You may have seen him.
An elderly man lying down in beside the rubbish bin in the middle of a busy walkway in Toa Payoh, as if he's in need of assistance.
Or does he?
According to Shin Min Daily News on Tuesday (May 23), it is a scene that's familiar to those working around Blk 178 Toa Payoh Central for the past two years.
Shop owners in the vicinity, however, have called the man out for faking distress in order to milk the sympathy of passers-by.
A clothing store owner, surnamed Lin, told the Chinese evening daily that the uncle usually appears every week, especially in the evenings.
"It's as though he's turning up at a specific time and place to 'perform'. If he's not beside a rubbish bin, then he'll be sitting on a bench along the walkway."
But no matter where he is, his "script" remains the same, shared Lin, describing how the man would slowly fall from where he is standing or sitting and wait for kind-hearted passersby to approach him.
"He'll always complain that he's hungry. But he's picky too, sometimes he'll ask for chicken rice and coke."
According to Shin Min, the man would usually keep aside food that's bought for him and continue to lie down in place, waiting for the next person to approach. He would leave only after someone has given him money.
Lin, 50, shared that she'd once publicly exposed the man's ruse, only to be at the receiving end of his glares and provocations.
"I had told passers-by not to be duped by him, and he glared at me and gave me a thumbs up sign as if to say I did a good job," said Lin.
A fruit seller in the area also shared with Shin Min that the uncle is a "celebrity" in the area, especially among stallholders.
Said the 23-year-old vendor, surnamed Du: "At first, people sympathised with him. But when he started appearing every week, we were no longer surprised."
Du said many have tried to dissuade the man from continuing his act but he simply ignored them. "There's nothing we can do," Du added.
Lin further revealed that the man appeared to do thorough research on where he decides to plant himself.
"He's very fussy. When the sun is out, he will lie down in the shade. If it's raining he will lie down at the sheltered pavement and only at night he'll lie down in the open.
A clinic assistant nearby told Shin Min reporters that every once in a while, they would receive requests to "save" the uncle.
The assistant shared that as medical staff, they can't stand by and do nothing even though they are well aware of the man's antics.
"Once when the doctor wanted to examine the uncle, he not only refused but also pushed the doctor away," she added.
Another vendor shared that the man's behaviour has also wasted public resources, due to the multiple calls put out to the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
"It happens at least two times a month," said the vendor, describing how the police or SCDF personnel would make their way down for naught. "That's more than 10 times in two years," he added.
A Shin Min reporter who went down to the area on Monday (May 22) afternoon, however, did not manage to catch a glimpse of the uncle.
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