Monday, October 27, 2008

The Toll Gate Girl's Special Ability

It's fun writing stories about random people! This story was actually inspired by the multitude of toll gate guys and girls I pass by every morning to and fro work. Though our lives never cross paths for more than five seconds, I often imagine how it would be like sitting there day after day, collecting the same amount of money from countless strangers. Wouldn't they get restless? Or did they secretly enjoy it? Or perhaps they were waiting for something special to happen. So many maybes that only a story could ever answer...

But that's just me, I guess.

(My apologies for the delay in posting this story. Had originally planned to get this up real quick and proceed to 'A Halloween Love Story'. Unfortunately, things got really busy at work and I once again failed in my 23-year quest to celebrate Halloween, thus preventing me from getting the proper inspiration for the story.)

There once was a girl who worked at a toll gate.

This girl, Jenny, was ordinary in every single way possible. All her years of living, she had dreamed of discovering this Special Ability of hers. But she never did quite manage.

What is a Special Ability, you ask?

In her words, a Special Ability is that "one talent God gave you when no one else was looking". It is something that everyone wishes for, yet you alone have. And it matters not how unremarkable you are. Your Special Ability sleeps beneath layers of conformity and doubt, awaiting its discovery someday to make your life yours.

For some reason, Jenny was highly attuned to this fact and wanted anything but an ordinary life. Since the moment she could speak, she religiously sought out her Special Ability. It was her means of escaping mere existence.

First she figured it was reciting the alphabet backwards. But then three other boys in her class could do it.

She next tried riding a bicycle with only one hand. Her sister did it with none.

Finally at the age of 18, she thought she found it. She could imitate the sound of an elephant trumpeting perfectly.

Sadly, the joy lasted only a month. She attended a friend's birthday party, only to be horrified by this entertainer who could mimic an entire zoo.

Between it all, life somehow passed her by. Before she knew it, she was 23, Special Ability-less and working as a toll gate girl. Day after day, cars drove past her carrying people eager to go somewhere. Some drivers were headed to places created by and for their own Special Ability, while most rushed to serve the Special Abilities of others. However, what mattered was that Jenny did not know hers.

One day, she shared this idea of a Special Ability to her workmate. "You're right," he nodded vehemently. "Everyone has a Special Ability. But how do you know if you find it?"

"You just know. It'll amaze people, and yet make you feel good."

"Bah. Nothing amazes people these days. Everyone's seen everything."

"That's because everyone thinks like you. So people are no longer willing to find their Special Abilities. They just want to go through life with their Normal Abilities."

He cocked one eye up. "You're weird."

"No I'm not!" she retorted. "All right. What if I discover my Special Ability?"

"How? You're going to amaze the cars?"

"If that's what you say. I make five cars go wow, and that's my Special Ability. Deal?"

"Erm, hello? You have a job here, you know."

"Don't you fret that. I'll only need 5 days to find my Special Ability." Jenny declared, immediately regretting it.

"Whatever." He walked off to begin his shift.

Fuming, Jenny vowed to stick by her promise of 5 days. If she could not discover her Special Ability in 5 days, she would never mention it again as long as she worked here.


And so Jenny began her quest. How would she do it? Simple - if she could make 5 cars go wow with her Special Ability in a day, that was it!

Day One started off pretty well. WCV 5609 was impressed by the way she deftly transformed his two-ringgit note into eight sen coins. So was BHC 4248 and WJK 8020.

But that was all.

Perhaps everyone was in a hurry. It was a Monday morning, after all.

On Day Two she decided to try reading people's minds. She correctly guessed where WAT 7835, MBH 5856 and WLY 1964 were going. Sadly, the other cars considered it a waste of time and berated her for causing a queue.

No luck either on Day Three. Her finger puppet show wasn't very well-received. Only PBA 1413 and AJV 7451 responded with half-hearted smiles.

By Day Four she was starting to run out of ideas. There wasn't terribly much you could do inside a toll booth anyway.

There was one thing she noticed - most people didn't look at her. They would be busy reaching for their pockets, fiddling with the radio or illegally talking on mobile phones.

That was it! She would make them listen instead. Surely no one could resist a singing toll gate girl!

"The toll is one ringgit twenty! One ringgit and tweeenty...ooh wo wo, one ringgit twenty! One ringgit and twenty..." She warbled along to the tune of My Heart Goes Sha La La La La.

"Ha ha ha! You just made my day." beamed WHD 6523.

"That's very original." WFS 3773 loved it too!

"You're amazing!" And so did TAC 2094!

"Brilliant!" mused JCM 5595. Only one more to go!

Just ten minutes to the end of her shift, WAX 2510 eased into her lane. Yes! He's going to adore it, I'm sure. I just know it.

"The toll is one ringgit twenty!" She burst into song, face agleam.

At the end of her ditty, the driver, a merry old man of 65, couldn't help but clap. "You remind me of my niece. She sings very well too."

Mission accomplished! Her heart leapt as his car tottered off. She had finally discovered her Special Ability!

Or had she?

Wait... something didn't seem quite right.

"You remind me of my niece."

Didn't that mean someone else could sing just like her?

Jenny buried her head in her arms and cried.


"So Jenny, how's your Special Ability coming along?" Her workmate made that oh-so-annoying 'inverted comma' sign with his fingers.

"Oh, shut up."

"Hey, I'm sorry. But you know what? I believe you're still talented in your own way. Maybe you're trying too hard."


"How about a movie tonight? Anything to take your mind off this."

"We'll see. Thanks. Hey, gotta get to work now. WJP 7380 is coming."

"Huh? How did you know?"

"There, can't you see? That green Proton Wira."

"But it's so far off! How on earth can you see the number plate?"

"I can't, silly! I just remember the number plates."

"WHAT?! You remember the number plates of every single car?"


His eyes widened in amazement as her mouth fell open in similar fashion. Could she have possibly, accidentally, miraculously, at a time when life seemed destined for mediocrity - found her God-given Special Ability?

She had.

Within three months, Jenny became an instant sensation as the Incredible Memory Lady.

Sometimes, dreams are like butterflies. The more you chase them, the more they flit away. But when you trust and stay still, they come to you someday you least expect them to.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

VBS Memories... In Colour!

Why hey, it's that time of the year again!

The time when little kids get excited, youths reminisce about being kids, and adults try to act like kids! And no, we're not talking about my birthday here!

It can only be the annual VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL!

As I roll into my third year of being an 'official' helper of the Intermediate Class presentation, I've resolved to put on the best show ever seen. For selfish reasons, yes, but also because I believe that Ju Liang will be grabbing the best seat in the house and enjoying the show as well. Tee hee hee.

Thus, I have dug deep into and studied the famous moments of VBS Inter presentations past. And the results, my friends, are quite a sight to behold.

VBS 2001 - Wong Fei Hung
The year of Lian Juang! Indeed, this sketch is the shining moment of the Timothy VBS era. LJ plays a disbelieving Wong Fei Hung who attends VBS at the behest of his fiancée Sap Sam Yee. Not much of a story, but plenty of side-splitting antics to make this a performance that every older Canaan member will remember.

VBS 2006 - Tian Mi Mi
Another one for the ages! This was my first time helping out in a VBS presentation, and like all naivé directors I had my best intentions to do a full-fledged musical. Assisting me was the Inter veteran Ju Yuan and a very talented new church member called Teng Teng. The first few songs were pretty so-so, but this last scene was simply a KILLER.

VBS 2007 - Ya Pun Wa Wa
Fresh from the roaring success of Jasper's Tian Mi Mi, Clement had big shoes to step into. I remember his laidback attitude during practice that worried Ju Liang and I to no end. "Aiyah, don't worry lah... on the presentation day I'll remember my lines one." And boy, all's well sure did end well. Clement brought the house down, but it was this particular scene that sealed the deal.

And up next... VBS 2008! You better stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pastor Appreciation Drama

Consider yourself fortunate, peeps!

In view of recent calls for me to post more videos... I. Have. Uncovered. More.

The following sketch is one of those rare self-initiated church projects. I remember sparking it off from a mamak session with Ju Yuan and Ju Liang, where we imagined hilarious scenarios of holy-at-church pastors facing domestic troubles at home. You know - smoking kids, nagging wives and the like. At one point, there even was a song parody of 'We Are The Champions'. Eventually it grew into a cutesy drama we presented (without prior notice!) during the Thanksgiving segment of Watch Night 2005. Pardon the self-praise, but I still insist that this was one of the bravest things ever done on a Canaan stage. How dare a bunch of ignorant youths poke fun at the church culture of unappreciativeness!

Synopsis: Chi Yuan plays a pastor who is both unappreciated at church and tormented at home by a mother-in-law from hell. Hopeless and dejected, he eventually decides to leave for good - only for an unlikely intervention to teach him the true meaning of service. Additional synopses can be found in video descriptions.

Scene 1

Scene 2

Scene 3

Scene 4 & 5

Scene 6

One final note: At the time this drama was presented, Ju Liang had just been admitted to hospital. Zhi Yong was about to leave for Seremban. Jane had left for Belgium. And as for myself... well yes, I remember it was an emotionally difficult time for so many reasons.

Blah! It's all good now. =)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Man In The Computer Shop

An exercise in creative writing, you could say. Last week, as I was leaving office, I dropped by the computer shop downstairs to buy a router that would supposedly fix all my connection woes. (It didn't, eventually.) Most of the shops were closing, but the poor bespectacled man in this shop was still clearing up stuff. He wasn't exactly drop-dead handsome, and rather unpleasant to speak to. In fact, I often made fun of him by impersonating this Ugly Computer Guy in front of my colleagues.
But hey, let's just say...

There once was a man who owned a computer shop.

Every single day of his life was filled with printers, modems, routers, hard disks, USBs and whacamalits.

And everyone who knew him, only did so because he was good at the techy stuff they didn't care for.

The hardware and software were the only ones who loved him in return.

But all that changed the moment he fell in love.

Love is never something you can predict or control. That's why it's called falling in love.

It happened one quiet morning as he was arranging the DVD-RWs in order of capacity.

"Excuse me, do you have thumb drives here?"

His heart paused. When you hear the voice, you just know. He whirled around to gaze into the most perfect face he'd ever seen.

A sparkling set of eyes met his demurely. Rosebud lips that spoke a thousand words with just a smile. Flowing black hair that one could run fingers through endlessly. All standing before him.

"Hello there?" Her dimples made her ever more adorable.

"I, uh- yeah. Thumb drives. What sort?"

"Hmm...I dunno. What kinds do they come in?"

"Well, you have you 1 gig, 2 gigs, 4 gigs, even 8 gigs now."

"I see," Her forehead creased. "What's a gig?"

He almost burst out laughing. Fortunately, the cumulative forces of the universe prevented him from doing so at that very moment in time.

"Do you know what a byte is?"


"See, a byte is a unit of information stored in a computer. So all the data you have - that's all bytes. Ten thousand bytes would make up a megabyte, or MB in short. A thousand more of those, and you have a gigabyte, or GB, or gig as we call it."

She nodded very, very slowly.

"What sort of files would you want to store in the thumb drive?"

"I'm starting my own fashion boutique," she enthused. "And I need to get some photographs of the clothes taken, to upload on the web. But then the file size is too large, and I need to get it in this format, that format, this resolution, that resolution. Argh... it's so confusing!"

"So I reckon you want to transfer the picture files with a thumb drive?"


"Then take this." He slid open the glass case, withdrawing a 8-gig thumb drive. "You'll need this for the hi-res pictures."

She eyed it curiously. "How much?"

"I can loan it to you first. Copy your files and bring them here to me tomorrow. I'll help you upload them."

"Oh thank you so much! You're wonderful."

So are you, he whispered in his heart.

"No problem. Just doing all I can to help."

"Tell you what," she smiled at him. "I'll treat you to lunch tomorrow. As a gesture of thanks."

This can't be happening to me. He felt giddy as a malfunctioning computer fan.

"Wow. You're not kidding."

"Sure I'm not! I really appreciate what you're doing for me."

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! The printer cables and CD-ROMs and external casings and speakers and optical mice grinned in unison at him. All those years he spent with them had ultimately culminated in this beautiful, wonderful moment. No more lonely nights. No more self-pity. He could finally become normal again.

Now he would have to change. He couldn't possibly keep talking about games and tech stuff. He had to read up on the latest movies and music and fashion trends. And speaking of fashion, it was high time too he overhauled his wardrobe. Perhaps a Clay Aiken cool geek-esque look would serve him well. Or how about that effiminate Korean rage? He knew a great many girls who dug that. But of course, none of those girls knew him.

First date. First movie. First coffee. First Valentine's. First kiss. How would these feel like? Would his inexperience show? She probably would have had several boyfriends before. What would she be like? Would she laugh at him? Would she find him boring? Serious? Intelligent? Girls liked intelligent guys, didn't they? But it had to be intelligent in an INTERESTING way, no? He was pretty interesting in some ways. He knew a lot of stuff that his friends didn't.

"I can take you to my boyfriend's cafe. It's not too far from here."

He froze.

My boyfriend's cafe.

Boyfriend's cafe.


"What say you?"



"I'm not free tomorrow."

She looked disappointed.

"And the thumb drive costs 60."