In 1999, my favourite bus service (back at my old home) was converted from a purely non-air conditioned service to a partial one (meaning that some buses would be air-conditioned and others, won’t.)
I liked the feeling of natural air blowing at my hair as I rode the bus back from school back then, so I voiced my displeasure. I wrote a letter to SBSTransit (known as just SBS back then) expressing my distaste for how air-conditioned buses will pamper Singaporeans in general and cause more environmental pollution.
It was written on pink Hello Kitty paper, and I dropped it off at the information booth at the bus interchange while on my way back from school.
I didn’t expect a reply. But less than two weeks later, I received a postcard from SBSTransit, thanking me for my feedback and that they’d look into it.
Unfortunately, the postcard was intercepted by my then-family maid who passed it on to my mother, remarking that I’ve become a meddlesome creature who was making trouble for big agencies. Both then interrogated me about what I had written in the original letter and lambasted me for it.
I was since then, barred from writing letters to ‘big government companies’ because I was merely being a busybody and they won’t listen to a small fry like me. I was immensely annoyed, but didn’t say anything.
Less than two years later (when I was 14), a new neighbour moved in – whose window directly faced my home’s dining room where I studied every afternoon. The neighbour proved to be a disturbing one. His/her son would without fail, blast his infernal techno music at full volume every afternoon. Either that, or he would practise his guitar playing with the window wide open.
And I was trying to study.
Bearing in mind I was no longer allowed to write to ‘big government agencies’, I wrote directly to the neighbour – basically telling him/her that his/her son had to shut the hell up for the comfort of the other residents in their vicinity and for the general peace and quiet of the neighbourhood.
There was the sound of loud yelling from that neighbour’s house one afternoon. Apparently that of the neighbour screaming at the son for the daily afternoon din. Subsequently, every afternoon was filled with the song of silence, with the son’s window clamped shut.
A few days later, mum pointed out the sudden silence, bemused. “Eh, our neighbour is no longer making noise ah?”
So I pointed out that it was because I wrote to them.
She went white.
Just imagine her response after that. (Hint: It borders on the line of hysterical.)
This story doesn’t have a moral. This memory just suddenly came back to me once fine day and I wanted to share this because you know, just because “you are a small fry” doesn’t mean that you can’t make a difference in today’s society.
Society generally frowns upon people who speak up more than they should. But if everyone keeps silent at everything, there wouldn’t be change. Be daring to speak up, no matter how young you are.