Friday, December 17, 2010

Are our kids luckier than us?

I am one who is not bothered about cars.

Seriously, I don't really care. No, I do care about cars. I care about cars that would take me from Point A to Point B. I care about a car that has four wheels, and a steering. And of course a brake.

Beyond that anything goes.

I don't really care about 16V, or VVTi or CVT or 8-speed transmission or what have you. To me, those are just jumbled alphabets of the roman scripture. Well, sort of.

May be my attitude stems from the fact that I don't have too many choices in selecting my car. I can only afford what our national car maker can churn out. I know I can't afford the Ts and the Hs, never mind the Ms or the Bs.

The past week, the boys and I - to fill up some of our spare time, had been roaming around KL's car dealers, test-driving some of the entry level cars of different makes. We have not decided yet as to whether we are in the market or not for a new car, but the spate of accidents recently had me on the edge (the stewardess in penang, the hajjah who just came back etc etc). I am getting too old I guess, but it worries me a lot when the boys are driving an 'unsafe' car;  a car which, according to Jeremy Clarkson, was built without any passion!

As I have mentioned, my choice is a bit limited, so to make a car safe, in my mind, I need at least two airbags, and ABS with EBD as their safety features.

Anyway, I was test-driving the latest and greatest offering of our national car-maker yesterday,  when the salesman made the following remarks, "How lucky kids are nowadays; the dad would buy them a car!"

Fortunately we were approaching a traffic light. I was stopped in my track; by the traffic light, not by his remark. ;-)

"You are certainly right," I replied, after a short, uncomfortable pause. Then I told him the story.

When I first started working in KL back in 1987, I had to walk from Dayabumi to Lebuh Ampang (or AIA) to catch the bas mini  No 23 back to Ampang. (Mind you, I had been working for two years already by then, but that was my first week in KL). I guess I would have to wait for quite a few busses as most were jam-packed with city dwellers rushing home after a day worth of work. It was peak hour typically; we were standing shoulder to shoulder, and you can't move an inch.

The smell of sweat and body odors eminating from the passengers, mine included I guess, was too much for the engineer so used to the fresh air of Taiping and Padang Rengas, nevermind that every now and then the air in Padang Rengas would be polluted with with cement dusts from Hanjoong Simen.

The stinging body odor made me want to vomit; the air inside the bus was stale, it could not be refreshed quick enough as the traffic at Jalan Ampang was jammed, each vehicle was only inching every minute or so. Coupled with the smell of diesel-fume belched from the minibus, these smells were attacking the nostrils of the unpolluted country boy.

I knew if I wait for it to reach my destination, I would not last it. My vomit would make the smell inside minibus No 23 unbearable for everybody else. We could have murder in hand here, if I were to vomit over someone's shoulder.

Upon reaching RRI, I decided I had enough. I rang the bell, indicating that I want to stop and hopped off the bus. I spent nearly one hour at the RRI bus stop, taking deep breath in the polluted air of Kuala Lumpur. The air outside was much better than inside the mini bus, even with the smell of exhaust of vehicles plying Jalan Ampang.

Well I don't have to endure that now. We don't the mini busses anymore. If I were to take public transport, it would be in the comfort, convenient and air-conditioned LRT. The boys would typically be chauffeured-driven, or they would drive the car themselves to where ever they need to be.

I have enjoyed all the trips from Kota Bharu to Taiping in 3rd-class train coaches and in non-air-conditioned buses, and it is not only in hindsight. I have walked for miles crossing the causeway from Woodlands when walking to Johor Bahru was the faster option. I would not mind taking the bus from Taiping to Padang Rengas everyday, and even as an engineer then, I would not bat an eye lid waiting waiting for my bus in front of my office. I have enjoyed my life then, and I would not change it for the world. Bapak would never be able to buy me a car, nor would I want him to do so.

Yes, kids nowadays are surely luckier compared to us in the old; perhaps in material wealth. But to be honest, I don't envy them at all. For all the privileges kids nowadays have, I know their challenges are heavier than my generation.

I think I shall leave it at that for this moment.

What say you anyway?

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