28 October 2012

A random act of kindness. Never set a Singaporean on fire

I erred today and I blame no one but myself. It was a moment of madness. I was a bit grumpy and I had a poor night's sleep. I had received too many irksome emails from my English masters who had been annoying me from their far away ivory towers. In London. I was on the train and it had been raining so I had my umbrella. 

So I was armed and I was dangerous.

In Singapore in each train carriage there are designated seats for the elderly and for pregnant women and these are very clearly marked. There are amusing little caricatures of an old man and woman with walking sticks and a lady with a swollen belly above each of these seat and there is text in four different languages that also asks train travelers to consider such passengers and to give up these seats.

So the designation is clear for both the literate and the illiterate.

I have on many occasions witnessed young Singaporean women leap to their feet and usher both the elderly and expecting mothers to such seats. Often these seats are occupied by young Singaporean men. I have previously cast such men an inquisitive glance. Sometimes I have given them a withering stare or I have nodded my head towards someone standing. Someone more deserving to be sitting than they. In most cases they too have offered up their seats but they have done so a little more reluctantly.

In recent times I have noticed a cunning ploy that has been adopted by some young Singaporean men. Not all mind you - but a few. They have dived into such seats and then they have immediately feigned sleep. This happened this morning. It happened when I was grumpy and peeved - and when I was armed and dangerous.

After one stop an enormously pregnant but tiny little Indian lady got on the train and almost instinctively I prodded the sleepy Singaporean with my umbrella. Gently mind you - just to rouse him. One bespectacled eye opened and then closed, which forced me to prod again.

Then both eyes opened. They opened in a shallow squint.

I nodded my head to the pregnant lady who was standing directly in front of him and who was next to me. To my great chagrin, he then again closed both his eyes.

The third prod was less gentle.

His eyes then fully opened and he snarled, "What?

That was his first mistake. 


I replied that he must stand up. I told him that the poor lady was pregnant and she should sit down. The Singaporean man than called me a "Stupid British'.  

Which was his second mistake. 

This was a most unwise comment to make to any Australian - under any circumstances. Not the "stupid” comment - just the "British. It was like waving a red rag to an enraged bull.

Without raising my voice I suggested that he stand immediately or I would set him on fire. He, the pregnant lady and all other passengers within earshot looked visibly alarmed and there was a collective gasp. Nevertheless, stand he did.

The prospect of incineration is a powerful motivator.

The Indian lady of course refused then to sit down and I had to force her.

The Singaporean man glared at me for the next 10 minutes. It was a little awkward and a tad uncomfortable. He alighted the train one stop before me and as he exited he smirked at me and he took my photo with his mobile phone.

I'm not sure why but it has been concerning me all day.

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