Sunday, August 24, 2014

What's up with Singapore lately?

I keep telling people something's happened to Singapore. Nobody takes me seriously, but I'm right, it has. There's a definite increase in what I can only call random acts of friendliness. People in office buildings now actually make eye contact sometimes in the lift. They've even said "good morning", and held the door open. I saw it with my own eyes.

A taxi driver was apologetic that his card machine was not working, rather than complaining that I should be carrying cash (which used to be the usual practice). We went to look at a house recently, and someone in the neighborhood walking his dog stopped to talk.

My new neighbors took the trouble to introduce themselves. A ground floor tenant chatted about her troubles concerning pizza delivery and locked gates. Someone by the pool asked if I was the one who recently moved in on the eighth floor. They're on the sixth. What sort of place is this where tenants know what's happening elsewhere in the building? People you pass on the street smile at you. Last night, I walked past a private party in the garden of the building opposite mine and was invited to join ("just say happy birthday to that guy over there"). This friendliness had a simple explanation - they'd all clearly emptied several bottles of wine by then - but still...

On the train, people occasionally look up from their phones. Three years ago one of my sources of amusement was the public service ad about reporting anything suspicious that played over and over again in the stations. I couldn't see my fellow passengers noticing even someone carrying a sandwich board announcing criminal intent. But now, people talk on the train. There are times they don't even trample you when getting on or off. And today this happened:

Someone sat down next to me, and I was distracted from the game on my phone by the title of a book in his hand: "Jesus Hopped the A Train". As soon as I looked directly at it, he asked me anxiously: "Is this the A train?" I said "I don't think they have letters". He said "Oh that's a problem, they say I'm supposed to have hopped the A train". I looked up properly at that, and he said: "I'm Jesus. Do you not recognize me from the photos?". I laughed and said no. He nodded wisely "Ah that's because I shaved my beard. I did a Gillette commercial." I said that was probably it. I also pointed out that if he was Jesus he could call the train whatever he wanted. "No," He replied, "I don't have that much authority anymore." And then got off with a friendly wave at the next stop. I grinned at my game and continued.

Really, something's happened to Singapore.

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