Tuesday, November 10, 2009

10 cents a trip

The nearest block of shophouses was merely a five to fifteen minute walk away from our quarters. For the womenfolk, running out of sundries would mean a much time-consuming hassle, what with dressing-up, a smack or two of the age-old AAA (Amoy) face powder and the never-ending search for that blessed but often misplaced rattan shopping basket and slippers and a woefully wet child to be attended to, before one could even step out of the house.

So they did the most obvious and convenient, for a minimal tip - engage the services of the young children of their neighbours, me included. Jalan Mengkibol then was a paradise in terms of traffic volume and our parents harboured no fear of us making a quick dash from the quarters in Jalan Ibrahim to the shops nearby.

We the service providers range in ages from eight to our early teens. The 10 cent "service charge" for the errand run was always gratefully accepted by us the all-boy ensemble. It was enough to get us an apple (a luxury to me), ice ball, or a toy pistol. The same amount could get us a fistful of sweets, oh all right, candies, since you love the yankees so much!

I seemed to be the most sought after errand boy simply because I would happily take even a five-cent trip and also according to my elder sister, because I provided faster service even if I hadn't the luxury of that paddle-powered two-wheeler.

I took it as a duty entrusted upon me, so the quick trip meant just that. It was straight to the designated shop, transaction over and back I rushed. The distance was covered in a much shorter time because for me it was a combination of playful skips and jumps at times. A brisk walk was the norm if I was supplied a longer list.

Mission accomplished, I would just as happily rush home, pocket lined with sweets or simply on a fuller stomach.

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