Goods & Services on Wheels

And the sounds that accompany them.

Automologist LING remembers the wonderful (and useful) things that used to come right up to her doorstep on two and sometimes four wheels. 

I recently moved into a new apartment and the other day, to my utter delight, a familiar jingle from my childhood travelled up to the 15th floor where I live. It was the jingle of the ICE CREAM MAN. I pressed my nose to the window in time to see the top of the umbrella, affixed to the motorbike, glide across the neighbourhood below and out of my sight. My inner child despaired that I would not be able to rush down in time to “catch” the ice cream man and buy that cheap ice cream that comes in blocks; for 20 cents (is that 2 ringgit now?), the “uncle” would cut it up into small chunks that fit onto a cone or between two wafers or in a bun.

Now that more of us are moving into apartments, and several supermarket chains have sprouted across Klang Valley, and online shopping and service apps have come into existence, these goods and services on wheels are becoming more infrequent. And that makes me a little sad. Remember how you’d know they were approaching by the different sounds they would play? Here are those that I remember:


1) The Old Newspaper Call

My family would collect our old newspaper and magazines until there was no more space, and we would hail the “old newspaper” lorry to cart them away for recycling. We even get paid by the weight of the paper. A token sum, sure, but the Chinese in us delighted (“They clear our rubbish AND pay us for it? Muahahaha”).


2) The Roti Man’s Hymn:

The Roti Man on a motorbike – or where I lived, there were entire Roti Vans – laden with loafs of bread, buns, biscuits and all sorts of unhealthy junk food (MAMMEE!) would come by so that we could stock up for breakfast the next day and snacks for the evening. Staying upright burdened by all those goods require some mad skills.

The Roti Man would signal his arrival with the slow consistent tooting of his horn: toot…… toot…… toot……


3) The Putumayam Man

Funny, I can’t remember very well the sound that the Putumayam Man makes to announce his presence. Which is probably why I only have memories of the Putumayam Man zooming by, followed by longing stares at the metal box on the rear of the shrinking motorbike. I have never succeeded in buying putumayam from a motorbike that is not already parked somewhere. If someone could enlighten me, that would be great…

Was it really “Mari Mari”?



4) The Mattress Hypnotism

As common as the “old newspaper” lorry in my neighbourhood was the “old mattress” lorry. I had always wondered whether other families changed their mattress so often that it necessitates a mattress-packed lorry to pass by the house every day. Nonetheless, the “tilam lama, tukar baru”chant often lulled me into wanting a nap.

Last but most definitely not least…


5) The Ice-Cream Man’s Seduction

Most of you would be familiar with the Walls Ice-Cream Jingle. Here’s a remix which makes me want to eat ice-cream while simultaneously jump up and down, like one does at a club:

The Walls jingle not the same one that I wrote of at the start of this article, but I have not been able to find a version of it online. It will have to remain an earworm in my head for now…

Meanwhile, I have a tiny hope that these goods and services on wheels will stay on our neighbourhood roads for a little while longer, especially after a recent ice-cream girl has been making local headlines.


What other goods & services on wheels do you get in your neighbourhood? Let us know in the comments.

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