The Helping Hand

After a year of abuse, he finally broke down last month. So there goes my $1,250. Frankly, I could have made it last longer. I reckon if I bothered to service the car, it will last easily 2-3 years. For some reason, I couldn't be bothered and hence I had to bear the consequences.

Perhaps breaking down on a highway has always been a weird fantasy of mine. By the time it was fulfilled, I showed to remorse nor frustration. I simply tapped the hazard light, slowed down to the road shoulder, restarted the car to listen to the last chokes of the Lucky Brian. Then I dismounted nonchalantly, disengaged two of my baby seats from the back, flipped them over my shoulders with part of their seat belts and began my walk back home. I reckoned I would make it back home before sunset.

I barely walked a minute away from my stranded car before a car slowed down besides me. The driver wind down the window and called out, "Hey mate, where do you live?"

"Oh hi mate. I live in (dodgy suburb)," was my reply.

"Hey I live in (suburb next to mine), I could give you a lift! Hop on!"

I thanked him and I did.

His name was Adam, a born and bred Aussie in his early 30s. My first question for Adam was how often did he help strangers on the road. He told me he lost count. I believed him. You know, that wasn't the first time I was rendered help by strangers when I had trouble on road. It brought me back to the incident when I was in Perth in 2007 for a visit. Back then Jen was just special friend. She was in Perth for her Masters and I missed her and made the visit. She thought I would like to see the Pinnacles so we made a road trip up north.

On the way, she stopped by the road to answer a phone call. Silly woman. She didn't realise she had driven fully into the gravel in a vehicle that wasn't a 4x4 built. We ended up stranded in a country road hundreds of kilometres away from the next town with hardly a single car passing in 10 minutes. A bloke in a ute eventually did. His Corgi hopped out from a bucket at the back of his ute and greeted us cheerily. The Aussie, also in his early 30s, tied a rope to our car, dragged us out of the gravel, said "No worries" and sped off. That incident left a deep impression on me about the people in this country.

2 years later, I was driving along Senoko Drive at 9pm on the way home after work. It was one of those dark streets (by Singapore's standard) that you wouldn't want to hang around for more than a minute if you could help it. I saw a young woman standing by the road, using a phone. As I moved closer, I saw that she was frustrated and assumed she might have difficulties getting a cab to get her out of trouble. I did the same thing as Adam and asked the lady if she needed a lift to the nearest MRT station. I knew she wouldn't have accepted my help because it was Singapore and a Singaporean we are talking about. As expected, she decided that it was a bigger risk hopping on my vehicle than staying on that deserted road with high probability of an odd passing foreign worker. I carried on my journey home, knowing that I had addressed my conscience by giving her an option.

I asked myself on many occasions if there will be any Singaporean stranger stopping his car to give me a lift if my car broke down on the AYE. My answer is the same as yours, if we are honest. The bigger question is, "Will I accept the help if someone really did that?" With the mentality I used to have, I am sure my first answer will be, "No." There is something about us that makes us very reluctant to offer and receive help. I have been off. A fact is a fact. So much for being part of One People, living among my non-racist countrymen as a first class citizen.

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