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On Christmas Eve, I set off early for my daily walk-a-jog. The weather had closed in and that meant no jogging but I took my umbrella. Rain never stopped me from at least a brisk walk.

True enough the clouds burst and it came down in sheets.

I spotted a wheel-chair bound man, about my age, sixties, and he had a piece of newspaper on his head. He was trapped under a train track, hardly a shelter as the slanting rain would drench him in no time. I asked if he needed to get to a neighbouring block of flats. He replied yes, and I offered to shelter him under my umbrella. Interestingly, he rejected my offer of help and was quite rude about it.

‘You think what, I’m a cripple is it?’ he snapped in Singlish.

Whoa! I said nothing of the sort but, yes, it was a fact you are wheelchair bound. But I offered you my umbrella because of the rain. I would have done it for any able bodied person too.

But all I said was, ‘No worries,’ smiled and continued with my walk.

The next day, Christmas, I had a heavy lunch and decided to skip dinner. As added penance, I took a longer route to burn off more calories. But again the rain came down and I found myself trapped under an apartment block.

While under shelter, the alarm at the lift landing went off. It was a senior citizens’ block and the studio apartments came specially fitted with handrails and in-unit trigger alarms. A red strobe light flashed and the message on the LED screen read—please offer assistance to the unit number indicated. There was also a wall placard with several numbers for the neighbourhood police post, the ambulance and the fire brigade. One could either offer assistance or call the authorities.

As they were only a five-minute drive away, I called the neighbourhood police post and the officer assured me a car will be dispatched. But after twenty minutes, no sight of the police – the heavy seasonal rains had probably stretched their resources. Other people who had taken shelter, and even the residents who came and went, tried very hard not to hear the ear-splitting alarm.

I rode the lift up and knocked on the apartment door. No response. I knocked again and waited. Old folks usually took longer to get to the door—or worse. Meanwhile, the alarm had stopped.

The door finally opened and a very irate man, in his seventies, scowled. I asked whether everything was okay. But he very abruptly told me to, ‘Get lost’. I was concerned. Seeing how belligerent he was, maybe he had beaten up his frail wife or something, and she could have hit the help button. In my younger days I had been on police patrols and encountered the worst in society. My mind raced. I persisted, but politely, of course.

Sensing that I will not relent, he very reluctantly told me the alarm was defective. ‘Go away!’ and the door resolutely shut.

Lisa, ever protective (bless her), suggested I should not bother. She was upset that I exposed myself to slights and insults from people I wanted to help.

My sentiments—these people are not my teachers.

I am sure many of you have similar or worse stories. Care to share?

*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2018 ***