My overseas friends are always so impressed by how hardworking and efficient Singaporeans are. Invariably, they trot out Exhibit A – Changi Airport.
“My God,” my friend Martin said recently, his eyes shining like a Jehovah’s Witness missionary with a sugar rush, “I timed myself. From the moment the plane landed to me arriving at this flat, it was forty minutes! If we’d been at Heathrow, it would have taken me forty minutes just to clear immigration! How do they do it?”
I smiled smugly. “It’s magic,” I said with absolute confidence. “Either that, or they have baggage handlers back there with four pairs of hands!”
Later, Saffy pulled me into the kitchen and whispered, “Your friend, Martin. He’s gorgeous. What’s his story?”
I flapped my hands a little. “You’ve got a boyfriend!” I hissed.
She rolled her eyes. “It’s always good to have a back-up plan!”
I sighed. “Let’s put it this way, in high school, when the career counselor asked him what he wanted to do with his life, he said he wanted to be a porn film director and shoot girl on girl action all day.”
Saffy’s eyes shone. “Oh, how fab!”
“Who are you?” I whispered urgently.
Saffy’s bosom inflated. “Clearly, someone who thinks there are more important things to talk about with friends besides the luggage processing time at Changi airport!” she announced as she flounced off.
Amanda says that guys talk about the oddest things. “I’m with Saffy on this one. You haven’t seen each other in two years and you spend the whole time talking about how efficient an airport is?”
I am unrepentant. I could talk about Changi all day. So can my friend May who works in New York and swears that the highlight of her trips home is Changi. “The minute I get out of the plane and onto the aerobridge and see the maciks standing outside gossiping with the Chinese uncle security guard leaning against the wheelchair, I know I’m home!”
Meanwhile, Martin still can’t get over the fact that Changi has an outdoor swimming pool, massage chairs, foot reflex machines, and even a cinema. “Why would anyone ever leave that airport?” he asked Saffy over a steamy lunch of mee pok and roti prata at Maxwell Street Market.
Saffy smiled tightly and later posted on Facebook that sometimes, good looking men should not be allowed to open their mouths and speak.
“Like David Beckham!” Sharyn commented, after putting a “Like” on Saffy’s post.
“Get him drunk and then go for a midnight swim with him,” Barney Chen advised.
“She’s got a boyfriend already!” I yelled.
Barney was unmoved. “Big deal. Every girl needs a Plan B. Look at me. I’ve juggled so many balls in my life, I’ve…” he stopped, rewound his last sentence in his head and blushed.
The whole thing has just made me realize just how unappreciative of Changi we all are. We take it all for granted. Like the pretty flower beds and thick trees that line the approach road for miles – unlike the ugly concrete flyovers and grim neighbourhoods that surround just about every major American airport. Or the shaded canopy at the drop off. At Heathrow, if it’s raining or snowing, you’re going to get really wet because there is no shelter between where the taxi stops and the airport entrance.
And let’s not forget what a breeze Changi’s immigration is. When was the last time anyone spent more than five minutes in the queue? There’s even a little bowl of sweets while you wait for your passport to be stamped. When you arrive in Paris, you consider yourself lucky if they don’t haul you off to an interrogation room for dressing badly.
And there’s just so much to eat at Changi. Martin said it’s a wonder there aren’t more fat Singaporeans, to which Amanda said that he clearly needs to spend more time at her gym.
Martin turned his blue on blue eyes on her and smiled the smile that had lost him his virginity to Mrs Henderson, our maths teacher, when he was sixteen. “Is that an invitation, Amanda?”
Amanda later said she literally blanked out. “Oh. My. God. I just remember him looking at me, but nothing after that!” she told Saffy, who pursed her lips jealously.
“That’s so unfair,” Saffy told Sharyn. “He flirts with Amanda, but spends the whole lunch raving about Changi bloody Airport with me! What is that all about?”
Apparently, when Sharyn helpfully suggested, “Aiyah, he don’t find you attractive, lor!”, Saffy got up from the table and walked off.
“When is he leaving?” Saffy asked me.