Friday, June 15, 2012

Clean Conscience

I know everyone complains about taxis in Singapore, but I generally have no problem with them. Working from home means I rarely have to deal with the stress and expense of finding a cab during rush hours. I also usually avoid the congestions on the PIE and CTE.
So when I do take a cab, everyone is noticeably more relaxed and the only thing I have to do is pretend to be really busy on my Blackberry just so the uncle doesn’t keep chatting to me in Hokkien.
            “Why don’t you just tell him that you don’t speak Hokkien?” Amanda once asked me.
            “Because this is Singapore and everyone speak twenty languages! If I told him I don’t speak Hokkien, he’ll just switch to Mandarin or Cantopop or English or Malay or Teochew or whatever. He’ll just go through his entire repertoire of languages like that Michael Fassbender robot in ‘Prometheus’!”
            “That’s so true,” Saffy said knowledgeably. “The other day, I was in a cab with Rani and the Chinese uncle started chatting her up in Tamil! Have you ever heard a Chinese uncle blabber on in Tamil? It’s like Kobe Bryant speaking Italian!”
            Amanda frowned. “But Kobe Bryant does speak Italian.”
            Saffy’s bosom inflated. “That’s my point! It’s just weird!”
            Anyway, I digress. The point I’m trying to get to is that I generally love cabs in Singapore. I’ll put up with all their idiosyncracies – the bunch of pandan leaves under the seat, the vague scent of body odour that’s never quite masked by the deodorant tree swinging merrily from the rear-view mirror, the monotonous gong of a Buddhist sutra being chanted over the stereo, and the filthy dog-eared magazines in the back seat pocket.
I’ll put up with the uncle rolling down his window and, as he’s speeding along at 80kph, turns his head out slightly, noisily clears his throat and hawks out a spit.  
I’ll even tolerate it when the uncle drives around with a Vicks vapour rub stick stuck up his left nostril.
            “How do they do that?” Amanda once asked. “Their nostrils can’t be that big, surely? Because those Vicks tubes are the size of a lipstick! Saffy, what are you doing?”
            Saffy turned around guiltily, her Chanel lipstick tube hanging precariously from one nostril. “It’s not very comfortable,” she said finally.
            Amanda later told her friends that she’d been living too long with a nutcase.
            So, I digress again. Yes, I will put with a lot in a cab, but the one thing I will never get over is this: people who stick their used tissues into the inside door handle. So that as I happily hop into the cab and shut the door, I find my fingers wedged deep into a soggy white mass.
            “What is that all about?” I yelled the other day at home. I’d flung my money at the driver, tumbled into the lobby and rushed upstairs to the bathroom and spent the next ten minutes alternatively scalding my hands under running boiling water and immersing them into a bowl of concentrated Dettol.
“This is why I always travel with antibacterial wet wipes!” Saffy said.
Which got me even more agitated. “Listen, if you’re going to blow your nose, the least you can do is to stick the tissue into your pocket or just do what everyone else does, throw onto the ground! Don’t stick it into the door handle where my hands are going to be! I don’t want to catch your germs! Oh God, this is how the Black Death started!”
            Saffy later told Sharyn that I ranted for a good half hour.
            Apparently, Sharyn looked surprised. “Yah, lah, where else to throw the tissue? Taxi got no rubbish bin. Before hor, some taxi got cigarette butt tray so can throw. Now don’t have.”
            Saffy begged Sharyn not to repeat this to me. “You’ll be lucky if he doesn’t jump down your throat. And not in a good way either,” she added.
            Of course, the first thing Saffy did when she came home was to announce, “Oh my God, you’ll never guess what, but Sharyn says she also ditches her tissues into the door handles of taxis! How gross is that?”
            Amanda stifled a scream by jamming a hand into her mouth. “She actually admitted it?”
            “She’s my best friend,” Saffy said primly. “We have no secrets. By the way, Jason, I told her not to tell you, but if she does, act surprised, ok? I don’t want her to think I’m such a blabbermouth I can’t keep secrets.”
            Some days, I really believe it’s just not safe to get out of bed. 

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