On Myself and E2
It is like writing so much recently has opened my eyes to that which I never noticed before, it is as if my entire perspective was turned upside-down
– a process that was catalyzed
by constant writing about my observations about this society
and about myself. I have always written a lot, and I have always read – but when I signed up for this community and started contributing I actually had certain standards
I had to adhere to. E2
demands works of reasonably high quality
, works that are interesting
and hopefully entertaining
When I was still schooling my teachers oft remarked that although my work was of high quality, it never quite hit the word-counts that they were expecting. In the words of my history teacher; “his brevity is killing him.” It wasn't killing me per se, but it certainly wasn't helping my results at all. That brevity became obvious to me once I was going to node a couple of the essays I had written for schoolwork – I couldn't understand why the node looked so much shorter than the printed version of my essay. I suppose my little tricks with line spacing and font selection didn't help much...
I never really ended up submitting many of my old essays anyway – despite the fact that I didn't really write them so long ago I do not like the quality of them. Only six short months ago I thought that they were the best I could do, and today I look upon them and sigh. I seem to have an odd fascination with punctuation - I am fascinated by the way that it seems so simple, yet it is so difficult for me to get it right. I am getting better though! My apostrophe use needs a bit of work, but I have almost figured out how to use commas.
By writing about things I have observed or felt, I feel that I see them in even more detail than what I originally saw them with. Soon I may reach the end of it and there will be no new knowledge can be extracted from my telling. Until then I will keep on writing. Just for the sake of learning, and for the sake of adding knowledge to a community that has given so much to me.
On Singaporean Public-Awareness Campaigns
On a different topic, Singapore seems to have started a couple more public-awareness campaigns. Imagine my surprise when I couldn't find any cute mascot that formed the backbone of their attack against drunk-driving and cigarette smoking. There are now some nasty images on every single packet of cigarettes – images of cancerous mouths and lungs and dying babies and whatnot. It really doesn't make a difference to me, I use a cigarette case, but a lot of the people around me are not particularly happy about this. So now we have anti-smoking commercials on buses, television, even on the road. Not next to the road, on it – rectangles drawn onto the road claiming to represent how much tar is in a smoker's lungs after a year of smoking.
The campaign against drinking then driving went from barely noticeable to being everywhere overnight. Orchard Road (Singapore's shopping district) has an anti-drunk-driving banner hanging from every single streetlight on the entire length of the road. All bearing the slogan “drinking overturns lives” and a picture of some car wreckage upside down. It is obvious that Singapore's crime prevention council receives adequate funding, that's for certain. This campaign is one that I wholeheartedly agree with the message of, if not the way they hammer it through to you every 25 meters of Orchard Road.
On Working In Singapore
As I came home from work today, I realized that nearly every taxi driver I have spoken to in Singapore has been doing the same job for more than 10 years now. Talk about a lack of career advancement oportunities! The taxi companies in Singapore as well as McDonalds will hire anyone that everyone else wont touch with a big stick, so you get a lot of strange characters driving you around the place. In Singapore, good looks are often more important than experience – if you aren't young and good looking, then there isn't much you can do.
It isn't as if you can retire in comfort in Singapore, not unless you were fabulously wealthy when you were still in the workforce. There isn't much that you can do in Singapore when you don't have money coming in – I have mentioned before that there is no time to relax in this country, but only today did I draw the line between that and the number of elderly people who work the McD's counters. Another fundamental flaw of Singaporean society, that brings the total up to: far too many.
The fact is that because of the insane prices of property in Singapore, the ones who retire will quickly find that they are running out of money because of the amount that they have to pay on rent – not many would actually have been able to actually purchase an apartment in their lifetimes. So they have to work, and the only places that they can work is at places where they don't care about what you look like – enter the taxi companies, the cleaning companies and the fast food industry.
On Taxi drivers and their wisdoms
In a country with as high a population density as Singapore, if even half of the population had a car then no-one would be able to drive it anywhere – rush hour traffic is bad enough as it is. So Singapore is the proud owner of one of the cheapest and most efficient public transport systems in the world. As little as $1.20 will get you from one side of the island to the other by bus. Singapore may not be a particularly big island in the first place, but that is still one hell of a feat. We have thousands of buses, 3 separate railway lines with stations every kilometer and trains that come at intervals of 3-5 minutes, and a lot of taxis. All in the space of an island approximately 20 by 40 miles big.
The taxi companies are probably one of the largest employers in Singapore – if you were to look at the traffic going along any of the major roads in Singapore then you will see that nearly half of the traffic comes from taxis. We have several different brands of taxis here, let me run you through the main ones.
The yellow ones are CityCab, the yellow with black top are called 'Yellow-Top Taxis' and the blue (both dark and light) are Comfort taxis – actually they are all Comfort taxis, all owned by ComfortDelGro. There are a couple of other smaller companies, but they are all dwarfed by that one. More and more taxis are put onto the road every couple of months, and given how little it costs to get a taxi in Singapore you can imagine what that does for the drivers. It is like a monopoly where they keep on lowering the prices instead of raising them.
According to several taxi drivers I have spoken to, the average earnings of a driver has halved over the past 4 years – in addition to working as a taxi driver for 10 hours a day a lot of them have had to take up another part-time job in order to support themselves. That is what living is like in Singapore - work and work and work until you die.
Because of the way the taxi companies are not very picky when hiring driver, you get a lot of colorful characters behind the wheel. There are a few of them who seem to be certifiably insane and some who seem to be these totally centered Zen masters who probably spend all of their spare time meditating.
For example; I was going down to town to meet up with some friends. Having just finished coming up with the idea for the node “Breasts, Otters, Creativity and Greed” I was really in the mood to talk politics. Most of my interest in Singaporean politics stemmed from discussions with taxi drivers, and I often look forwards to them. So I started talking the usual things – the PAP is bad, times are not good, they will be elected next time and everytime. He wasn't being very responsive however; so I pressed him for a little while longer, hoping to extract some kind of commentary from him until he finally remarked.
“Just for your information, that house right there is where the new Singaporean Prime Minister lives. I thought you might be interested.”
That caught me off guard, he must be a staunch believer in mind-reading or something. That was his way of telling me that he didn't think it wise to talk such things – many Asian cultures have a similar aversion to just saying “No.”
Another notable examples of taxi driver wisdoms include the driver who told me;
“You can tell a lot from a person's ring tone. ”
He went on at length about the differences between people that you can discover simply from listening to their mobile phone's ring tone. When he applied it to a friend of mine who had just stepped out of the taxi a short while before, it seemed incredibly accurate. Because I keep mine on silent I am clear-headed and intelligent with a keen business-sense.
Or another time, I was running late and desperately needed to get somewhere within ten minutes. Standing on one road on a corner, I noticed an empty taxi waiting at the lights of the road running perpendicular to the one I was standing on. So I headed over to get in while he was stopped, but when he saw me coming he started shaking his head in the negative. So I opened the door and was about to get in when he said; “You can't get in here.” I had heard about not being allowed to get in a taxi while it was stopped at the lights, but I never heard a taxi driver who cared. So I replied "no-one is watching, it doesn't matter."
“This is Singapore, they are always watching.”