卡蒂先生

Mr. Kathy

卡蒂先生是大英義學的畢業生。畢業以後,為了代替生病的父親謀家計,他曾擔任臨教等多種工作,1962年加入市政局成為巴士售票員。兩年後,他被擢升到衛生部門,但在正式擔任任何職位之前必須先通過當時市政局衛生部門主任的面試。

一周後,他被正式任命。職位是夜香工友們的監工,俗稱工頭。他的任務主要是管理工人們的工作流程,每天點名和確保工人們在崗位上工作、確保他們遵守紀律等等管理工作。他當時或許也沒想到,自己會一直在這個崗位上工作到退休,整整做了26年又6個月。

管理的工作並沒有比工友們輕鬆,需要向上頭交代的同時,也得看手下的眼色。比方說,有時候看到工友逃班,他也只能睜一隻眼閉一隻眼。

“我曾經因為揪出逃班的工友,報告上層後,被工友們叫來的地痞流氓打過。幸好我跟他們說清楚情況後,他們也理解我的處境,所以最後放我走了。”

雖然不需要親自下場倒糞,但糞穢的氣味也總是讓只是在旁監工的他難以忍受。“第一天上班我就哭了,那味道真的受不了。”

他也跟工友們一樣害怕到房客太多的房子工作。在某些特定的區域,一家房子常有30、40個房客,糞桶和廁所一般都會讓女人使用,男人們就隨意在房子旁的溝渠裡如廁。

Mr Kathy was a former Penang Free School-er. He tried many different jobs after he graduated from school just to replace his ill father in earning bread for the family. In 1962, he joined the city council as a bus ticketing crew and promoted to the department of health 2 years later. But first, he has to pass the interview by the supervisor before he could be appointed for any position.

One week later, he was officially recruited, as the head of night soil worker, known as “Kang Thao”. His job was to manage the workers’ schedule, take attendance, making sure they are doing their duties, and disciplining the workforce. He probably did not think he would end up working here until the day he retired, after 26 years and 6 months.

The management job wasn’t any easier than the workers’. He needed to report to the superior and make peace with the crews. For instance, he had to close one eye when seeing the worker being absent from the job.

“I once reported to my supervisor about a worker’s absence and ended up got beaten by a group of samseng (gangster). Luckily they understood my position and let me go after I explained myself to them.”

Although he did not have to handle what other night soil workers do, the smell was enough to get him very upset. “I remember I cried on the first day at work. The smell was unbearable”.

Just like his fellow night soil workers, he was afraid of going to the crowded houses too. In some areas, it was common to have more than 30 to 40 tenants in one house, where the pail latrine will be occupied by the ladies and the guys would simply do their business in the drains nearby.  

在513事件後,由於宵禁時期無法工作,事件過後工友們經過近10天的“大長征”,一切的感官都疲倦而麻木,包括嗅覺。卡蒂先生說,自從那次以後,他對糞穢的臭味彷彿自動免疫了。

卡蒂說,雖然工友們並沒有定期檢查身體甚或是註冊疫苗,但他工作26年直到退休為止,都所幸沒看過有人因此而生病甚至賠上性命。不過,對於某些地區的工作,他們也總是會分外小心。“比方說一些有人從事色情行業的小賓館,工人們在處理糞穢時都會額外小心。糞桶裡會有保險套,我們必須跟酒店商量好,讓他們多注意,因為不知道保險套是否會傳染性病或者其他傳染病。”

監工也必須跟民眾維持關係。有時候,通過關係好的民眾提供的情報,能夠得知許多消息,其中重要的包括人們對他們服務是否有所不滿,監工會當中協調、許多問題都得以解決,不必驚動管理高層。

有時候,糞穢會從桶裡漏出來灑在地上, 卡蒂說這讓他很難過,因為這代表他自己沒好自己的責任,而必須讓民眾們去承擔他疏忽的後果。

雖然是管理層人員,每次需要監督換班時刻的, 但卡蒂還是覺得,本身的工作沒有獲得別人的尊重。流氓地痞的拳頭、群眾毫不客氣的言語,都早已刻印在他的生命中。他提起倒糞工人們談之色變的513事件時,淡淡的說,那10天沒有休息的工作,到最後已變成麻木不仁的事情,連平時無論如何也難以習慣的糞臭味,也是如此。

“或許,這就是我的命運吧。”

Mr Kathy was a former Penang Free School-er. He tried many different jobs after he graduated from school just to replace his ill father in earning bread for the family. In 1962, he joined the city council as a bus ticketing crew and promoted to the department of health 2 years later. But first, he has to pass the interview by the supervisor before he could be appointed for any position.

One week later, he was officially recruited, as the head of night soil worker, known as “Kang Thao”. His job was to manage the workers’ schedule, take attendance, making sure they are doing their duties, and disciplining the workforce. He probably did not think he would end up working here until the day he retired, after 26 years and 6 months.

The management job wasn’t any easier than the workers’. He needed to report to the superior and make peace with the crews. For instance, he had to close one eye when seeing the worker being absent from the job.

“I once reported to my supervisor about a worker’s absence and ended up got beaten by a group of samseng (gangster). Luckily they understood my position and let me go after I explained myself to them.”

Although he did not have to handle what other night soil workers do, the smell was enough to get him very upset. “I remember I cried on the first day at work. The smell was unbearable”.

Just like his fellow night soil workers, he was afraid of going to the crowded houses too. In some areas, it was common to have more than 30 to 40 tenants in one house, where the pail latrine will be occupied by the ladies and the guys would simply do their business in the drains nearby.  

After May 13, due to they were off-duty during curfew, he and his workers had to go on a “10 days adventure” where their senses, including smelling, got turned off automatically. From then onwards, Mr. Kathy has got his “immunity” against bad smell.

Although none of the workers were vaccinated or accepted any regular health checkup, throughout the 26 years working as the head of night soil worker, he has witness no illness or death caused by their job. However, they were extra careful when they were visiting certain places. “Places such as motels where they run sex business, we will be very careful because there were condoms in the pail. We would have a word with the business runner because we weren’t sure if these condoms carry any infectious disease or venereal diseases.

Supervisors had to maintain good relationship with the public. Sometimes, with good relationship they would receive information provided by the civilian, such as if there is any complain about their service, so that the supervisor can solve these problems without alerting the higher authority.

Sometimes stools may spilled on the ground and this will upset Mr. Kathy because that means he did not do his job right and the civilians had to suffer from it.

Although he was a manager but he felt no respect has gained from his workers such as during his supervision on their shifts and schedules. Rude attitude and gangster fists have made their marks in his life. When talking about the experience during May 13, he said faintly that much has changed since that 10 days of restless work. Be it the the smell or other unreasonable incidents, all became irrelevant to him.

“Perhaps, this is my destiny.”