By Rennie Whang
Over four years, his taxi had amassed clippings - and, according to him, fame.
But last week, it suddenly came to a halt.
The company which owned the taxi, SMRT Taxis, decided the items were possible safety hazards, he said, and decided to take back the vehicle.
Mr Chin Hwee Leng, 50, said the company locked up his taxi during an inspection of his vehicle on Wednesday.
On Friday, Mr Chin related his bewilderment to The New Paper: "Yes, I did have complaints about (it) once a month.
"But all of a sudden, a complaint came along that was so severe as to kick me out."
Mr Chin said that the clippings stuck up all over his taxi were for sharing purposes.
He would put up photos on football, and advertisements from fast-food companies, pawnshops, convenience stores and even property agents.
Mr Chin would also put up broken mirrors and fake crystals for a shiny effect.
He also displayed two toy motorcycles on his dashboard.
"I had people from Italy, China, the Philippines saying my taxi was very 'cool'," he said in Mandarin.
"I would tell them that I was very touched, but that I wouldn't know how long more I could drive this taxi."
As for those who called his collection clutter, he said: "To each his own. People look at the same thing in different ways."
Mr Chin said he was called up for an inspection by the company on Wednesday.
He claimed he had cleared the taxi prior to the inspection, but his efforts were in vain as he was asked to hand over the car keys and his vehicle was locked.
In the meantime, he will continue with a cleaning job he does every weekday for a subcontractor, taking in $20 for each 1.5 hour stint - on top of the six to seven hours he used to spend driving his taxi, he said.
Acting deputy director of customer relations at SMRT Taxis, Ms Eunice Lui, told TNP on Friday that Mr Chin had poorly maintained the exterior and interior of his taxi, and the cluttered items placed by him in his vehicle were possible safety hazards.
She said they had recalled his vehicle for an inspection after receiving a complaint from a member of the public, and gave him a week to clean it up.
However, his vehicle's condition was deemed still unacceptable during a second inspection.
Mr Chin subsequently informed the company he wanted to terminate his service, said Ms Lui.
"We want all our customers to have a safe and pleasant journey whenever they travel in our taxis," she added.
Where did it originate?
But where did Mr Chin's "collection" come from?
Mr Chin said he acquired his materials from items picked up on the streets, typically just downstairs from the five-room Clementi flat where he stays with a younger brother's family.
He has a wife and three children - two sons in national service, and a 17-year-old daughter - who live in Teck Whye, but he is separated from his wife.
His brother would scold him for keeping the material in the house, he said, adding: "I guess maybe this habit has to stop."
This article was first published in The New Paper.