During the second Sino-Japanese War in December 1941, a railway porter (played by Jackie Chan) leads a ragtag team of freedom fighters to sabotage a a railway network used by the Japanese to transport supplies from Tianjin to Nanjing. Comprising a motley crew of tailor, noodle shop owner, railroad hand, and professional thug, they make weapons out of shovels and loose railway track planks to ambush Japanese soldiers and steal food to feed the starving Chinese. The locals call them the “Railroad Tigers”.

In peacetime, people who got up to such shenanigans would probably put one behind bars, but a small job well done could get you hailed as a hero.

With so many changes in the job market since the bad old days, we are guessing that the modern-day “Railroad Tigers” would probably comprise some, if not, all of these innocuous, everyday professions:

1. MRT train captain

It's not just men who get behind the wheel - SMRT female train captains (from left): Ms Sugvendar Kaur D/O Pritam Singh, Ms Leong Suat Yee and Ms Nur Haziqah Binte Uthumansham. (Photo credit: SMRT's Facebook page)

It’s not just men who get behind the wheel – SMRT female train captains (from left): Ms Sugvendar Kaur D/O Pritam Singh, Ms Leong Suat Yee and Ms Nur Haziqah Binte Uthumansham. (Photo credit: SMRT’s Facebook page)

Our MRT drivers are expected to do the exact opposite of what the movie’s Railroad Tigers are up to, of course. As the first person to respond to any track faults, an MRT train captain has a big part to play in minimising disruptions to train services, or, in the unfortunate event of one, assuage affected commuters and lead them to safety.

Remember the horrible meltdown of December 15, 2011, when thousands of peak-hour commuters were stranded due to a power failure? In one of the four stalled trains, passengers were trapped in darkness for over an hour with poor ventilation. Some of them had to break glass windows and force open doors to let air in. They didn’t have any idea what was happening. Since then, MRT staff have been better trained to react in a crisis.

2. Software developers

Mr Tay Wei Kiat is the Singaporean creator of SG BusLeh and co-founder of app development company Originally US. (Photo credit: Originally US's Facebook page)

Mr Tay Wei Kiat, 28, is the Singaporean creator of SG BusLeh and co-founder of app development company Originally US. (Photo credit: Originally US’s Facebook page)

Don’t pooh-pooh an IT geek next time you date one. They’re the gazillionaires-to-be who can create the next “it” app, social media platform, or addictive smartphone game. Aren’t you thankful for the SG BusLeh app, which tells you not only what time your bus will arrive, but also the likelihood of getting a seat? That you can Grab a car or Uber anywhere even when there’s no taxi in sight?

Programmers could also be hackers, if they wanted to, and with that knowledge, tighten the security loopholes of your website, computer or Intranet. Pair programmers with a data scientist (see #6), and they could take over the world.

3. Film distributors

Mélanie Laurent as Shoshanna Dreyfus in Inglourious Basterds, in the projection room of the fateful theatre. (Photo credit: www.misscitydiscovers.com)

Mélanie Laurent as Shoshanna Dreyfus in Inglourious Basterds, in the projection room of the fateful theatre. (Photo credit: www.misscitydiscovers.com)

Remember Shoshanna of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009)?  She’s the projectionist who doctors a propaganda film, and plots to assassinate Hitler by burning down a movie theatre. Er, what I’m saying is, films have the great power of bringing all sorts of people together.

Film distributors, like Golden Village Pictures and United International Pictures, have a hand in delivering messages to the masses and influencing popular belief by deciding what movies to screen, and when. Like Railroad Tigers, which is opening in theatres tomorrow (December 29, 2016).

4. Refuse collectors

Litter is strewn all over Anderson Avenue, in the Bronx of New York City, during the great garbage strike of 1968. (Photo credit:  Dennis Harper via Flickr, via untappedcities.com)

Litter is strewn all over Anderson Avenue, in the Bronx of New York City, during the great garbage strike of 1968. (Photo credit: Dennis Harper via Flickr, via untappedcities.com)

No-one can dispute that sanitation workers are the greatest unsung everyday heroes we can’t live without. Imagine a week without garbage disposal services at your estate or workplace. We would surely die of the filth, if not from health emergencies.

In 1968, a nine-day garbage strike in New York City transformed its streets into slums with 100,000 tons of accumulated rubbish which would take more than 8,300 modern-day refuse collection trucks to clear.

5. Air-con servicemen

We try to control our indoor climate with air-conditioning. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

We try to control our indoor climate with air-conditioning. (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

The other thing that could take down an organisation other than refusing to clear its refuse – a faulty air-conditioning system. Not only do humans need cool, clean air, but computers too, with the amount of heat they generate. Singapore being The Air-Conditioned Nation predisposes itself a great inconvenience – we will forever be at the mercy of professional air-conditioning servicemen.

A good one won’t just vacuum the dirt off your filter, but clean the evaporator coils and do all sorts of stuff laymen won’t know how to.

6. Data scientists

So much data out there. What do you do with it? (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

So much data out there. What do you do with it? (Photo credit: Shutterstock)

And then there’s what is touted to be the hottest career in the next 50 years. Data scientists are the people who process all the data out there, analyse it and figure out what to do with it eventually. Most forseeably in the near future, I think they’re the ones who will make sure that you always get paired to the correct people in your carpool app, help e-commerce companies fulfill and deliver orders on time even during Black Friday sales, and finally, help Facebook figure out how to break even their $22 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.

Combined with all the previously mentioned five professions, data scientists could run the world, or ruin it at the snap of a finger.

Let the Railroad Tigers show you how, in cinemas on December 29.

Sources: channelnewsasia.com, asiaone.com, untappedcities.com