After Lim, there were a series of workshop managers – all Caucasian expatriates. Like a dry sponge, I soaked up whatever I could learn from all of them.

One man, a bald barrel of a Canadian called Len, impressed – by what he was not!

Macho Len they called him and he loved that tag. His forearms, almost two-thirds the girth of my thighs, were heavily tattooed. Len regaled the local technicians with exploits of his bar brawls from Ottawa to Bangkok, and now Singapore.

He always had a toothpick in his mouth – residue of a former smoking habit. Of course he bored us no end with tales of how he did it the cold-turkey way and all by sheer determination.

I was unimpressed and he told me that I had to be a smoker to better appreciate what he had gone through. My response was, I had the determination and individuality not to succumb to peer pressure in the first place. Obviously, that did not go down well.

Image source: C Mercieca at en.wikipedia

Though he taught me the technical stuff and never held back, he also did not hesitate to put me down when he could – I was the ‘wimp’.

I was lanky, studious, and wore spectacles. While all the teenagers in the 1970s sported long hair and wore dirty jeans, I kept my hair so close-cropped, any drill sergeant would have approved. I considered short hair as neat and practical in Singapore’s hot muggy weather and a safety precaution when working with machinery.

Len rode a 1000 cc Honda Goldwing – a massive motorcycle even now, let alone in the 1970s when most people put-putted on 70 cc bikes. One can well imagine his presence on the roads.

The workshops were along one side of a hangar where we stored aircraft. One rainy day, the hanger roof leaked.

As a very hands-on manager, he felt obliged to check out the leak. He ordered me to accompany him and we climbed the built-in ladder along the hanger wall. About thirty feet up we reached a metal walkway. There was another thirty feet high ladder to the skylight.

At the walkway, Len stopped for me to catch up. I was shocked when I saw him. His lips had turned sheet white and his eyes dilated. He shook uncontrollably.

Fear of the heights, he confessed.

I suggested that he get down safely while I take a look at the ceiling. Without hesitation, Len scurried down. I did not mention the incident to anyone and Len and I never spoke about it.

He remained his boisterous self but in my presence, the decibels always dropped a few notches.

After that afternoon, he miraculously remembered my name. Wimp? He took it off his vocabulary.

********** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2012 **********


  1. I have always found that the boisterous types always had a weakness they feared to have found out by their fellows! Great that you could “balance” this guy out with your own strengths to the point where he stopped insulting you! So many incidents from my past school days and work days and days of service in church and community flood back to my mind reading this post, reminding me of my own strengths that have brought more respect from other people. Thank you for sharing this, Eric!

    1. Bingo!

      Granbee dear, yes it is always lovely to recollect how much we’ve loved and grown.

      Most people have very narrow definitions of ‘strength’ and ‘talent’ – but they ignore the ‘gifts’ we/they all have.

      Always lovely to have you visit and share, Eric 🙂

  2. In this aspect, I reckon our maker is fair. Everyone has a weak point just like the elephant that fears the little mouse. Reminds me of a movie where the good guy once saw this “ah long” (loan shark fellow) pee in his pants when a gun was pointed at him. The “ah long” kept silent at the coffee shop where he usually boasted about his “glorious” past.

    In this incident, you had extended your generosity and understanding that Len will always remember. You displayed maturity for a young intern.

    1. Oh, Jasey you’re a sweet one 🙂

      On hindsight, I reckon I did alright and I’m sure Len was grateful that I kept quiet. I was certainly glad he left me alone – sort of…

  3. Behind every swagger there is a secret hidden that would make the swaggerer wilt. All of us are wimps in some way I think. I don’t think I have ever met a men who was absolutely fearless regardless of what he might be facing. On the other hand, I think I may have met some women who were fearless…

    1. Carroll – you never fail to amaze me.

      You are so right – given the occasion, most men can be ‘wimps’ or ‘machos’ – no one is one or the other all the time, I reckon.

      I think with women, their maternal instincts kick in and they become a tigress.

    1. I left some comments in your posts – not too irreverent I hope.

      I’m quite enjoying your ‘dialogues’ with the lions – good fun 🙂

      Hope to read more

      1. I’ll need to find some more animal sculptures around town. As for irreverent, it’s hard to be irreverent about talking animal sculptures. Thanks for the comments.

  4. Well you earned his respect of sorts, likely more for not saying anything, rather than being the one to finish the job!

    When I was at school I once stood up to the school bully, not in front of everybody (thankfully as he could have practically murdered me, to make a point) but I think he appreciated the effort on my part. He looked after me from than point on.

    1. That’s a great story right there! If we can get through to bullies – they can turn out to be pretty good buddies.

      I won’t want to ever take on someone like Len – unless it is on a roof top – with me about a thousand miles away 🙂

    1. SIA? I’ve never worked for them but have done work for them. In my most recent job, they were one of my major customers.

      Are you from the aviation field too?

      1. I think you need to come back.

        A few months ago some clowns ‘upgraded’ their on-line booking systen – it sucks! It has been reported widely in the local press.

      2. My husband and I love Singapore. Honestly though, I don’t know that I would want to take up another role in S’pore. Being a senior exec there once, as a woman well it was quite enough.

    1. Thank you and you’re very welcome, Josh.

      Your short stories are pretty compelling too – looking forward to that next installment about the dead farm animals.

      Cheers, Eric

    1. Thank you dear for your visit and support.

      I think I hit him hard, but not with brute force…we gained mutual respect. Winners, both of us 🙂

  5. I really enjoyed this story. You have a pleasant but clear knack for sharing personal life experiences that draws the reader in and then injecting that little bit of an uplifting twist at the end. Thanks!

    1. Thank you Penny for this lovely comment.

      I view every incident/event in my life as an opportunity to learn – but the tough part is the difference between learning something and living up to it. Hey, but I’m still young 🙂 – Eric

      P/s My comments on your blog are not coming through – perhaps you can rescue them from the spam folder in your blog.

  6. ha ha ha Eric you have such an amazing sense of humour..just loved it..both the incidents,addiction and hair cut one had me in spits..beautifully written
    but i so loved the message in the incident..every person has a matter how cool they act they have one..
    The ‘wimp’ saved him from embarassment eh 🙂

    1. Glad you saw the humour in this, Soma dear 🙂

      Yes, sometimes even the mighty need help – and it comes from the most unexpected sources.

      Luv and hugz, Eric

    1. Below that macho exterior – Len was actually quite a nice guy, I reckon. He was generous in that he taught me much about engineering maintenance – he never held back.

  7. Love it Eric …..
    the decibel dropping down …………:)
    i have known a few characters in life like this ——— 🙂
    This is a success story of sorts 🙂 love it xx

    1. Thank you Cat.
      Yes, I see it as a success story – for Len and me – anything that helps us ‘grow’ must be a ‘success’
      Luv and hugz, Eric 🙂

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