At the third storey of Block 34, Upper Cross St, where now the toiletry shops are making great sales, they also have an informal symbiotic relationship with this old lady. When the shops close at 9.30pm, this old lady would come to flatten out all the empty carton boxes that they throw on the walkway.
By midnight, depending on the sales on that day, she would have more or less completed flattening all the cartons and tie them up together. In return for these discarded cartons, she would clean up the whole walkway, making it clean ready for the next day's business.
I don't know where she stays. Sometimes, past midnight I still saw her sleeping by her pile of flattened cardboards. Perhaps, that is the better way to guard the cardboards and bring them to sell the next morning.
There used to be an old man who does the same, but he would go round collected old newspapers. Many neighbours took kindly on this friendly old man and would gladly give him the newspapers and whatever he could sell. He was always grateful, cheerful and friendly. Alas, one day, I saw her being supported by a maid, suffering from a stroke. Since then, I have not seen him anymore. From what I heard, he had been doing this trade for a long time, supporting his children through university education.
There is still another old man who is still collecting old newspapers. But age is catching up. I am not sure for how long I would still be seeing him in the lift and being greeted by him in the traditional Hokkien greetings, "Jia Ba Buay" (Have you eaten enough?). Then, it might be the end of this ecosystem and a way of life.