Friday, July 31, 2009

Public love

Singaporeans, they can take things a bit too far. So when the word went out about fines beings dished out to people who were caught eating on the subway trains, I insisted that it be done on buses as well. Then people protested that drinking water should be allowed and yet others say: have pity on the babies - let them be fed (milk from a bottel, I suppose) on trains and buses.

Now there is a swing the other way. Somebody suggested that amorous behaviour on these public transport vehicles be banned. Yes, it is not uncommon to find couples smooching away on public transport nowadays, hugging, kissing, dozing of each other's shoulders, if not the chest in broad daylight with the bus/train engine at full blast, as if there are no private spaces for them to do so. But hey, why discourage the behaviour? Taxpayers have had to throw millions of dollars to get people to be amorous behind closed doors in order to up the population numbers. Why don't we just let people go about their courting habits in full public view? It's their choice, really. If they don't mind being watched, I don't mind watching either.

Well, its an Asian thing, some say. Not very prim and proper. Some people are very sensitive to these things. Well, let me say that unless you are the parent, you have no business stopping them, unless they begin to take their clothes off in the process of their smooching. Otherwise, what is so bad about seeing two people expressing affection for each other? There's hope for mankind yet when there is love, whether its in the privacy of their spaces or in the publicity of the bus.

So boys and girls, keep doing it. God knows how life is so stressful nowadays without somebody telling us to sit straight and not even hold your partners' hands while you sit side by side on the bus, or the train.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Speak easy

I wonder why some people are still so hung up about speaking Good English in public, that there must only be one version of the language - the Queen's. A reader of Today was aghast to hear Singlish spoken and concluded that Singaporeans haven't progressed all that much, language wise.

Just the other day, I was having lunch at a just opened shopping mall. 2 teenage girls were sitting at the same 4-seater table with my companion and myself. One of the teenagers was a Caucasian. From her accent and tone of voice, I guess she was an American. The other teenager looked and dressed no differently from the typical Singapore Chinese teenager, except that when she opened her mouth, not for the food but to speak, she revealed a deeply accented American voice. They conversed in English, that much I could tell. But this Chinese girl's English was difficult to comprehend - I told my companion after they had left. It was heavily accented and she spoke so fast that it took all of my years of training in that language to understand what she was saying. Even then, I failed to understand her. Not that I wanted to eavesdrop, but you cannot not hear, you know, when you are seated next to each other in congested space. She was probably speaking 'well-formed' English, not Singlish. But you know, I would prefer Singlish any day. Language is about communication, and whatever and however it is done, so long as the message is conveyed, language has fulfilled its function.

This is not to say that 'standard' English has no place at all. Don't we all naturally switch to it when we need to address an audience in a formal setting, or when we converse with people whom we are not familiar with? We start off there, but when we become familiar with each other, we switch gear and converse in a manner that shows our affinity. I once tried to speak in full sentences all the time, but found that it formed a barrier to communication in some informal settings. So I have reverted to 'switching languages' as and when the occasion calls for it. Anyway, Singlish as a language has seen development over the last 50 years. We should embrace it and treasure it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Demoted Bug

The gates have been lifted. Now, people getting flu is happening like a flood around me. 2 colleagues have taken medical leave, one as long as a 3-day MC. He wasn't that sick when I had lunch with him last week. Mr Khaw Boon Wan said in Parliament the other day that 53% of flu cases in Singapore from here on in will be due to H1N1. It would appear that he is correct?

Well, nobody is counting anymore these days, except the really serious cases at the hospitals. You get flu? You get flu, period. Except now you get a generous dose of MCs with your medicine (probably Tamiflu), and strong advice to rest at home. Yeah, let's dispense with the alphanumerics H1N1. People appear to be immune to its name nowadays. It is so widespread the world over that the bug has joined the ranks of the seasonal flu virus. What ignominy - to be referred to as a common bug. So some medical people are predicting the coming of H1N1V2 (version 2, i.e.). Somehow, such dire predictions have lost their shock factor. That is the problem when actual experience de-sensitises you.

Can I look forward to a visit by H1N1? According to Mr Khaw, there is more than a 50% chance that I will, what with the stories I hear of nowadays about colleagues and their children and their children's friends, and...

Friday, July 17, 2009

A fine society

Eating on the MRT (subway trains) and be fined $30? I say, fine them $500 - the amount that is applied ever since I was a kid. Don't you fine it ironic that 30 years ago, it was $500 and today, when Singaporeans are more affluent, you fine them as measly $30? It would solve the problem immediately. Otherwise, it'll be like the case of the guy, who was fined $1,500 recently, retorting that it was JUST ONLY that amount, that he could afford it, that it was no big deal. And why just only the MRT? Just the other day, there was a whiff of ham and cheesey smell when I was on a bus travelling home. Lo and behold, the teenage girl sitting just in front of my seat was eating away, oblivious of the aroma. Well, ok, the food smelled good, but what of noses that are less appreciative of the smell of ham and cheese, or what if she was eating something more, err, exotic? And this isn't the first time. Slightly more than two years ago, I captured on my HP camera a picture of a teenager eating away on a subway train and blogged how I noticed more and more people eating away on MRT trains. Well, it about time SMRT did something about this anti-social behaviour.

Yes, Singaporeans have become more affluent, and with it has gone the social graces that we lament about nowadays. I don't know if it is due to the lifestyle - that we need to fill in every waking hour of the day doing something besides looking out the window of life passing by on a bus or a train. But there is a good reason why food and drinks are not allowed, just as it is forbidden in offices and some other places, except canteens and restaurants. Food left behind in these places, whether intentionally or unintentionally, attracts creepy crawly vermints that can destroy things, besides scaring some people, especially the fairer sex, out of their wits. I know because I have to prepare to carry my wife when such creatures appear.

There are certain things that were done better in the past than now. How about it - lets up the fine to $500. That'll not only stop the littering, but the bugs will also stop appearing. Ahhh....heaven on earth.