I like to sleep on the bus, though my friend Matt loathes people who sleep anywhere in public. I’m still not quite sure why this so. After all, if you don’t sleep, there’s not much to do on the bus. Especially if it doesn’t have a TV screen. Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed that they only have Chinese and English shows on the bus TV? There are no Malay or Indian programmes. I guess this is because Malays and Indians in
The other thing I like to do on the bus apart from sleeping is to eavesdrop on people’s conversation. I was lucky enough to overhear this golden moment the other day on the 58 to Bishan:
Girl on handphone: OK, lah, we meet you after the church service. Otherwise very crowded, lor! I’m with my brother! Yah. Bye.
(She turned off her phone and turned to her brother)
Girl: That was Gerald. I’m not being mean, but you know hah, I don’t think his relationship with Siew Fern is going to last.
Boy: Really, ah? Why?
Girl: They come from different worlds! She’s English educated and he’s Chinese stream. How like that?
Boy: Cannot, meh?
Girl: Not say cannot, but…she like use vocabulary words, you know!
Boy: (Silence, which his sister took as an encouraging sign to continue.)
Girl: For example, he don’t understand what she mean when she use the word ‘croaky’!
(I could feel her radiating satisfaction.)
Girl: Croaky! You know, like when you say, ‘Ay, why your voice so croaky, hah?’
Girl: Your voice…how you say…Like ‘Why your voice so croaky, today?’
Girl: Like your voice go…kack, kack, kack! (She actually hacked out a cough.)
Boy: Oh! Got word for that, meh?
Girl: Anyway, he doesn’t understand vocabulary words like that. How the relationship can survive?
(Just then, a promotional scene for Peter Pan, the stage show, came on the bus TV. It was in English. Not Malay or Tamil.)
Boy: What show is this?
Girl: Dunno, is it Midsummer Night’s Dream?
Boy: Maybe…oh, no, it’s Peter Pan!
Girl: Oh, yah.
(Silence settled in as they watched the commercial. Then…)
Girl: Ay, who wrote ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’?
Boy: Was it Shakespeare?
Girl: Yah, I think so. You study before, right?
Boy: I think it’s a bit like ‘Days of Our Lives’.
Meanwhile, I was in the seat in front of them frantically memorizing this conversation and cursing myself for not bringing my notebook and a pen. I missed the rest of it because just then, the Junction 8 stop pulled up. The instant I got off the bus, I rang my flatmate, Saffy.
“Write this down, word for word!” I instructed her and began dictating.
“ ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is like ‘Days of Our Lives’?” Saffy gasped. “What version are they teaching these kids in school! It sounds so much more interesting than that boring old crap they made us learn in drama class!”
“Shakespeare is not boring old crap!” our other flatmate Amanda retorted later that night when I replayed the conversation on the 58. “He is a genius!”
“Why are you using the present tense?” Saffy demanded, her twin-peaked chest inflating provocatively. She’d had a bad day at the office and wasn’t about to be bullied at home. “He is dead and he wrote boring old crap! All they do is talk, talk, talk! Sometimes they play a song and then they talk some more! If you could bottle the boredom energy from watching a Shakespearean play, you’d make a fortune selling it to insomniacs and manic-depressives!”
“How can you say that!” Amanda squealed. I felt the temperature in the apartment drop a few degrees. “Romeo and Juliet was full of action!”
“Puhleez,” Saffy said, disdain dripping like acid. “That’s only because Baz Luhrmann changed it beyond recognition, added an ass-kicking soundtrack and Leonardo di Caprio was in it!”
“I’m talking about the Franco Zeffirelli production with Olivia Hussey!” Amanda huffed, Elizabethan outrage leaking from every pore. “That was a fine rendition of pure, emotional love, one of the best artistic interpretations of the Bard’s masterpiece!”
I blinked. This was new. Amanda only ever used the words love, pure and masterpiece in the context of the latest Dior and Givenchy collections.
Meanwhile, Saffy was not about to let a little change in linguistic direction derail her momentum.
“I honestly did not understand a thing you just said,” she said primly. “Please don’t use your vocabulary words on me!”