Mother's heartwarming post about son and 'MRT Uncle' goes viral as others share tales of friendly SMRT staff

"Uncle Zainodin" with four-year-old Jovan at Bishan MRT station.
"Uncle Zainodin" with four-year-old Jovan at Bishan MRT station.PHOTO: FACEBOOK/SAMANTHA BEK
"MRT Uncle" Zainodin Bin Abdul Hadi, 65, Service Ambassador, and Mr Jovan Phang, 4, at Bishan MRT station on April 29 2016.
"MRT Uncle" Zainodin Bin Abdul Hadi, 65, Service Ambassador, and Mr Jovan Phang, 4, at Bishan MRT station on April 29 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
"MRT Uncle" Zainodin Bin Abdul Hadi, 65, Service Ambassador, and Mr Jovan Phang, 4, at Bishan MRT station on April 29 2016.
"MRT Uncle" Zainodin Bin Abdul Hadi, 65, Service Ambassador, and Mr Jovan Phang, 4, at Bishan MRT station on April 29 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
"MRT Uncle" Zainodin Bin Abdul Hadi, 65, Service Ambassador at Bishan MRT station on April 29 2016.
"MRT Uncle" Zainodin Bin Abdul Hadi, 65, Service Ambassador at Bishan MRT station on April 29 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE – A mother’s heartwarming post to thank an “MRT Uncle” for brightening up her son’s morning trips has gone viral, with others joining in to share similar anecdotes of friendly train staff.

Facebook user Samantha Bek said she saw many complaints on train operator SMRT’s Facebook page, and wanted to “brighten up someone’s day” by recounting her experience.

In her post on Thursday (April 28), which has since garnered over 37,000 likes and 5,000 shares, Ms Bek shared how her four-year-old son Jovan looked forward to his train ride to school every morning because of his “favourite friendly MRT Uncle Zainodin”, a service ambassador at Bishan station.

Speaking to The Straits Times on Friday, Ms Bek said the online reaction was “totally unexpected”, adding that it was nice to see fellow commuters give credit to SMRT when it is due. The rail operator has faced intense scrutiny for its train breakdowns, including a four-line failure on Monday (April 24).

Ms Bek told The Straits Times that the unlikely friendship was struck up “a few months ago” when Mr Zainodin Abdul Hadi overheard her son calling him “Star Wars uncle” for the light baton which SMRT staff carry.

Since then, they have been greeting each other nearly every weekday morning at the same area near one of the station’s escalators. On Friday, Mr Zainodin, 65, thanked them after learning of Ms Bek’s Facebook post, which Jovan reciprocated with a box of chocolates.

Mr Zainodin, a former security officer, joined SMRT in 2012. His daily work consists of him assisting passengers with directions and keeping a lookout for their well being.

Speaking to reporters on Friday (April 29) evening at Bishan station, Mr Zainodin, a grandfather of two, said his father passed away in his school days. Because of this, he wanted to be a grandfather figure to other children as well. Instances of “kids that approach him always remain very memorable”, he said.

On Mr Zainodin, Ms Bek, 36, who works for parenting app ParentTown, said: “Despite his age, he will always squat and give my son a big hug. The two of them will chit chat while we wait for the train, and sometimes my son will show him his toys or books.”

Mr Zainodin’s jovialness was also highlighted by other Facebook users in Ms Bek’s post.

“This Uncle always greets me in the morning @ around 7am. And yes despite his age, he is fit cuz he walks quite fast from one end to another! It is quite obvious that he does his job with a lot of dedication & passion. Gd job Uncle,” said user Ida VaMp.

Faili Majeed added: “He is always smiling and so polite despite the crowd in Bishan. And Bishan can be a madhouse yet he is so calm and patiently directs commuters.. love him!”

Mr Zainodin’s colleagues at other stations also came in for praise.

Ctea Rosli wrote of “an Indian lady at Jurong East MRT wearing specs”, who “will always be standing at the control station n greet ‘Good Morning’ to everyone..seeing her everyday just bringhten up my day every single day!”

Lina Jay thanked a “sweet lady” at Raffles Place station for her “genuine smiles”, adding that “I would like to give thumbs up to an Indian uncle in Bugis Downtown line that will always gives directions to alighting passengers cheerfully”.

Yvonne Yeo also wrote of a “very chirpy and cheerful” staff at Raffles Place station.

“She'll greet the zombified passengers with a warm smile and greeting of ‘good morning’ even though nobody bothers to even reply or smile in return. Unfortunately I did not notice her name. But she definitely made an impression. Great job!”

Ms Bek told reporters that the online reaction to her post on Mr Zainodin and her son was “totally unexpected”, adding that it was nice to see fellow commuters give credit to SMRT when it is due.