Colleagues shocked at radical appearance

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 November, 1998, 12:00am

IN the early 1970s, when I was 18, I worked in the accounts department at Hong Kong Engineering (Haeco). It was a boring job, but there were lots of benefits and it was there I got my desire to study.

When I left school, I was a 'teddy boy' [wide boy]. I had long hair and dressed in purple shirts and flared trousers. My colleagues at Haeco were shocked by my appearance and encouraged me to dress more conservatively, but they accepted me because of my performance.

Haeco is an overhaul company, managing the maintenance of aircraft. I worked on the material-costing accounts and there was a lot of clerical work to be done. We had bunches of material request forms to process. We had to calculate the cost for each item, charge it back to the cost centre and then use the NCR machine - which in those days was a very modern machine - to punch the data into the ledger.

I had to learn how to punch the data into the machine and get up to a good speed. We would use the machines for three hours at a time, which ruined my eyesight and I had to get glasses. The machine moved quickly from left to right and I had to follow it. I was lucky, I was young so I didn't get a twitch.

When I closed my eyes I could still see the numbers. Sometimes I would dream about it, seeing the data machine moving back and forth.

The people I worked with were very boring and I knew I didn't want to spend my life in that job. I spoke to my course accountant and he encouraged me to study, so I took a part-time course in accountancy.

It was great, the company paid for my tuition. I came top of my class with an average 99.7 points, which stimulated my interest in further studies. I come from a working class family, so I didn't have the chance to go to university.

Another perk was concessional tickets from Cathay Pacific - I only had to pay 10 per cent of the fare. I took the opportunity to travel over Asia. And the cheap flights were extended to my family.

One of my colleagues was an auxiliary sergeant. He said to me: 'Do you like shooting?' I said yes, but it is very expensive. He said: 'Join the auxiliary police and you get paid and get your gun sessions for free.' So I did that in my free time - I also got to watch football matches for free because the auxiliary police provide crowd control at matches.

After that, I became more disciplined and dressed more conservatively. I used to like to wear colourful socks, but at Haeco I learnt that if you want people to respect you, you must dress conservatively - which meant no coloured socks.

So I bought lots of black socks, all of the same style. I still do that now.

If I'm in a hurry and I can grab any two socks, it doesn't matter because they are all the same.