17 March 2014

The Ipseity Incident

I had a “Do you know who I am moment today?” A chubby, sweaty - and as it turned out obnoxious man nearly bowled over a couple of demure little Singaporean ladies at lunchtime today. He was endeavouring to push into a queue that I was a part of. I witnessed the whole saga and it enraged me.

Then I intervened.

Queuing is a national pastime in Singapore and the natives and we expatriates are quite used to it. The locals love it actually and will queue for hours for anything that is discounted or free.

There is great order in the Singaporean queue. It is magnificent in its discipline and its control. It oozes forbearance and there is generally complete composure. 

There are no ants in the pants for those in these concatenations.

It is my belief that this passion for queuing is born from the Singaporean desire to hunt for a bargain - no matter the cost. The duration of the wait is of no consequence. I have - with great admiration - witnessed lines of dozens of people impassively waiting for up to an hour to receive a free biscuit - offered with any purchase of a grande latte. 

Or a cappuccino.

I have observed with astonishment, and great approbation - a long snaking queue of people line up to receive the gift of a pencil - with any spend of more than ten dollars. I have beheld the visible delectation of Singaporeans basking in the glory of receiving an upsize of their fries after cashing in a coupon that has been carefully cut from the morning newspaper.

In Singapore there would is no finer a fare than a gratuitous feast. There is no greater a gift than a complimentary token. 

No matter how long the wait.

Today though the lunchtime queue for a sandwich was unsettled by a rotund English dude who was wearing an immaculate and I assume tailor made suit. There are no off-the-rack suits for such fat little fellas. He was all red-faced and hot and I assume that he was a visitor to our shores for very few residents here wear jackets and ties.

It is simply too hot.

The nasty little man came charging into the shop and he simply stepped into the front of the queue just as the demure little ladies were moving forward. One of them was jolted and she bumped into the other and they both nearly fell over. He didn’t apologize or indeed comment at all. He stared intently at the overhead menu while my mind rapidly processed the event and the rage within me began.

The little ladies didn’t do anything of course. By nature Singaporeans are diffident and demure and they don’t like conflict. They are impeccably mannered and it is a trait that I normally like very much.

Not so in this instance.

“Hey you” I exclaimed.


“Excuse me” I said and tapped the dude on the shoulder.

He turned around and glared at me. He looked vaguely familiar but the English look all the same to me. He was balding, pasty and had a most annoying look of superiority on his face.

“What?” he spat.

“Get to the back of the queue dude” I replied in an even and controlled tone.

“I am late for a meeting” he replied with contempt.

“Give a fuck” I responded.

A bit of a hush had descended in the shop now and I could sense there was going to be an altercation.

Then he dropped the big one.

“Do you know who I am?”

I gave him a good belly laugh - an exaggerated one. My grandpa taught me when I was little that there is nothing like laughing at self-righteous people who annoy you.

It drives them crazy.

“Do you know who I am?” he repeated.

“You appear to be a rude dude with a weight problem, very poor manners and an identity crisis,” I suggested.

“Remove yourself to the back of the queue immediately,” I added.

There was a brief moment of silence and tension then and I was unsure what would happen next. 

In my mind I had already set him on fire. 

I am a lover not a fighter but I thought that I could take this bloke and I momentarily considered whether to go on the attack. I was actually carrying a plastic bag in which were two delightful kippers that my English friend Chris had bought all the way back from London for me. The thought entered my mind whether to whack him in the face with one.

A kipper slap.

I decided to wait.

Mr. do-you-know-who-I-am turned red and then purple then he looked around and saw what a scene that he had created. The expressions of the Singaporeans that surrounded us were hard to read. They were mostly locals who are generally impassive.

He then demanded what my name was.

I in turn asked him what his name was and then enquired whether he had an ipseity problem.

This was again heeding the advice of my grandpa in dealing with conflict and bullies. He told me to repeat whatever they say as it will normally confuse and confound them - and use words that they will not know the meaning of.

Ipseity is a sense of self. It is who we are.

“Do you know who I am?” the foolish fat fucker repeated yet again.

“Do you know who I am?” I returned in mock laughter.

“Go to the back Jack” I added and I nodded my head to the rear of the queue.

We stared off for what was likely only a few seconds but it seemed like minutes. I have lived on the Island for many years now and have mastered the stare. The abhorrent man then made a huffing noise before he turned on his heel and left the shop.

What a fucker.

I then asked the demure little ladies if they were all right and they both smiled and told me that they were.

It was then my turn to be served and I walked up to the counter and ordered myself a chicken and mayonnaise sandwich on rye bread with just a little bit of lettuce and lots of salt and pepper.

The very nice chap gave it to me for free.

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