SINGAPORE- Mr Low Lip has devoted 38 years to his first and only job - as a maintenance officer for the Housing Board. And he has signed up for another three years of service, even though he "retired" last weekend.
His devotion to the front-line job is admirable given his daily voluminous workload.
The 62-year-old is part of a 2,000-strong front-line workforce that handles over two million counter transactions, one million phone inquiries and 630,000 house visits annually.
"The front line is very important," Mr Low said. "If you don't have the front line, many people can't get their housing problems solved."
As a senior estate executive, Mr Low coordinates visits by staff and contractors to several homes a day to follow up on maintenance requests. The most common maintenance complaint is about leaking ceilings, he said, and this can be rather tricky to handle.
"The upstairs and downstairs units share the same (concrete) slab, so both parties must share the cost," he said. "But sometimes, the upstairs unit owners get a nasty shock when they find out they have to pay too. They will ask, 'My ceiling isn't leaking. Why do I have to pay?'"
A HDB spokesman said there are instances where front-line staff have encountered abusive customers, who make vulgar or threatening remarks, or even resort to physical aggression.
But Mr Low said he has, thankfully, never had such an experience: "At most, they raise their voice." Often, his gentle but firm demeanour disarms any difficult residents he sometimes encounters.
"The most important thing is to go on-site and see first-hand what problems a resident may be facing," he told The Sunday Times.
Retired policeman M. Rajagopal, 63, who lives in a two-room rental flat in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, has received visits by Mr Low over the past four years.
Mr Low has helped him arrange for contractors to fix faulty wires, taps and doors. "My block is very old, so a lot of things are breaking down," Mr Rajagopal said. "But Mr Low always gets things fixed quickly, and he always follows up with a phone call."
Mr Low said he has extended his contract because he can still work. "Nothing is wrong with my body, and I am familiar with this job," he said. "I am a simple man who likes to make other people's lives a little simpler where I can."
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