He was seething with anger after being stuck in a two-hour traffic jam caused him to lose a $2,000 photography job. So he went on Facebook to rant.
A nine-vehicle accident, which left a motorcyclist dead and another injured, had clogged up the Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) on Thursday morning.
Mr Allan Lee, 39, wrote later that morning: "Why made (sic) thousands of people stranded when they can just shift the roadkill aside and let the living people go ahead with our lives?" (See full post on left.)
The photographer paid for his moment of folly when a screengrab of his post ended up on HardwareZone, a popular online forum, where netizens slammed him for his insensitive comments.
To atone for his error of judgment, he apologised individually to all 43 posts by netizens who had criticised him.
Mr Lee, who started his trip in Jurong West at 7.45am, was supposed to meet his client at Kallang at 8.30am, but was more than an hour late because of the jam.
When he read the first Expressway Monitoring Advisory System sign on the PIE stating there was a massive jam, he thought it was the usual peak hour rush.
"Had I known it was an accident, I could have at least taken alternative routes to my destination," said Mr Lee, who also called for a "better accident management plan" to be put in place.
He texted his client to tell him the reason he would be late. As his anxiety slowly turned to exasperation, he received more bad news when his client texted him at 9.30am to say that his services would no longer be needed.
"He left despite me sending him pictures of the jam. He said that he had waited long enough for me.
"It added to my frustration. It was not like I could control the jam," Mr Lee said told The New Paper, adding that as a full-time photographer, his income was dependent on the number of jobs each month.
VENT & FORGET
After venting his anger on Facebook, he forgot about the post until his friend, who wanted to be known only as Mr K.C. Low, saw a screengrab of the post on HardwareZone.
Mr Low, 28, a fellow photographer, said: "When I told Allan, he was shocked. His Facebook page is private, open only to his close group of friends. He thought it was quite safe.
"He would never say such things usually. Maybe his frustrations got the better of him that day."
Mr Lee quickly removed the Facebook post, but the witch-hunt had begun on HardwareZone, where some netizens took offence at his use of the word "roadkill" to describe an accident victim.
Netizen lucifer wrote: "You considered going to the funeral of the 'roadkill'?"
The comment was followed by an expletive.
With his newly-created HardwareZone account, Mr Lee replied: "Hi, sure. Please let me have the details. I will go. Apologies again to all."
Other netizens wanted to find out his personal details to expose him. Among them was rethaFrey who wrote: "Time to hunt him down. RIP to the biker that passed away at Bukit Batok."
Mr Lee responded to them by saying: "No need to hunt me down. I am here.
"I came because I realised my mistake. Those were indeed words of frustration. Sorry again to all."
He then replied to every comment with an apology because he felt "it is a matter of social responsibility".
He said: "I went in believing that if I've done something wrong, I just have to own up, be a man about it and hopefully clear the air."
He monitored the forum for five hours, even forgoing his dinner, he said.
"I was just sitting down and apologising until I fell asleep close to midnight."
Claiming that he was new to the culture on forums, Mr Lee said he had not expected the "consistent lashing" or how quickly the matter escalated.
"It's not a good feeling," he conceded.
Some words stung but he accepted them.
"Do I have a choice? The words got harsher each time, but I felt I deserved it," he said.
Asked why he had used the word "roadkill", Mr Lee said he could not explain it and that he was just consumed by anger and frustration when he wrote it.
After seeing Mr Lee's apologies, some netizens applauded his honesty.
Singapore Kindness Movement's general-secretary, Dr William Wan, said that Mr Lee's experience is a lesson that everyone can learn from.
"Don't say things that may lead to regret," he said. "Isn't it better to not say such a thing at all, so there's no need to worry about hurting anyone and apologising for it? It's all about thoughtfulness."
He said that people realise their mistakes only when their words are captured online.
As for those who berated Mr Lee, Dr Wan hopes that they, as part of a gracious society, will forgive him.
"The milk has been spilt," he said. "If you don't forgive, what else do you want to do?"
Mr Lee is still struggling to cope with the sudden attention.
"I was not prepared for this. To have so much attention because of senseless words blown out of proportion is not anything honourable," he said.
"All I want is closure. I just want to move on."
This article was first published on June 21, 2014.
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