Dear Boys,

Your dad has a checkered past, not in a sleazy way but he left school when he was 15 years old because he wanted to learn Japanese language to become a tour guide and travel the world. Look at what the world has become of him!

All this means that I must have my parent’s support to leave school, and have money to go and learn Japanese language and then become a tour guide. There wasn’t much thought put into this and my parents wasn’t the best in parenting, so the gave in and I left school to study Japanese.

Or so I thought.

Along the way, my ‘businessman’ dad, hinted to me: “What happens if he is no longer able to support me?”

That was a sign that I need to find my own work, make my own money, and without a trace of resentment or angst, I looked around and I’m not sure how it happened but someone I knew (or most likely my parents) recommended a job for me to work as a sales staff in Changi Airport.

1991- Changi Airport Terminal 2

With my colleague Josephine.

Working in the airport has a very special vibe to it, back then there was only 2 terminals, in fact, only one, since terminal 2 wasn’t officially opened yet, and the airport community was very small. I never forget the Airport Policeman’s name, Rudy, who said that I was probably the youngest person to ever work in the Departure hall, when I was at the Airport Police Station processing my Airport Security pass.

me tinkering with cameras

Sound Electric Centre

My employer was Sound Electric Centre (last I check ACRA, the company is still around! Incorporated 13 March 1975!), they have shops in Terminal 2 as well as Terminal 1, selling all sorts of audio, video, camera, electronic games, CD players, binoculars, you name it. They also used to have a shop in Far East Plaza down in Orchard Road, and in their hey days, they were quite reputable.

with Jun Jie, not sure what we were laughing about.

So I worked in Terminal 2 selling cameras and photographic equipment to customers, as a retail staff. This also started my life-long love for photography, albeit an expensive hobby to really keep up with. It wasn’t backbreaking work, but it taught me a lot about managing people, and how the working life is. There’s a lot of stories of our colleagues getting into physical scuffles over some childish antics (both got fired), theft of a large scale, love affair, legit and illicit and of course many life lessons along the way.

Selling camera also meant that there was a bit of technicalities involved, customers wants to know certain features and you will need to explain it to them, both as novice to even professionals. I learned how to handle Single Lens Reflex (SLRs) cameras, brands such as Nikon, Canon, defunct Rollei, Chinon, Minox, Yashica, expensive stuffs like Leica, Contax and other brands.

I also learned some sales tricks to boost our sales, such as selling camera cases when it actually came free with the camera, and selling additional batteries, or mark up film prices when we gave discounts on the camera.

Celebrities

Working in the restricted area of the Airport means that when the superstars came to town, we are the ones who have the first cut in seeing them, and welcoming them to Singapore, I remembered the whole place was so swoon over Alan Tam, Aaron Kwok when they came. I wasn’t a big fan of theirs but I heard they were swamped by Airport staff first before they were swamped by their fans in the general public area in the Arrival Hall.

Jon Bon Jovi

This guy, I remembered vividly serving him, I think it was an early weekend morning, and there wasn’t a crowd, and I read in the news they were in town for a 2 night exclusive concert, in and out just over the weekend. So I was just starting shop, and this Ang Moh with a wild shock of hair came in, and looked at some camera, I recognized him, but I served him as a customer, somehow not fazed or impressed by his presence.

He was very low-key, very human. The choice of camera was the bestest, most expensive one. He was one down to earth, pragmatic superstar. He was looking for a simple point-and-shoot, so I recommend him an Olympus Mju 2, one of the low range, dummy camera. He looked at it, liked it and bought it, whipping out his platinum Amex Charge card. Of course there was no question his card purchase would get approved. He didn’t want the box so I packed the camera up, thrown in a free roll of film and off he go.

He will always remain one of my fav celebrity whom I can say I’ve rubbed shoulders with and he has never made anyone felt a need to serve him in his superstar status. Just an awesome plain and simple human being.

The Queen came

I was there, too when Queen Elizabeth II came to Singapore, I think it was back in 1992/93. Back then, we knew that Changi Airport is one of the places in Singapore that is never closed. But they closed it for the Queen.

Security was really tight, but we still opened our shop as usual, I didn’t get a close glance at her, just a back view from about 25 m away. While they didn’t close the airport for the whole day, they did it enough for her to tour the place and soon it was back in business.

Changi Terminal 2 today

Due to Covid19, the Singapore Government took the opportunity to close Terminal 2 for a whole sale renovations. It was quite a nostalgic sight and feeling for me to walk the deserted grounds, the usually bright and welcoming Airport Hall, now dark cavernous and empty.

I’m sure by the time COVID 19 becomes a distant memory, Changi Airport Terminal 2 will be up and running even better than before.

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