Here I am in London.
In the middle of a freaking snow-storm that has turned the whole city into a pretty icing-sugar sprinkled landscape.
Which, translated from its Hallmark sentiments, means that the airports have all shut down.
“What do you mean you can’t leave London!” my flatmate Saffy shouted all the way from Singapore. “It’s just an itsy bitsy bit of snow! It’s barely four inches according to the newspapers!”
“Yeah, well, in this town, four inches is enough to shut everything down! And it’s so cold!” I moaned.
“How cold? Cold enough to wear mink?” Saffy asked, her tone of voice shifting from meteorological outrage to sartorial interest.
“It was minus four degrees last night. Thank God the heaters are working around here. Last year, when my sister was here, everything broke down, remember?”
Saffy says it continues to astonish her that anyone still thinks of the United Kingdom as a First World country. “Public transportation strikes. Students going on the rampage because they have to pay school fees. Airports closing because of a bit of snow. Seriously?”
“I was at Heathrow for hours on Saturday,” I reported, “and then they said all flights have been cancelled, so I had to lug my luggage all the way back from the airport to the flat. It took me five hours! There were no taxis at the airport express station so I then I had to wait for the bus and then the bus stopped a mile away from home because it couldn’t make it up the snow covered streets, so I had to drag everything through the cold! I was so traumatized by the time I got back!”
Even I could detect the ascending note of whining in my voice.
And through it all – the trauma of the crowds in Heathrow, the overstuffed trains packed with depressed passengers, the snail-paced crawl of the bus and the chilly one-mile trudge home on the slushy muddy footpaths – all I could think of was that this sort of thing would never happen in Singapore.
Say what you will about the place, especially if you’re a foreign media or a placard-waving dyed-in-the-wool libertarian protestor, but Singapore works. And if it doesn’t work, the government will find a way. Yes, the result is that the whole place can be a little sterile and safe, but really, give me sterile and safe any day as long as it comes with a fully functional, efficient piece of infrastructure.
My overseas friends, especially those in England, are always rabbiting on about how strict the Singapore government is. “Don’t they cane people for vandalizing cars?” one woman asked me at a dinner party the other day. She actually looked shocked.
When I replied that people who vandalise property should not only be caned, but that they should also be made to walk around in public naked for a month, she gave me a tight smile and turned away and didn’t speak to me for the rest of dinner.
“I would have pushed her face into her bowl of soup!” Saffy said when we Skyped the next day. “Why didn’t you do her some bodily harm?”
“I miss Changi airport,” I said wistfully. “Isn’t it just about the best airport in the world?"
“Totally,” Saffy said. “I was watching the Channel 5 news last night and they were showing the crowds and the piles of luggage at Heathrow and I said to Amanda that you’d never see this kind of nonsense in Changi.”
“Well, it is in the Tropics,” I pointed out.
“I don’t care,” Saffy said stubbornly. “Even if Changi was in the South Pole, things would still be working!”
Just then, Amanda’s face popped into view over Saffy’s shoulder.
“I think you’re going to be stuck there till after Boxing Day! Are you keeping warm?”
I said that I’d barely left the flat except for brief excursions to the supermarket for more food.
“I bet it’s really pretty though, what with the snow and everything,” Amanda said.
“I guess it is, but I’m just praying that the heating holds up. Otherwise, I’d rather just die.”
“Choy!” Saffy spat.
So, here I am, in the run-up to Christmas, snowed-in. Tens of thousands of passengers are stuck at Heathrow and there’s a severe weather warning about more snow and colder temperatures. I’d like to say it’s all a bit of an adventure, but I can’t.
And last night, I dreamt of grilled sting-ray and big plates of rojak.