Singapore Adventure

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Right of Way
by venitha

Buried well inside Thursday's free Today newspaper was a brief news item about the recent death of a South Korean badminton player. In Singapore for an international competition, Kim Mi-sun, a 15-year-old girl, was hit by a car.

I'm saddened but not surprised. If anything, it's incredible that such accidents aren't far more common, for the pedestrian does not have the right-of-way in Singapore. It doesn't take more than one near-death experience for the pedestrian to become quite clear on just where his walking shoes fit in this hierarchical society. Like all of Asia, Singapore is excessively status-conscious, and someone possessing a car, that most visible of , ranks far above the lowly pedestrian.

From my vantage point on the bottom rung of this ladder, I've developed the unavoidable scathingly low opinion of the Singaporean drivers towering above me. A distant car speeds up and changes lanes to intercept me as I jaywalk across the road. A taxi edges two feet closer to the lorry stopped at the corner in front of him, effectively preventing my path across the alley. A single motorcycle speeds recklessly out of a parking ramp while two dozen people wait.

My co-worker Yoong Han recently pulled me out of the way of oncoming traffic as we crossed the street for lunch at a hawker centre: Venitha! This is Singapore! I thanked him, of course, and vowed to pay more attention, but as I queued at the Indian stall, I again became lost in my thoughts. How, I marvelled, can Singaporeans not run people over left and right when they drive in other and - I can't help but amend - more civilized countries?

When I voiced this thought, minus its judgementalism, aloud to Yoong Han, who has driven during several business trips to Colorado, he giggled and smiled nervously and never answered my question. Perhaps I should alert my mother-in-law in Ft Collins about his upcoming trip.