Real VIPs

Our friendly postman doing his rounds in the
So who are the real VIPs?

There are various types of Very Important People or VIP’s and for many, our own family members may be our VIP’s who require special care and attention. 

However, VIP’s usually refer to those well-dressed people at events who wear corsages, sit at the main table or walk on that red carpet.  They are also accorded the most gracious treatment and served the best food.  But I often wonder who the real Very Important People are?  

For me, VIP’s are probably the unsung heroes whom we often take for granted because they are always there to make our daily lives more comfortable.  But when there was any disruption to our normal routine, we suddenly realize how important they are.  Take for instance, our dustmen.  Everyday when refuse from our home is put into the dustbin outside, we expect the team of garbage collectors to remove it regularly. 

Our indispensible dustmen
If the dustmen failed to turn up for a week or more, scavenger cats and dogs may have a free-for-all street party while we fume over the decaying stench and debris strewn in front of our home.  The absence of the dustmen makes us feel how important it is to have regular rubbish removal.  

So if it’s possible to make the dustmen’s job more pleasant, we dispose of our waste matter properly with glass, aluminum, paper, plastic and perishable refuse, each packed separately.  I believe a small effort on our part would go a long way to make their job easier and even let them earn a little more by selling the recyclable items.

Another very important person is our newspaper deliveryman whom we count on to send our daily news to our doorstep.  If you are like my dad who must hold a hardcopy of the newspaper to read each morning, then you know how awkward it feels when there was no delivery.  When the deliveryman was on long festive breaks, it means I must go out early to buy a copy of newspaper so that dad does not have any disruption to his normal routine.

One morning after dad went out as usual to collect the newspaper from the porch, he returned disappointed and empty-handed because there was no newspaper.  Even though the deliveryman did not give any notification of holiday leave, I privately prepared myself to go out to buy dad a copy but I still urged him to check if it accidentally slipped under the car.  He claimed to have looked in all the likely places but in vain, so before I went out to buy him the newspaper, I looked around again and was relieved to see the newspaper that had landed on top of our bougainvillea bushes. 

People in this electronic age may opt to use the internet or hand-phone to read mail, magazines and newspapers but to many in the older generation, nothing is like holding a hardcopy to read.  In our house, reading the daily newspaper as well as receiving cards and letters by snail mail is still very precious.  In fact, dad even recognizes the distinct sound of the postman’s motorcycle and only by listening, he knows if the postman paused to drop any mail into our letterbox.

For a long time, the postman was one of my favourite people because he delivered long-awaited replies to letters I wrote to friends after we separated from school.  I always felt the postman was doing a real service because he’s vital in keeping us connected.  When the song – Please Mr Postman was made popular by the Carpenters in the 70’s, I was not surprised because I felt that he deserves to have a song written about him.

Ah Kee, my trusted mechanic, checking my
punctured tyre
As I was driving out last Saturday afternoon, I felt something amiss about my car but I drove on cautiously.  When I stopped at the traffic lights, a man in the car next to mine got my attention with his wild gesticulating. 

He appeared to be genuinely concerned and he confirmed my suspicion that there was something wrong with my rear tyre so I gestured my thanks and drove slowly to my mechanic.

Now my trusted mechanic, Ah Kee, has been looking after my car for the longest time.  When he saw how my car was limping into his garage, he dropped what he was doing to attend to my car. 

While I waited, Ah Kee discovered two tiny nails in my punctured left rear tyre and after a quick repair, made my car ready for the road again.

He also had a quick look at my car engine and topped up water and oil, reminding me to send the car in for a thorough investigation, when I can spare the time.  I do a fair amount of travelling so I truly appreciate his preventive methods rather than wait for any major breakdown.  Ah Kee had come to my rescue more than once, when my old car decided not to cooperate and since those harrowing experiences, my mechanic has risen in the ranks of my VIP list.

When you give it some thought, I’m sure there are many more unsung heroes in our lives who deserve our respect and appreciation.  So remember to thank the mechanic, maid or postman for their service and when you see the dustmen pass in their smelly truck, do give them a wave.  I always do and it certainly makes their day.

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 29 March 2011

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