Singapore Adventure

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Kindness of Strangers
by venitha

Sunday afternoon, a genial security guard admitted us to a closed museum and thus not only restored my faith in the kindness of Singaporean strangers but also confirmed the universal appeal of an adorable blonde pony-tailed almost-2-year-old.

"People here can still surprise me," her also-blonde father said later, and I knew exactly what he meant. I've learned in Singapore not to expect kindness, thoughtfulness, courtesy, not delivered in ways that I recognize, so it truly is a pleasant surprise to receive it.

The next morning, sashaying cheerfully to the MRT, thinking fondly of blonde ponytails, our friends, and the idyllic afternoon we spent with them, I was shocked out of my sunny reverie by a commuter riding up the down escalator. I did a double, a triple, a quadruple take, exactly mimicking the woman in front of me. Concurrently, our minds made sense of the reversed-from-normal escalator situation, and we moved as one across to the usually-up-but-today-down lift.

Two steps behind my partner in mime, I laughed, said, "This is so strange! They should put a movie camera there and film reactions."

I was completely, decidedly, resolutely ignored.

Happiness to confusion to amusement... to disappointment, discouragement, and defeat. Five minutes from my apartment door, and they had already done me in. I bet my hair is already frizzy, too, I thought.

Off the escalator, my antagonist began the Singapore shuffle, as a new friend recently dubbed the common slow, meandering pace. Annoyed now, too, and anxious to put distance between us, I stepped around her and strode briskly ahead but couldn't resist a sideways glance.

She was wearing headphones.

I looked down and shook my head, chuckled wryly, and gave myself a stern lecture about jumping to conclusions and the benefit of the doubt. Newsflash over and lesson learned, I then returned to the regularly scheduled programming of faith in the appeal of blonde ponytails and in the kindness of strangers.