SINGAPORE: Those who regularly commute to or from Bedok MRT station may have noticed a young man standing out among the crowd of predominantly elderly or disabled tissue sellers that gather at one particular station exit.
That exit appears to be a hotspot for tissue sellers. A spirited discussion broke out on the Xiaohongshu social media platform on Sunday (19 Feb) about how this exit gets crowded with as many as five or six people setting up “stalls” every morning near the exit to peddle tissues. The area gets even busier over the weekends when one or two new faces appear to “rob business” from the regulars.
When a reporter for the Chinese daily visited the area to investigate on Monday (20 Feb), he spotted the young tissue seller – a man who appeared to be in his late 20s to early 30s. He sat in one area with his supply of tissue packets spread out in front of him.
Around 10 am, the Channel 8 reporter noticed an older man buying a drink for the young man. When he approached the older man, the reporter discovered he was the young tissue seller’s father.
The brief encounter appears to have moved the reporter, who said he found the father “simple and honest.”
Shining a light on how heartbroken the father was about his situation, the reporter said: “During the interview, he looked at the back of his son waving to passers-by selling tissues from time to time, his eyes were moist with tears, and he felt unspeakably sad.”
The father shared that his son is 32 years old and has been unable to find a job because of his low IQ. He lamented, “What else can he do without selling tissues? There are a lot of jobs he can’t do.”
As for why he decided to send his son to ply tissues, the father said he works at a coffeeshop while his wife works as a cleaner. Due to their financial situation, the couple cannot always be with their son.
The father said, “He has nothing to do at home. Selling tissues can also make some money besides passing the time.”
His son does not earn much money by selling tissues, and whatever he does earn is used as pocket money to buy his favourite things like radios. On one occasion, the young man dozed off, and his money was stolen, but his father says that “that was an exception.”
The young man plies tissue around the Bedok MRT station all day long, goes to the hawker centre for lunch by himself, and occasionally waits for his father to get off work at 4 pm so they can return home together.
Out of worry for his son, the father always makes sure to visit his son around 11 am each day before his work at the coffeeshop starts.
He also applied for a license to sell tissues on behalf of his son, but the application was apparently not approved. Seeking understanding from members of the public and the authorities, the hapless father said:
“We can’t help ourselves. He sells tissues. He doesn’t make noise or harass people here, so I hope everyone can tolerate him more.”
It appears that many of the tissue sellers in the area are doing the work they are doing because they feel they have no other choice. One seller, a wheelchair-bound 66-year-old, told Channel 8 that he used to work in a coffee shop but suddenly became unable to work when a blood vessel in his left foot became blocked.
He said: “If I had hands and feet, I wouldn’t sell paper towels. Rent, water and electricity, transportation, food, etc., the CPF payout of S$640 a month is not enough.”
Although he finds some people staring at him, the dignified man says: “No matter how your life is, someone will have something to say. As long as you are worthy of yourself, don’t care what others think of you.”
Many commuters who frequent the MRT station exit appear sympathetic to the tissue sellers’ plight. One man, who did not wish to be named, told the reporter: “If you have the financial means, who would be willing to sit outdoors in the scorching heat to sell paper towels? I hope the relevant authorities can help them.”
Elderly woman earns $200-$300 a day begging at Bedok MRT exit, despite having a maid at home to care for her
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