He’s a mystery man who has become a minor star on YouTube. He stands for courtesy and good manners.
But just how much of a do-gooder is local “superhero” Justice?
I challenged the crimson-clad crusader to see who could do more good deeds within an hour.
He was more than willing, as long as I didn’t reveal his secret identity.
That was the least of my concerns. He may be the expert, but I was determined not to lose to a costumed character.
To match his tight-fitting get-up, I got my own fancy disguise.
Okay, so a party mask and a black T-shirt doesn’t exactly scream “superhero” – but I was told it was close to what Superboy wore.
So I, or ‘Kid TNP’, was ready to challenge Justice – who works as an adult educator when he’s not battling the ‘evil’ of apathy.
Justice arrives unmasked. He changes into his scarlet suit. After a quick briefing, we’re ready to show the world – or Toa Payoh Central, at least – who is the kinder soul. Even before we leave SPH News Centre, Justice is stopped for photographs every 10 steps.
Sadly, no one seems to notice me, even though I’m standing right beside Justice. Not a great start.
We’re finally out of the building. This is the bit that other superheroes in the movies don’t seem to experience – the many bewildered stares from members of the public. I resist the urge to tear off my mask and run back to the office. Justice takes it in his stride and strolls on confidently. I realise just how much courage it takes to do this.
We board SBS bus 232. The bus driver looks close to having a heart attack upon seeing us. The passengers shrink into their seats.
But that doesn’t stop Justice. He approaches the passengers and chats with them. The best I can muster is small talk with a nine-year-old boy. Justice starts do-gooding even before the challenge begins – by helping to carry a pram off the bus. Good manners doesn’t keep to a time limit.
We arrive at Toa Payoh Central. More stares, more sniggers. How does Justice do it? Sure, he wears a mask, but I’m not sure I’ll get through this without dying of embarrassment.
THE CHALLENGE IS ON! We head to the supermarket and immediately, Justice has two shopping bags in his hands and is escorting an elderly couple to the bus interchange. I’m still trying to find the guts to offer people my help. First blood to Justice.
I lose sight of Justice. He’s been striding up to anyone in need of help. He even picked up discarded items and binned them. But I get my first point by helping a woman carry her bag. I immediately regret not working out beforehand. Not just to fill out my T-shirt – her bag is so heavy. Is she transporting gold bullion?
But I’m happy to help. There’s always someone in need, and you just need to offer a helping hand. The woman appears genuinely touched by the gesture. Is that my super-sense tingling or just good vibes?
It’s a good day for Justice. He’s already taken what feels like a million photographs with newly-made fans, and now, he’s clearing trays at a fast food outlet. My efforts are less grand as I hold the door open for customers. But then, courtesy comes with even the smallest of actions.
We chance upon a woman who’s about to cross the road with her pram. Quick as a flash, I leap to the zebra crossing to stop traffic and help her cross. She looks at me with a slightly bewildered smile. Justice does some traffic stopping too. I have to admit, he looks the part more than I do.
My T-shirt is soaked with the sweat that only comes from helping others – or so I tell myself. Still feels icky, though. I can only wonder how Justice, still soldiering on, is managing under that thick costume. We duck into another supermarket to cool down. Superheroes need a break too.
Our enemy is now the blazing sun. But that’s perfect for sheltering pedestrians with my trusty umbrella. Two women whom I shield thank me profusely. Even though I’m trailing Justice by quite a bit, their thanks makes my day.
GAME OVER. Justice triumphs 15-7. The guy was everywhere. But in just one hour, I learnt that maybe we do need someone – costumed or not – to inspire graciousness in our lives.
As we are returning to base, we notice a line of senior citizens queuing for food welfare packs near Braddell MRT. Having bonded through good deeds, Justice and I shoot each other a look of understanding. In an instant, we’re helping the social workers to set up tables and distribute food packs.
We arrive back at the newsroom and tabulate the results. I shake Justice’s hand before he returns to his civilian alter-ego. It was a hard-fought battle, and despite the score, we both won.
Against apathy, that is.
The article related to these pictures was first published in The New Paper on Sunday on September 15, 2013.