Sunday, October 07, 2012

Cleaning after

Are you going to pick up the crud left
by the previous diner?
Singapore wants its people to clean up after themselves. After so many years, it has become routine that diners at its public dining areas, commonly referred to variously as Foodcourts, Hawker Centres and Coffee Shops, expect cleaners engaged by these Foodcourts to do the dirty work, i.e. clear the dishes and collect the cups from the tables so that it can be occupied by the next diner. After all, doesn't the price of the food already include these cleaning services? Singaporeans, you see, are very pragmatic people, and they can count.

But now, there are increasing calls for diners to do the cleaning up themselves. Some have questioned whether this is fair as the price of the food probably already includes the cleaning services. Paid for or not, another group of people feel that it is gracious for each and every one of us to do the cleaning up. In principle, I agree. But in practice, we are not equipped to do so, much as we want to do so. And I am not trying to give any excuse. Just look at these 2 pictures which I snapped the other day. The previous diner just left the remains of his meal on the table expecting that someone else will clean it up. They didn't bother to pick them up to at least put them into the plate so that it can be cleared quickly, easily and cleanly. I thought it would have been more sensible if they had at least put the remains into the plate or bowl so that the next person can just clear the plate without having to handle the leftover food, if they don't clear the plates themselves, i.e. Restaurants such as McDonalds make it even more convenient for us to do this with the trays and bins. But even then, people just bring their bad habits from the foodcourts to the restaurants.

 So long as these bad habits persist, it is going to be a tough sell to get people to clean up the tables.

Clearly building return trays and pumping out messages isn't going to be enough. The problems really lies with ourselves. It is a habit of the mind. Do we ever really think of the person who will next occupy our seats? If they did, they wouldn't have left all that crap behind. Do they ever think that the mostly elderly cleaners can do with a little bit of help with less messy eating habits on our part, never mind that they are paid to do the cleaning? What if that elderly cleaner were your mother, or father?

So a first step towards cleaning after yourself and thus being more gracious is to get people to leave their tables in a more "cleanable" state. Fine if you want to leave something for the cleaners to clean so that they won't lose their jobs. It just doesn't take us a  lot to have cleaner eating habits, does it? In fact, for such a highly educated people that Singaporeans generally are, it is surprising that they do not already practise these sensible, tidy, clean yet simple habits. Maybe what it take is to set a compulsory exam question in primary school around this. This will ensure that parents take the effort and time to teach their young so that they can 'score' in these types of questions. Hopefully, parents also learn in the process of teaching these gracious habits.