My guilt over not having updated in a month has been superseded by my righteous anger at the inability of certain types of foreigners to act in a manner becoming of their status as guests in this country. My beef today is with the boors who barge in with their Pinkerton’s Syndrome and assume they have the right to comment on things that they don’t understand.
I live in the Outram/Tanjong Pagar area. I’m not sure if this is a problem unique to my neighbourhood, but every other week, I come across this scenario: at a stop light or a stop line, the second car in line gets ahead of itself and steps on the accelerator too soon, bumping the first car in the line. The ensuing result is that both drivers stop right where they are, put on their hazard lights, and leave their cars to inspect the (typically minor to the point of comedy) damage. Typically this means they hold up the entire lane – which could well be the only turning lane, or even the only lane at all – and the other cars behind them have to maneuver their way out. Often through peak hour traffic.
Today I was attempting to get home from Maxwell Road Food Centre, which involves looping around Ann Siang Road and Ann Siang Hill to get onto South Bridge Road. Ann Siang Hill is a one-lane road which is often obstructed by inconsiderate motorists. On more than one occasion I’ve sat and rolled my eyes while taxis disgorged women who just had to air-kiss the remaining passengers copiously while the cabbies waited, thereby blocking all traffic.
This time as I was about to turn into Ann Siang Hill, I came across the same familiar scenario with the stop line, with WTF-ery that reached a new level. There were two cars stopped in the road, with about six people standing around staring at the bumpers. And someone had hauled a dustbin into the middle of the road to well and truly block any access. Bear in mind please that they could have easily turned out onto South Bridge Road to examine the damage there without obstructing anyone, or even better, make a small loop into the public carpark next to Maxwell Food Centre to take their own sweet time arguing about insurance claims.
But no. They had blocked the single lane road to settle their bumper damage, and they had made use of a dustbin to make their point clear.
Thus blocked, I turned on my own hazard lights, stepped out of the car to yell, “Oi! You’re blocking the road! What’s happening?!”
I was given the ‘wait, wait’ wave. Of course. Berating myself silently for not recognising a lost cause on sight, I went back to my car and prepared to move off and make my way to South Bridge Road by alternate route.
And this was when a Brit sitting outside one of the yuppie-friendly cafes and bars decided to lend his two cents worth.
“Oh come ON. What does it LOOK like they’re doing?”
I swivelled around and said, “It LOOKS like they’re obstructing traffic.”
His witty rejoinder? “Oh, and you’re not?”
Me, icily: “I would think it is hardly your place to comment on the traffic situation. But yes, thank you for your input.”
Once more, I made to get back into the car.
His parting shot: “Right, because it isn’t SUFFICIENTLY obvious what’s going on over there.”
I toyed with the idea of gunning the accelerator to run him down at his little alfresco table, but I decided it wasn’t worth the pain of cleaning yuppie scum off my bumper.
As I drove off, extremely annoyed, it occurred briefly to me that perhaps the rear car had his bonnet open because he was having engine problems. But I mulled it quickly and decided that, if that were the case, there wouldn’t have been another car in front of him. If the second car had broken down suddenly, the one in front would have driven off. And even if the two drivers knew each other and were moving in a convoy, the front car would have moved off before realising there was something wrong with his friend’s vehicle.
So when I reached South Bridge Road, I drove a little slower as I passed Ann Siang Hill to see if I could get another perspective on the situation. But I couldn’t – because the cars had already moved off, putting paid to any possibility that the second car might really have broken down and required hauling.
And this is where I would like to state that guests in my country could stand to mind their own stinking business when in such situations. Because, unless you drive, you have no insight into the sheer irrationality of Singaporean driver behaviour when their (admittedly overpriced) cars get a couple of dings. Unless you drive in the CBD, you lack any perspective on the inconveniences visited by such drivers upon their fellow motorists.
I lived in Melbourne two years. In my time there, I experienced no end of idiosyncrasies with regard to the behaviour and actions of the locals. There were occasions when I witnessed and/or experienced harassment and discrimination. But as a guest – and one who was paying a pretty penny for the privilege of living and studying there – I held my peace. Yes, I spoke to people about the things I couldn’t come to terms with, but these were people I knew personally and whom I knew would not mind an outsider’s perspective.
Similarly, I have great conversations with friends who are working temporarily in Singapore about the things that bug them. One was ticked off that pedestrians don’t actually have right of way in situations where there are no traffic markings to direct vehicle and foot traffic. Others tell me about incidences of overt racism that they came across. We talk, we drink coffee… in doing so, we influence each others’ view of the world.
To the Brit who saw me as a target for his sarcastic wit, if you have any Singaporean friends at all, tell them about today. “I saw this crazy chick get out of her car to yell at two guys who had blocked a single-lane road with a dustbin while they were arguing about a fender bender (or whatever the hell you call it in the UK). What’s up with that?” And see if they nod in understanding with you, or with me.