I was overwhelmed the first time I sat on the hard seat of the M113. The instructor barked at me to drive off before I could think. 

"Huh, shouldn't he introduce me the components and .."

"Put on gear, release parking brake and DRIVE!"

I did that and the huge chunk of metal moved, clanging noisy along the bumpy dirt track. Very quickly, I got the hang of it as I steered the M113 along. I had to. Not because of the impatient guy behind me in the commander's seat but our survival were at stake. 

As we approached the gully, it was scary just by looking at it. I waited as other trainees before me negotiated the series of tiny but steep slopes of at least 40 degrees angle. Some trainees really struggled, one even got stuck in the peak of one slope. The SM1 tank he was driving was balanced comically at the tip of the cone. I could hear trainees laughing all the way from the waiting area and one of the warrant officers screaming away.

When it was my turn, I approached it fearlessly. My instructor became serious and guided me in detail. As my vehicle move up the first steep gully, I was taken aback that I had lost sight of the track due to the angle that my vehicle climbing. As I couldn't see where I am going, I could not adjust the tank to avoid it being tilted by the time it reached the tip.

"Look to your left of right," the instructor urged.

Without questioning I did as I was told. As I glanced right I saw a slanted view in the horizon. "Interesting," I remembered myself thinking. By keeping myself parallel to the line of view, I would have been moving straight. Bearing that in mind, I managed to kept the steering appropriate to give myself a favourable position as I approach the top. By the time my tank swung down suddenly to move down the other side of the slope, I was confident my transcend would be smooth.

"Let go of your brakes!"

With a tinge of reluctance I did as I was told and experienced the fastest acceleration of the day. When the tank expanded the last bit of stored energy, we were already halfway up the next slope. I negotiated the rest of the gully with elegance.


Moving to a new land has made me meek. Subconsciously I minimised risk taking and desperately carve a new comfort zone that I had lost the moment I stepped out of Singapore. The forklift is not a difficult equipment to master. It's a one-day course here for anyone who is interested and I assumed most if not all, passed it on the day itself. Precisely so, I was baffled with my fear. By the end of the day, I received curious looks from Jang Hoon and two thumbs up from Dave when I zoomed passed them in the forklift, horning at them on purpose and grinning behind my gas mask. 

The feeling of learning something new renews our interests in life. The danger of being encapsulated in a routine is that it could abandon you in a state of apathy. A state when nothing excites or concerns you anymore as long as your routine is not disturbed. That's when you outsource the decision making of matters that affects your life greatly, empowering the others at the expense of yourself. We should always keep ourselves alert by constantly learning new things or paying attention to current affairs around us so that we know what is going to happen before it hits us cock-standing. By doing that we live, and not merely exist.


  1. Nice set of analogies, bro... keep it going, one day you are gonna take part in the Armored Forklift battles mounted with 0.5" brownings. Aussie rules.

  2. No matter what, u definetely a better driver.. I remembered then I almost drove the M113 AFV over the cliff. The instructor broke his guiding stick smashing on my helmet..


  3. I thought you need a licence to drive forklift in AU... I was stopped before for not having one...

  4. Reminded me of this quote which is really suitable for us:
    "what can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?"

    I can draw up a list, for sure.

    The Baker :)

  5. also, by learning new skills or by exposure to new experiences, one's brain is exercised and thus becomes even better.

    u get better equipped mentally, able to handle more unknowns that life throws your way.

  6. I think one reason why we are hesitant is we often hear one has to be licensed to operate forklift, truck or bulldozer in Oz.
    Another reason is probably because we are in a new country with so many new things to get accustomed to and to learn so, naturally, we won't feel so comfortable or confident. Yet.

    I went through the same sungei gedong course in another armoured vehicle too :)

    I also had the opportunity to operate the bulldozer and wheel loader in SG. No license, just OJT. Great fun!

    Go forth and give them a try but take care.