Ah Kow is my next-door neighbor. We live in a neighborhood comprising of people of different races and cultures. Most of my neighbors are from the lower income group and as such all of them work hard for a living. They are rubber tappers, laborer’s, clerks, fishmongers, and contractors. Some are unemployed. Nevertheless, we live in harmony and we help each other out whenever we can.
Of all these hard-working people there is none that can match Ah Kow. He is a person with boundless energy and single-minded drive. By looking at a typical day in his life we can get an idea of his work-rate.
Ah Kow gets up at three in the morning can hear him getting ready to leave the house because the thin wooden wall that separates our houses does not prevent sound from passing through. I kow he goes straight to the fish market to select the fishes and marine products that he will sell later in the day. He is a fishmonger and he bemoans the fact that he is still a retailer. He wishes to be a wholesaler because, as he said, he can earn more money. I do not doubt that he will realize his ambition one day.
All through the morning and a little part of the afternoon, Ah Kow will be selling fish at his stall in the market. I have, on an occasion, visited him and I found that he sells the largest amount of fish. His stall is always crowded with buyers for the stocks the largest selection of fish. Coupled with a smooth tongue and an ever-smiling face, it is no wonder that he attracts these buyers. He has a natural charm that seems to have a hypnotic effect on the buyers to buy more. This I have seen with my own eyes; a person coming to buy a single fish. ends up buying shrimps as well. Such is his charm.
By two o’clock in the afternoon, Ah Kow closes his stall, the other fishmongers have to stay on because they have not finished selling their fish yet. Ah Kow heads straight for a home where he has a quick lunch. I often meet him when I come home from school. His clothes are all filthy and he smells terrible, but after a bath and a change of clothes, he emerges from his house a completely transformed man. One would never guess he is a fishmonger.
This change is necessary, for Ah Kow is now a salesman, representing a large direct-selling organization. For the rest of the afternoon, he will make his rounds in his battered old car. He sells washing powder, shampoo and all kinds of home-products. We even bought a few things from him. In fact, the whole neighborhood is his sales domain. Everybody knows him because his service is excellent. Whenever we want something, all we have to do is to tell him and we will not have to wait very long before he delivers the goods. In addition to the prompt service, he is very flexible when it comes to payment. Though he is flexible, his business is thriving for he has the knack of getting his dues from his customers. I suppose it is his great charm and persuasive powers that do the trick. Nobody owes him a lot.
It is dark when he returns to his house. We would all either be watching TV or relaxing when we hear his car screeching to a halt outside his house. The sound of the engine being switched off is followed by the sound of his car door slamming. Next, and unfailingly, his stereo set would come alive with his favorite songs. I wonder how an evening would feel like without hearing these all too familiar songs, played at a hardly tolerable volume.
Often, I notice that Ah Kow goes out again in the night I can only guess that he is going out to do the business of some sort. Sometimes I have gone to sleep before he returns.
It is a wonder to see a human being working at such an accelerated rate. How long can he go on this way? How do his wife and children react to his constant absence, even during holidays and weekends? I only hope that Ah Kow does not overtax himself and ends up in the hospital one day. In my opinion, he works the hardest, in fact, he works too hard. Every man has a limit. Ah Kow has to realize he has one too.