Singapore Adventure

Friday, September 23, 2005

My Hero
by venitha

"My hero!" I exalted, and the small, wiry Chinese man smiled and laughed, a response to my enthusiasm which is not always a given here in Singapore. The natives are also frequently confused by my admittedly subtle humor and dry sarcasm; quite often I am taken way too seriously. I don't take it personally. Not only have my mother and my blog readers inured me to such behavior, but letters to the editor of the Straits Times reveal that it's a national pastime.

At any rate, my ardent admiration and appreciation couldn't be more genuine and heartfelt. Mr. Nien's heroic feat? He broke into our safe. With a small wire. In just 46 minutes. Jim timed him.

The relaxed calm of last weekend melted away faster than an ice bar on Orchard Rd (pictured is an ice bar at Winter Park, a far more sensible location for such an advertising scheme) Monday morning when Jim tried to open our safe to extract Taiwanese currency and, here's the kicker, his passport. I awoke to a long sequence of bleeping then swearing then bleeping then swearing. You just know that something is very wrong in Singapore if these two things do not align.

The yellow pages list an extraordinary number of locksmiths, most of whom I had the pleasure of talking with on Monday, both pleasure and talking being slight exaggerations. Communicating over the phone here is difficult, and I am frequently hung up on. This, too, I don't take personally; I actually appreciate the mercy it shows after I've said, "I'm sorry. Could you please repeat that?" so many times that the conversation has lost all momentum. Having been raised next door to Minnesota nice, I am apparently incapable of hanging up on someone myself.

My amateur eye insists that there is a way to break into the safe that will not destroy it. One locksmith after another, however, guarantees me that he can get it open, then under cross-examination reveals that he simply means he owns a drill. Bizarrely, more than once I am told, "There is no magic, madam."

While I agree both about the tragic lack of magic and the fact that a drill could indeed open the safe, visions of Wile E. Coyote strapping Acme explosives to it or, my inclination, dropping it from the rooftop, make me thank these gentlemen and move on to the next advertisement in the phone book. At long last, I arrive at my hero, Mr. Nien, a man who understands that a woman old enough to be called madam may want neither magic nor macho but merely deft fingers.

If you live in Singapore and should ever find yourself woefully in need of safecracking, please give this talented man your business. We are all in big trouble if he cannot make an honest living as a locksmith and must resort to a life of crime. And it's probably not wise to encourage the Wile E. Coyotes of Singapore too much either.

Jim left for Taiwan bright and early Wednesday morning, passport and Taiwanese dollars in hand, and I leave this morning to join him for the weekend. Thank you, Mr. Nien. My hero!