Thursday, September 10, 2009

MID life obsession

"Sedikit sedikit, lama lama, menjadi bukit"
(A Malay saying which means:"Little by little, over time, build a hill.")
Years ago, when I interacted with the Defence Attache (DA) at a foreign mission in Singapore, the army officer recounted how his country's database of military vehicle number plates proved useful.
As defence attache in a regional country, he observed how units from his host nation were deployed to quell demonstrations in the country's capital.
The crackdown that summer was bloody and resulted in an international outcry.
Thanks to years of meticulous data compilation, the DA was able to identify the units that took part in the operation.
He did so by comparing the number plates of military vehicles such as trucks and tanks seen in the streets with vehicle numbers in his little black book. The database had been compiled, checked and verified over the years.
It was an interesting anecdote.
It goes without saying that, as a Singaporean, I did not reciprocate with stories of how the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) assigns number plates to its vehicles.
Just as keen-eyed observers who jot down aircraft serial numbers with obsessive zeal can name you the tail numbers assigned to various aircraft, the same can be said of Singapore Army vehicles.
I cannot explain why this weird activity turns me on.
But I'm gratified that there are like-minded individuals who stalk public transportation for the latest models of SBS buses and bus number plates, not to mention the strong plane and ship-spotting community worldwide.
I remember seeing my first military vehicles at the SAF Display as a seven-year-old at Changi Air Base.
My dad had explained that MID stood for Ministry of Interior and Defence. I found that factoid fascinating and was hooked from then on.
I started my index in my teens. I scribbled down my first number plate (it was an SAF Iveco-Fiat 3-tonner turning out of Telok Kurau Road onto East Coast Road) onto the back of a bus ticket (it was Bus 155. Strange, how people remember such trivia) one day and the ball started rolling from then. 
Data collection stopped during my time as an NSF. My intent when I started my index was to find out how many number plates I could collect by spotting SAF vehicles in the open. It's like fox hunting. There are rules to follow.
As the SAF had yet to commercialise its transport requirements, annual events such as National Day Parade rehearsals resulted in a bumper crop of numbers. I loved the NDP rehearsals and would make time every weekend just to stalk the vehicle convoys.
Some of these vehicles are long gone, having been decommissioned and sent to the scrapyard. But it brings back a sense of deja vu whenever I look at the list and recall when/where I met interesting number plates.
High points in data collection include seeing 1 MID and just this week, 99001 MID at the Army Open House 2009. These vehicles carry the smallest and largest MID numbers I've ever seen. :)
Out of sheer idle curiosity, I did a stock take one day.
I stopped counting when I hit 5,000.....
Postscript - As an aside, I should mention that the attache spoke fluent Mandarin. He also taught me the importance of being able to read books upside down - so you could glance at documents on someone's desk and read its contents without giving the game away by involuntarily cocking your head to one side. He was quite a character.


Vigilance said...

David, I'm guessing you met Dennis Blasko? That part about reading documents upside down was quite interesting. lol. You master that skill yet?

David Boey said...

re: reading upside down. The DA in question mentioned it with a straight face.

I've yet to master that but can read those colourful flags flown by ships and, if I brush up, probably those flashing light thingies too that they use on the bridge wings. :)