The difference between nice and polite

It is difficult to like hospitals, and government general hospitals are even more unlikable because of their labyrinthine nature. You could walk for hours and end up in the same place and then ask someone in uniform where a particular ward is when it just so happens you’re standing right next to the ward you want to go to.

Today, during a particularly busy hour, I found myself jammed at the back of the lift going down to the third floor lobby. The passengers who got in with me on the top floor had just come from visiting patients at the maternity ward, and were naturally smiling and chatty. The lift then stopped at the floor with the oncology wards, and two passengers get on board, and it takes a couple of seconds before anyone notices that they’re sniffling, stifling sobs, and dabbing their eyes with tissue paper.

Later, the car valet at the National University Hospital’s Kent Ridge Wing car park says, “eh, boss how are you? Your wife ok already?”, because he’d seen Naomi and I go back and forth the specialists’ clinics at the hospital before our extended stay at the wards this past month.

The auntie who works behind the Delifrance kiosk at the Main Building’s semi-al-fresco food court knows me as “double espresso takeaway”, and the Prima Taste stall waffle auntie calls me “two peanut butter”. She also sees through my “my wife, who’s warded upstairs, really likes the peanut butter waffle, so could you make mine first please because she’s in great pain from spinal surgery?” ruse, and said to me yesterday afternoon, “don’t bluff lah, ownself want to eat don’t say you buy for wife lah”.

Then there’s the flower and gift shop auntie who asks me repeatedly if I want to wait for the dolphin, after I’ve just selected a dolphin balloon to cheer Naomi up, and because I keep answering repeatedly, “No, I want my dolphin balloon now”:


“You want weight for dolphin balloon?”

“No, I want dolphin now”

“No, you want weight for the dolphin balloon?”

“No, I want dolphin balloon now! Why I want to wait for the dolphin balloon?”

“No, WEIGHT for dolphin balloon. WEIGHT, WEIGHT, WEIGHT!”

Dowan! I want now!” What for wait?”

“No, I scared you don’t have WEIGHT for the balloon, later you go outside it will fly away. Many children lost their balloon like that!”

“Oh. Ooooh. Weight…. No need. I tie to my pants”

“OK”

Then there are the staff nurses at the maternity ward which Naomi was lodged at for two weeks because there weren’t beds left in the orthopeadic wards. Don’t give them medals because medals won’t do them justice. Don’t give them food because they won’t stuff their faces with snackies because they’re too busy really, really caring for people. These are nurses who, when they merely overhear me talking to a doctor agitatedly, take it upon themselves to go to Naomi’s room and offer a listening ear and a consoling voice.

Ward 96 staff, you’re champions. If there’s anything that takes the edge off the pain of illness and hospital cock-ups, it’s your fantastic attitude and care. You are genuinely nice. And we thank you for that.

Who wants to be a superhero?


Captain Obvious

We’ve had Survivor (1997 – yes, that old!), Big Brother (1999), Fear Factor (2001), American Idol (2002), America’s Next Top Model (2003), Beauty and the Geek (2005 – a favourite), amongst many, many others. Granted, the format’s nowhere near new, but there are now so many “reality” tv shows that the makers of reality tv shows are running out of real things to make reality tv shows out of.

So how, like that? Running out of reality? Turn to fantasy lah!

HyperstrikeWhich is exactly what “Who wants to be a superhero?” is trying to do I suppose – get people to break out their spare spandex, toss a lasso, spin a web, leap over tall buildings and so on. Quite fun if you’re keen on reliving primary school games. One of my primary school classmates who went on to become a Channel 8 actor used to lurrrrve playing Wonder Woman when we played at being superheroes during recess and between classes. It didn’t matter a tiny bit to himself that he was a fat, mostly Chinese-speaking boy with a chipped tooth. Didn’t matter how much he got teased either, with taunts like “你那么 fat, invisible 飞机 how to fly?”

But with a little imagination, and little regard for what people think of you, some of the contestants have created super powers that are quite um… interesting. Take “Hyper-strike“, who is “able to turn his own sweat into a weapon”. He’d be a hit in Singapore. Air-conditioning would be to him what kryptonite is to Superman. Noooo… Not. The. Air. Con. Must. Perspire. Probably also faces tough competition and turf wars with Captain Stinko.

Then, there’s also “Basura“, an environmentally friendly superhero who “turns trash into treasure and reshapes rubbish into robots.”

If we had a similar program in Singapore, seeing as we’re rather prone to adapting formats for local consumption, what heroes would we conjure up from our spare fabric lying at home?

Sick and tired of loitering louts downstairs of your home? Be sick and tired no more!

Behold! Void-Deck Man!

Look out for his monogrammed jersey, and every time you see louts hanging around your void-deck, drinking, playing chess or, more likely bottle caps, call out for VD Man! Not to be confused with the fella who takes trips to Batam!

Or, behold! Captain Jump-Q! Able to get you that box of donuts you’ve been hankering for in under three hours! NDP tickets? No problem! You just have to reimburse him for his cab fare. Don’t worry about the taxi queues either!

8DayscoverBut really though, who do we really have? Who will save us? Who will defend us while we sleep? Not VR-Man. (James Lye is damned lucky that that show was aired almost ten years ago, before the ingterneck became really big and everyone started uploading pictures of bad tv shows – I can’t find any pictures!).

Then who? Who? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to who? Who?

Captain SMRT

Behold, Captain SMRT! Captain who? SMRT?

That’s the best we can come up with? Captain SMRT? WTF?!

How do you even pronounce his name? Captain Smurt? Captain Ass Am Arty? What kind of hero name is that?

CaptainsmrtBesides, I’m not really sure what his superpowers are, and I only read in the Straits Times yesterday that he goes around giving out free SMRT tickets to people who hold on to handrails and stand on the left side while riding escalators. Also, I hear that SBS bus drivers are wondering, “Captain, so what? We also bus captain, you don’t see us in a mask and cape. Siao.

And there’s probably good reason for Captain SMRT to be masked. His mild-mannered secret identity might be beaten up if he wasn’t. And does his mild mannered secret identity hold on to handrails and stand to the left while riding escalators? Or would that give his game away? So many questions, so little time.

Rubber-Chicken

Still, I’d give a little more time to guessing Captain SMRT’s mild-mannered secret identity’s day job.

You know how traditional superheroes (if there’s such a thing as a traditional superhero) have secret identities which are mundane, like Peter Parker’s a photographer, Clark Kent is a junior reporter, and Bruce Wayne is a millionaire…. eh? OK, but anyway, our local hero would have a job that’s really, really, really, really mundane, so that being Captain SMRT is a real step up.

So, I’d go for “chief bonelessness inspector in a boneless chicken factory”, where, you know, by day, all he does is poke around to ensure the bonelessness of the boneless chickens in the boneless chicken factory?

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Mr Loh’s national song

Mr Loh

As I rushed to find a wireless hotspot to sit down at and email urgent work to a client, I heard a familiar tune in one of our great city’s many underpasses, and so decided to trace the source.

But when I got to it, the busker had just finished his harmonica rendition of one of the tune. I rummaged through my pocket and produced some money to put in his basket, and said very nicely to him, “Uncle, can play that song one more time?”

“You like that song? OK, short one ah, I play one more time”, he smiled and said:

After he was done, he asked me why I liked that song, and so I explained that I lived in Australia for a period in the 90s.

“So did I”, he said, beaming, “but before you were born, probably”.

Mr Loh then went on to tell me that he went to Sydney in 1962, studied Mechanical Engineering at Sydney University, and moved to Melbourne for a while before returning to Singapore in 1972.

“Hmm… Lee ah? I don’t know any Lees there, but I have many relatives still in Melbourne”, added Mr Loh when I explained that my parents lived in Melbourne for a period during the 50s and 60s too.

“I would love to move there again, I can work there picking fruit in the orchards”, said the lively 73 year old as he checked to make sure his mic and amplifier were turned off.

“But I love doing this. It’s not for the money. You don’t have to give me money, as long as you enjoy my music, and I will play for as long as I am having fun”, he said as he told me about busking three hours a day, five days a week in the same underpass.

Before he packed his harmonica wheeled his basket and amp off home, Mr Loh and I stood in the underpass for another few good minutes, talking about other stuff that I’d like to keep between him and myself because he deserves it.

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The big and small of it

So small, ok?
“No boss, never bluff you one, the cup is so small only”

Naomi and I always order double espressos when we need our coffee (except when we’re at Caffe Beviamo Tanglin Mall, because Eleen Cai makes a mean latte), and apparently, there are many Singaporeans who send their coffees back when they realise a double espresso isn’t as voluminous as they expect it to be, given the ‘double’ and the extra 50 – 80 cents you pay for an extra shot.

This is why staff at Changi Airport Terminal One’s Caffe Ritazza have been instructed to inform customers who order espressos that, “it comes in this small cup, is that ok?”

I can imagine their concern too, if there were many customers who would protest at the smallness of their $4 something coffee and demand a refund or an exchange for a jumbo long black.

“Must say, because some customers not happy”, said Rajoo the barista/cashier/manager, when we asked him if he always informed customers who order espressos. He seemed relieved that we knowingly ordered our foolish little beverages in their silly little cups.

We also almost suggested to him that he should put up a signboard to inform customers of the size of the espresso cup, but stopped ourselves because, you know, he might just have done that.

Having said that, Rajoo was a very good sport, agreeing to pose for a picture because we told him that we would help him educate the public and save him the trouble of informing every espresso orderer.

So, an espresso, double espresso, macchiato or double macchiato come in this really small cup. Is that ok?

There.

But there are reasons to be concerned about shrinking portions, as Naomi and I realised a few days ago when we dined at what used to be one of our frequent quick fix dinner places. Pictures in the menu (which I rely on a lot because my Chinese, she is the sucks) were grossly misleading as we ended up having a not so satisfying dinner and having a further two late night suppers to make up for it.

While I should know better than to blog about price hikes and how they affect my unborn children, I think it’s ok to talk about how some altruistic businesses have shouldered some of the burden by being absorbent citizens:

Absorbent nation
The Absorbent Nation

But really, the sheer shrinkage of portions is getting ridiculous:

Amazing Shrinking Dumplings!

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Worm hole

This evening I was summoned to the guest bathroom by Naomi, and when I got there, she said, “I said, bring the camera”, so I said, “oh”, and went to look for the camera and went back to the guest bathroom, and only then did it occur to me to ask, “why you want camera for?”

Naomi pointed at a bathroom tile, and it was a good thing I saw the thing before I formed the thought that maybe she had wanted me to take a picture of the tile so we can go to a tile shop and compare tile designs because we do that kind of thing very often you know?

The ‘thing’ was something that was wriggling partially out of a 1cm long cocoon-like thing, so it was definitely some kind of worm or larvae, but we weren’t sure if the cocoon-like thing was part of it or whether it had picked the scrap up from the rotted wood at the base of the bathroom door (yes, we live in quite an old place). So, we did what Naomi thought best to do – observe it and flimm it with the camera.

So we flimmed it wriggling out of one opening on one end of the cocoon-like thing, then it went back inside and wriggled a little out of the other end. It looked a bit indecisive like that, but then, it’s a worm or a larvae so you can excuse it for being in two minds even though you can’t really say they have minds.

It eventually wriggled its way to a cranny in the door frame and it looked like it had abandoned it’s armour and wriggled off. So I picked up the cocoon-like thing for us to examine it a little closer, only for the worm/larvae to pop out one end again, causing Naomi to scream and scare the bejeezus out of me, causing me to drop the cocoon-like thing and its occupant onto the bathroom shelf, where it wriggled long enough for us to flimm it some more.


The thing

But all thoughts of taking a closer look and finding out exactly what the worm/larvae and its cocoon-like cocoon were washed down, literally, when worm/larvae, cocoon and all tumbled down the sink, when the pilot worm/larvae wriggled off the shelf.

Because of that D’oh! moment, we’re wondering if any of you can tell us what the hell the thing and its cocoon are. Or was.


Last moments of the thing

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881 and 42nd National Day

881Finalposter800Royston Tan is a bastard – make me cry on National Day! But congratulations Mindee and Yann Yann – Papaya Sisters rock!

I’ve said before that if we get one good local movie a year, we’d be lucky. Last year we had Colin and Yen Yen’s Singapore Dreaming and then Tan Pin Pin’s Singapore Gaga, so that was pretty much a bumper crop by our standards.

Last night, we paid good money to watch our first Royston Tan film, 881, and damn it was good money well spent. This film alone makes for a bumper year.

I’ll have to admit an earlier aversion to his debut, ’15’, even though my friends told me it was really not a bad piece despite its run-in with the censors (‘aiyah, rebel film wannabe’, I thought), and we thought we’d watch 881 because the subject was interesting enough (hungry ghost getai), we knew the actors personally, and we’d already watched Harry Potter V and Simpsons wasn’t playing at the hour we wanted to watch a movie.

It turned out to be a happy conspiracy of factors, because, dammit, if you have no other plans this weekend, go buy tickets now and watch already. And even if you had plans, cancel them and go buy tickets and watch already.

It blew us away, this bloody Royston Tan film, and that’s really ’nuff said, unless you take pleasure in knowing that the token Mediacorp-contracted actor has no lines in the film because his character’s a mute, and his voiceovers are done by Royston himself anyway.

What’s not to like about a film which if you were to summarize in a summary sort of thingie, you’d call it a ‘Hokkien Musical Which Is Something Like Moulin Rouge‘?

Don’t wait for 881 to make its rounds on the European festival circuit. Go watch now, and tell the Ang Mohs you watched it at your local cinema first.


One half each – title track music video from 881

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Mindee Ong and Miyagi circa 2000: Lookee you now, Mindee, we is so proud of you! Naomi says, basket, make her cry on National Day! Well done!

So taken by Royston’s film we were that I’m writing this blog post back to front, because we had planned to make an evening out of National Day – going out to eat, skipping the parade because we’d already seen two rehearsals, and then catching the movie before heading home and to bed.

OK, where was I? Ah, yes, we started the afternoon out at Tanglin Mall, because a good coffee was needed to kick-start our day, and there still isn’t anywhere else (or anywhere convenient) that serves as good a coffee as Caffe Beviamo. Just check out the crema:

Crema e gusto!

Then we looked around at the new furniture/lifestyle/dunnowhat shop that had been making us curious because it’s predecessor ‘Barang Barang’ had several months ago suddenly closed shop at both Tanglin Mall and Great World City, boarded up, and all we could hear were sounds of renovation. Called ‘iwannagohome‘, this shop is tons brighter than Barang Barang because of the huge number of lights they use. It’s worth a look or two before you decide, hmmm, I don’t have so much spare cash to buy these things which I can probably find in Thailand or Indonesia if I had the time and spare cash to fly there to buy.

Sometimes, warped shoppers’ logic can save you a bit of money.

Then it was off to the Straits Kitchen at the Grand Hyatt for dinner, which we thought was pretty apt because it’s a buffet, and how much more Singaporean can you get at a buffet? Actually, you can, when you realise the price is not bad either – $42 per person, to commemorate the 42nd National Day. This is also where I get to say that for that price, it’s really really worth it when you can eat as many bowls of the “Mini Buddha Jump Over The Walls soups as you can manage:

IMG 1089
Mini Buddha Jump Over The Wall – or is it Buddha Jump Over the Mini Wall?

A meal like that was always going to make on feel downright patriotic, wherever you may hail from. A jumble of cuisines, fresh fruit and desserts, brisk service. The only thing that was lacking was the horrible, horrible choice of music. We know it’s called the Straits Kitchen and you’re trying to recreate a ‘Straits’ ambience. But Canto and Mando pop tunes, and maudlin Malay slow rock ballads do not make for a good digestive accompaniment. That was probably the only salah thing about dinner, though.

IMG 1132
Quick, dude, they’re not looking. Pour the rest on the floor!

IMG 1097
When I eat chili crab, I need two finger bowls because I’m messy like that

For the rest of National Day, I hear people enjoyed themselves, and we saw a couple dressed in red and white waiting for a cab to probably take them to the floating platform. So patriotic, so Singaporean, we thought. Then we saw another couple, also in red and white, and walking ahead of the other couple so that they’ll get a cab faster. More Singaporean, we thought. And no better day to display that.

National Day
Unbeknownst to Auntie and Uncle, another Auntie and Uncle have just walked 20m up the road to snatch a passing cab. Majulah Singapura!

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Uncommon courtesy


Escalator – by Mr Wabu

This evening, Naomi and I went to the airport with her Mum so that we could dine at the only Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits Famous Fried Chicken Restaurant in Singapore. Oh, and for Naomi’s Mum to catch a flight.

On the way up the escalator to the restaurant and observation level in Terminal One, Naomi and Mum were standing side by side, talking about how many pieces of chicken we should eat without being too full for comfort. Out of the corner of her eye, Naomi’s Mum saw that there was a woman one step below them, so she looked apologetically at the woman and moved one step up and in front of Naomi so that the woman could have a clear lane to overtake if she so intended to.

“Wow, that’s really considerate of you”, said Naomi to her Mum, who nodded and said, “You’re supposed to do that. I do that all the time in Taiwan (where she’s from)”.

“Well, it doesn’t happen very often here”, said Naomi.

The woman who was behind them didn’t intend to be in that much of a hurry, and was surprised enough to say, “Oh yes, that’s true. It doesn’t happen very often here, but other cities, yes”, and when she composed herself further, said, “I didn’t expect that, you gave me a bit of a shock, actually”.

Remember the old campaign in the 70s and 80s exhorting the citizenry to “make courtesy a way of life”, complete with stickers for kids that kids ended up sticking all over HDB void-decks and lamp posts? Looks like it’s culminated in this level of expectation, as well as a revamped campaign called the Kindness Movement, still headed by Singa the Courtesy Lion.

I think it’s time for that cat to put some pants on and do something about this. Better still, retire the lion and introduce Kelly the Kaypoh Krocodile or something?

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It’s good to be a kaypoh nation


Asleep in car – by Andwar

Earlier tonight we went out to Holland Village for a bite and to take a short break from work. At 11:45 p.m., parking wasn’t hard to find.

We parked next to a car that had its engine running and its sole occupant motionless in the driver’s seat. We didn’t think much of that and we went off to NYDC.

Friday night out at the village was something we hadn’t experienced for a long time, and I swear, people looked different, and I think fashion trends must’ve changed a bit, because both of us felt a little out of place at this ‘young people cafe’, even though we were greeted by the familiar (and old) ‘NYDC cat’, who’s always at the doorstep of the cafe every time we walk past.

We sat amidst the din of many young people, and we ordered our drinks, and cake, seeing as it is my birthday. And then I took out my new MacBook Pro, hooked it up to the free wi-fi and started looking for bits of information that might help the project we’re working on, but the noisiness of the place put paid to that.

Naomi grabbed a copy of IS Magazine and started looking through interesting stuff about our island’s night life and arts scene. She was done in about five minutes, and at midnight, I was very happy to have my wife kiss me and wish me happy birthday, and we thought we’d spend the next half hour or so fielding birthday text messages from friends and well-wishers. There were only three (and one of them was from Naomi), so that didn’t take us too long either.
Just as well, because as with most outings these days, we had to keep it short because of Naomi’s painful back. So we headed back to the car park, where the car with the running engine and motionless occupant was still there. The windscreens were all fogged up, and we were a little concerned because it had been close to an hour since we’d left the car park.

“You think he’s ok?”, asked a very concerned Naomi, so I peered into the car just in time to see the occupant’s chin loll onto his chest, which moved in a way that resembled breathing.

“Yup, he’s alive”, I said, and we got into our car because, you know, we really didn’t want to be too kaypoh. And we don’t like kaypoh people, do we?

But something stopped us from driving off. Maybe it was the recent story about the taxi-driver who was found dead in a car park after many passers-by had thought he’d just been drunk and sleeping. So I got out of the car, looked into the window, then decided to get back into our car, but we felt uneasy, and I got out again. Then in again, then out again, and in again until I thought, what the hell am I doing?

Then Naomi asked, “what the hell are you doing?”

So I got out of the car again and tapped on the running engine car’s window. There was no response, so I tapped harder. And some more, until I must have scared the bejeezus out of what we then knew as a sleeping man, who woke up and spent five seconds wondering such pertinent things like, “Whadda!…! Wha!” and “Whadda!”, before he found the button to roll down the window and ask me what I wanted.

“Are you ok?”, I asked, and patiently waited for his brain to register the question and formulate an answer, which eventually came in the form of a puzzled sounding, “ok, yah! I’m ok?”.

I then wanted to tell him, “You know, carbon monoxide is odourless and poisonous and car engines produce a lot of that stuff which can get into the comfortably air-conditioned cabin of a stationary car”, but chocolate and cheesecake and ice-cream makes your brain as fast as flowing molasses, so I merely said, “OK, you shouldn’t sleep inside your car so long, roll down your windows a bit”.

It’ll have taken a while for him to fall back asleep again, if that were his purpose. But Naomi and I were glad we did as much as we could without agitating the sleeping man too much.

Of the many things I’m wishing on my birthday, one of them is, please, don’t sleep in your car with the engine running and the air-con on – it’s dangerous; and the other is, if you do see someone motionless in their car or anywhere else in public, please, check on them to see if they’re ok.

I mean, if we’re kaypoh enough to be unconcerned that we’re causing another traffic bottleneck by slowing down to take a closer look at a traffic accident in the next lane, we should be kaypoh enough to check on our fellow citizens when it looks as though there’s a chance they’re in trouble and might need some assistance.

Embrace your inner kaypoh! You might save a life. Come to think of it, kaypohness should be a civic duty.

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Lining the queue


Photo by Luangmai

Tonight after a work meeting, Naomi and I popped by the Holland Village Cold Storage because our fridge was bordering on empty. Because she was still suffering from the pain of two prolapsed discs in her lower back, we were hoping to make this a quick grocery run, but for some strange managerial reason, the supermarket closes all but one of their checkout counters at about 11pm, which also happens to be one of the busier hours.

There must’ve been 20 people in the queue, and I was more or less resigned to standing in line for a while. But Naomi, fresh from bargaining $10 off the price of our new laser printer yesterday, wouldn’t stand for it (hur hur), and went to ask one of the checkout cashiers very nicely if she could reopen at least one other counter.

Bless that cashier that took one look at the line and agreed to reopen her counter.

Pleased as punch, Naomi came back to my line to tell me, and the rest of the line, that another counter had been reopened. And this is when something really odd happened.

Only myself and two other people abandoned the snaking queue to pay at the new counter. The 17 others remained where they were, perhaps happy and very content with the fact that their queue was now 3 shorter.

Happy that she didn’t have to suffer at the supermarket that long, Naomi later went online to help me with my work, and found out the following bits of information that may constitute a possible explanation to what happened at the supermarket:

Singapore holds the world record for the longest human domino chain;

Singapore holds the world record for the most number of participants in line dancing at 11,967;

Singapore holds the world record for the biggest ever game of pass the parcel;

The world domino topple record was set in Singapore by a woman from China.

Yes. A lot to do with lining up.

Link

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