Tuesday, September 15, 2015

2295. An 80-year-old book binder still works

Sep 15, 2015

He is 80 years old but still works. His 3 children of over 30 years, 2 single and 1 married, wanted him to stop. They bought him a small car. 
"One goes to NUS, one goes to NTI and the other one studies ACCA," he said to me today. "I did not even pass my primary school and so had to work very hard to educate them!"

He had to tolerate the bad tempers of his boss who was demanding. The boss lived up to 90 years of age and was a tough task master. He learnt the trade from him, from finding the best glue for the binding at least cost. In 1952, he imported his paper machine from Italy, a Priano which had two small bulbs and is still working. He had wired a short longer fluroescent lighting tube now.

Last year, an agent offered him $500 to get someone to assign the lease for $60,000. The deal fell through as the HDB disallowed any assignment for the new tenant. "At least I have till 2019," he told me. Many commercial shops have till 2016 to find an assignee if they want to quit. This is a policy to prevent rental hikes due to assignment fees increasing over the years. The HDB will police the trade and make sure that the tenant is really at work and not subletting.  So there is no incentive to take over and the old book-binder now works half a day.

"I can't tender for the business," he emphasized. "I don't even know my ABC!". He is the subcontractor.
"Did you print and bind the condolence book for Mr Lee Kuan Yew?" I asked.
"Yes," he showed me a page. He also showed me a cover for the Anaesthetic Record book of a local hospital.
"How do you manage all by yourself?" I asked as his wife of over 70 years of age had not turned up. She is ill.
"I don't accept more than I can handle," he said. "I will ask for part-time help if I need it."

A much loved father and a loving husband. Mentally sharp at 80 years of age. Cluttered shop full of left over papers and 3X5" cards.

"No use for such cards," I said. "Now, the records are computerised."
"The government forces the people to computerise," he said."Or they will lose their operating licence.. Even for btothels as I print their visitors' book."
"For brohels in Geylang?" I was surprised.
"Yes, yes. However, the old workers do not want to touch the computer. And it is hard to find young Singaporeans to work in brothels to use computers to keep visitors' records. The government wants it so that they can come in and grab the whole computer in cases of investigation! The owner had to learn how to computerise but the workers are aged and do not want to do it!"

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