One disenchanted evening, I was feeling the bewilderment you feel when strangers have been rude to you for no reason. It was the last day of my longish freelancing stint at this place and apparently they didn’t think I merited the courtesy of a goodbye*. I was leaving an empty office, alone. Ad agencies never say thank you or sorry – it’s part of the ancient covenant – but I’ve grown to expect at least a “nice knowing you”. It is nice knowing me, especially on a short-term basis.
More than a little pissed off and fighting some epic self-pity, but not very hard, I took the stairs and found myself singing Yesterday When I Was Young, starting a train of thought that added one more, darker layer of blue. Outside, there was much thunder and lightning and an exuberant breeze, weather that always makes me feel good, so I stood undecided on the covered pavement that led to the station. The breeze was already tugging at the blue fog and I didn’t want to disappear underground. I checked my iPhone map and found that it was only a five-kilometre walk to the house. The route stuck to the main thoroughfares, so I could hop into a cab if the threatened rain came down.
I set off down Scotts Road, under the big trees. The neighbourhood was calming down, offices shutting for the night, and apartments correspondingly lighting up. Soon my iPhone told me to turn right, where the bright lights and brighter-eyed buzz of Orchard Road dimmed even the spectacular tropical lightning. (Or maybe it only seemed spectacular to someone used to the dry skies of Dubai and the more-temperate-than-anything-else Bangalore). As I cantered past the glossy window displays, I was pleased as always in my circle-of-life sort of way that there were clearly people wanting to buy Steinway pianos and the Loewe TV that cost five times more than a Samsung. Music played and glasses clinked at Black Angus, and I turned again to merge with the mighty Taglin Road.
It grew quieter and darker, the light receding to pools under streetlamps, until the silence of the sleeping embassies left the night to the cicadas and to me (and of course the security guards outside each gate). It was an uneasy walk for a while, the bits of rainforest that litter Singapore dripping moisture around me and thoughts of marauding raptors surfacing rather more often than was comfortable. The experience was anointed by the sudden appearance of a painfully thin girl with an afro whose high heels echoed behind me for a brief distance and then vanished. I suppose one of the intermittent cars was a taxi.
Eventually I saw the busy junction of Alexandra Road up ahead, and on the basis of being in the home stretch, I turned off the map, thus enlivening my walk by getting unaccountably lost. The landmarks seemed to be in the wrong places and no matter which way I turned, I seemed to fetch up at a previously unknown Ganges Avenue. My map seemed to have become equally confused in this Bermuda-trianglesque spot. Perhaps it was only confused about why I couldn’t follow a simple set of directions in words of one syllable.
Since I was lost, it started to rain and the taxis were all full, so I had to shelter in a bus stop with all the other weirdos of the night. But when a bus arrived, I noted with joy the route number that stops right in front of the house, jumped in and congratulated myself at length on my resourcefulness. When I was at liberty to look around me, I saw wondrous sights, including a Hotel Miramar that I’d never seen before in my life. You guessed it, I boarded the right bus going in the wrong direction. I hopping off in a hurry, crossed the road in the rain on what may be Singapore's only uncovered pedestrian bridge, and caught one going the other way.
This time, I spent the ride standing at the door in a near-empty bus, peering suspiciously at passing signboards. I can’t think of any place else in the world where the bus driver would have let that pass without comment. I only relaxed after a train came shooting out of the ground alongside to join the elevated rail, because I finally knew we were going in the right direction.
I started out at 8:30pm, did an hour's very brisk walking and finally got home well after 10 because of the attendant adventures, but I was in a rollicking good mood by then. Mission accomplished.
*The omission was amply corrected the next day when I went in to tie up loose ends, so all was well in the end.
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