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Woes of delivering happiness to people – hear my endless ramblings

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Never thought that I would ever be writing a post about my part-time job in Singapore but.. to date, I have done 10 days of delivery service across the past three weeks, and I’ve discovered quite a number of insights about this job. I thought that it might be interesting for me to read about this random adventure n years down the road.

It has been more than 10 years ago when I first started working part-time. Back then, I only worked during the school holidays and my earnings were solely to fulfill personal desires; like watching Jay Chou concert and going overseas (without my parents). The first real part-time job I had was waitressing for a Japanese restaurant about 30 mins train ride from my house. It was rather fun to work there as my co-workers were all about the same age and stage of life as me. I remember getting burnt once from a stone pot rice bowl (left a nasty scar for years) and the highlight of the day was feasting on the leftover chawanmushi (steamed egg) and conveyor belt sushi which were still deemed edible at the end of the day. I also learned how to make not-so-authentic wasabi with wasabi powder and cold water and I also learned some Japanese from the food. We had to greet customers in Japanse ‘irashaimasei‘ which meant ‘Welcome’ and it was my first step into the service industry.

For my second job, I worked at an ice cream cafe (Gelare; if you have heard of that brand before) near my place. I could walk to work in 25-30 mins but there were many days that my parents didn’t mind giving me a 5-min car ride there. I still remember my painful first day of work where I had to take my meal break alone. As it was my first day, I thought that my meal break had to be spent out of the cafe so I dined at a coffee shop opposite the cafe and THAT COULD HAVE BEEN MY FIRST EVER eating-alone-in-a-public-place meal. I know it might not sound like a big deal to you (and it has slowly became the norm for me), but back when I was just SEVENTEEN, it was torture and agony. I was conscious about how lonely I appeared to the other strangers, about how people might feel that I’m selfish for hogging such a big table to myself. After my first day, I realised that my fellow co-workers always opt for ‘take-outs’ for their meals and eat them at the back alley behind the kitchen. That way, they won’t suffer the self-inflicted humiliation of dining alone in public places. That aside, I was relatively happy with my ice cream scooping job as I could (or assumed I did) make people happy with their ice cream. There were times where I gave larger scoops and there were times where I was able to eat the leftovers from the wrong orders. It had been a job I wanted to continue working even after my school re-opened but eventually, I had to give it up because junior college’s(pre-university) workload was insane. It was a relatively small cafe and there would be just one to three staff at any point in time. With such a small thing, I kind of had to do everything which includes washing the public toilet. Doesn’t seem like a big deal now but it was back in the days. I am capable of doing anything right?

From then on, I’ve dabbled in jobs like retail (candy shop), attempted tutoring for a while but it got nowhere cause my ‘student’ was not eager to learn and I didn’t want to waste their parents’ money. I also had a bit of office administrative jobs – one was counting vouchers and tabulating daily reconciliations plus an all-rounder office admin role for 2.5 months where I had to settle issues relating from filing HR records to overtime calculation to ordering stationery. All these jobs happened even before I started my university education.

I am pretty much at expert level when it comes to earning and spending money. Sadly, I didn’t have the motivation to earn a lot of money. I just targeted to earn enough for my travels which had been working out fine for me for the past many years. A couple of weeks ago, I came to the realization that if I don’t intend to have kids (or perhaps even marry), I actually don’t need a lot of money to get by.

Which was why.. I spent the last couple of weeks delivering cold brew coffee/tea (which could equate to happiness for many people) for my friend’s friend cafe. I agreed to help out even before the remuneration was agreed upon so despite the whole world telling me how it wasn’t worthed the money/time, I’m still stuck with this job because I see it more as a favour than a job. At least it is something that allows me to get out of my house and past my time doing something.. meaningful?

According to my rough calculation, I’ve clocked almost 1,000km of driving and this is one-fifth of what I drove in New Zealand for 6-months!

I can’t remember who it was but someone (when I was in NZ) shared with me that his most memorable job was doing pizza delivery for Dominos. When people order food (like Pizza), it tends to be a pretty exciting affair because they don’t have to cook or do dishes and the kids would be eating happy unhealthy food. The recipients of pizza deliveries tend to be happy and there were many occasions of children waiting by the door, greeting the deliveryman with utmost excitement and anticipation.

Like pizza, drinks such as coffee/tea lattes or other fanciful flavours are welcomed with love too. In these weird times, there are many people doing surprise orders for their friends/colleagues/relatives which increases the happiness level in the receiver. In case you don’t already know, happiness is kind of contagious and even though you can’t see my smile beneath my mask, I am usually smiling while delivering as.. this is one of the basics of customer service (which I had been trained in long enough).

I do receive a wide spectrum of thank yous from the recipients. There were many surprised faces (usually from the older folks) wondering why I was doing deliveries (as I do not exactly look like your typical deliveryman. There were warm and not-so-friendly greetings from cats and dogs. There were the ‘oh my gawd you’ve been delivering the whole day?’ exclamations and there were the normal thanks and the thank yous. And of course, there were also the ‘please leave it outside’ people who wanted to maintain the highest level of safe distancing. Whatever your response was to my delivery, I don’t really keep it to heart as my mind usually thinking ‘Yay, one more delivery done. How many more till I get home?’

Now, it’s time for my favourite part of this post – my ramblings; which keeps me alive.

In Singapore, about 80% of the households stay in high-rise government flats ranging up to 50 floors and parking is not free in Singapore. The grace period is only 10 minutes which is barely enough for me to park my car, pack the drinks, search for the correct lift lobby, knock on the door, wait for a response before rushing down and accelerate my car out of the parking gantry. Out of 10 deliveries, I always end up being penalized for parking 20-30% of the time and that’s additional expenses incurred (though it would be reimbursed to me by the cafe). It’s frustrating on how I need to make that mad rush for the delivery and I get bogged down by issues such as

  • Unable to find a legal ‘loading/unloading’ bay and hesitate if I should park illegally
  • Unable to find the correct lift lobby
  • Going up the lift to realize I took the wrong lift when I don’t see the unit number
  • The recipient is not at home (this is very common for surprise deliveries)
    • When they are not at home, we will call their contact number as the coffee is only good to be unrefrigerated for 2 hours or less. Any product with milk shouldn’t be left at room temperature (which is rather high in hot/humid tropical Singapore).
    • When they do not pick up the phone, I will have to decide whether to just leave it there or drop the delivery.
    • Sometimes, we do look out for friendly neighbours to help them keep the drinks.

Agony of condominiums

  • First, you have to stop by the security guard post for your temperature check. At times, they will fill up your car details and collect your mobile number PLUS you will have to scan the SafeEntry QR code to register your entry.
  • Next, visitors parking could be far away from the lift lobby that you’re going. If you got to walk, you got to walk.
  • The newer condos have the telecom system where the recipient needs to open the lift door for you. If they are not at home, you’re screwed and you gotta try sneaking up with someone else.
  • Some condominiums label their lift lobbies in greek text that you can’t even understand and not everyone put such vital information as part of their delivery.
  • The only good thing about condominiums is that I don’t have to pay for parking. phew.

Office buildings are the worse and there’s was one single delivery that frustrated me like crazy.

The recipient did not answer her phone when I called, hoping that she could meet me at the drop-off area to do a pick-up. Security directed me to the ‘loading/unloading bay’ which only had a grace period of 10 mins. After parking, I had to queue up at the security post to receive a visitor pass. After exchanging the pass, I had to wait for the one single cargo lift serving 35 floors. The whole ordeal took almost 30 mins and I had to pay $2.20 for parking.

Another pain point of doing deliveries is that I usually don’t get to visit the toilet while I’m on the move. It could range from 4 to 7 hours (my longest to date) and I do so by not.. drinking much water. I survive on sweets and small sips. Well, it’s not that there aren’t public toilets available for me, but I am just conscious of the time wastage and they’re not always to my cleanliness standard. Furthermore, I might risk paying parking if I have a trip to the toilet so.. as unhealthy as it is, I will.. risk it. I will replenish my water intake the moment I reach home and it will last through the night as I sleep rather late. As I’m typing this, it is 2:58am right now and I’m still awake as I have no plans for tomorrow ><

Similarly, I do not usually stop for meals. I pack some biscuits along with me and in recent weeks, I have my lunch before heading out for the deliveries. This allows me to optimize my ‘worktime’ efficiently and end my workday as early as possible.

Another sad thing about this delivery job is that it has definitely taken a toll on my family car. Before I started driving, the fuel consumption was about 12.6km/L of fuel and now it has reduced to 12km/L. The happy-sad thing is that I’m driving an old car (13 or 14 years old) which means that it feels less painful to see the car suffering. Turning your engine on/off more than 20 times a day is pretty damaging but I guess this is the fate of a delivery car? >< Nevertheless, I am thankful that I even get a car to assist me with this job.

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I’m not sure how long more will I be ‘helping out’ with the deliveries but who knows right?

On a side note, my country is going to hold an election on 10th July 2020. It’s such an awkward timing/situation amidst all the aftermath left behind by COVID-19 but I guess it’s long overdue and come what may. Nothing much will change (as always) and life will pretty much go on the same way. I think we have one of the most boring political scene in the world (apart from the communist countries) but oh wells, not complaining.

I definitely hope that I won’t be writing another ‘part-time job’ series in the near future. #whereismyrealjob

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