Monday, September 10, 2007

Escalating observations

Much has been said about Ugly Singaporeans. I think some of them don't set out to be ugly (and we're not just talking about the looks department) but they become boorish to other people because they haven't/don't/can't/won't realise that they, as individuals, have to share space with other people.

They are the ones who won't hold the lift doors; stand in front of the bus and train doors and block people from getting on or off; walk upstream from you and steal the next taxi; and the gaggle of four teenagers who must walk four abreast across the footpath and expect you to give way, even though you're loaded down with heavy grocery bags, because it would just so kill them to break formation and interrupt their chatter.

And Ugly is not just a Singaporean thing. One day I will tell you about an Ugly Whitey on the train, but preferably face-to-face and not just because of R(A) language (not all mine) but because you can then buy me a drink after.

Anyway, this Ugliness by unthinking osmosis came to mind when I had to get on a peak hour train a couple of days ago. (I work nights, I usually avoid the world when it needs to commute.) Everyone got on the escalator (which I usually avoid because there's a lemming-like bottleneck of commuters automatically headed to the escalators while the stairs are empty but that day, I got off the train right at where the escalator was) and as per standard commuter practice here, stood on the left side of the step, leaving the right side as a passing lane for people in a hurry. Except for one person. Everyone who was walking up had to sidle round her before they could continue walking up. They all tsked at her when they had to get past her. She was clueless, she had absolutely no idea that she was in the way. Because she continued to stand on the "walking lane" on all the three escalators it took to get from the platform to the street level.

Later, on another escalator -- but a much narrower one that wasn't designed for standers on the left and walkers on the right -- I heard someone come up behind me, and so pressed against the side so that she could get past me. She continued on her way, wordlessly. "You're welcome," I called out after her. She looked back puzzledly. I bet she's a nice girl, great to her friends, polite to company, respectful of her parents, pays her taxes. But she was Ugly at that one instant.

3 comments:

The Cat's Whiskers said...

They stand on the left-hand side of escalators in Singapore? Not on the right?

I once read a sci-fic story about how the world was so overpopulated that people had evolved to live in two groups: those who hibernated in the winter and worked in the spring/summer months and vice versa. The story was about a boy from the winter group who fell in love with a girl from the summer group, and how they both tried living in the other's season, but it didn't work out, partly because the winter boy couldn't bear the crowds in the summer (there were more people who wanted to do the summer thing, of course). Whereas in winter, the museums were empty, and there was space to breathe.

Yee Hung said...

I don't think it's just us Singaporeans. I mean, have you been to China? They're absolutely barbaric. I'm not kidding or exaggerating.

snugpug said...

I hate, hate, hate China. It has no concept of personal space.

And I think it's sad that a people who invented the compass, gunpowder and printing -- both wood block and movable type -- have now gone on to invent fake infant milk powder, fake medication and fake stories on fake char siew pau.