Saturday, April 28, 2012

Strangely crowded

I went out for my evening constitutional about 6:30 this evening, as the sun was setting and the air beginning to cool. As I ran up the street past the Hindu temple, I had to dodge through a huge crowd of people standing outside, and what seemed like half Singapore's taxis parked at the curb.

This week I'm concentrating on speed, not distance, which is more painful, and potentially more dangerous, because it seems that Singaporeans idolise the ostrich and seek to emulate it wherever possible. I don't mean by stretching their necks and leering at people while wearing scruffy coats. What I'm trying to say is that nobody seems to bother looking where they're going, or are actively trying to ignore you in the hope that an invisible threat is a nonexistent threat.

When I go out running, I'm wearing day-glo yellow, and my face is crimson, and I'm rasping like a perverted asthmatic. You don't get to choose to ignore me as easily as you can a pregnant woman on the MRT when she's standing and you've got a seat. But people do a damn good job of trying, walking with their faces eerily focussed dead straight, as if peripheral vision were something to be avoided. I managed to half run, half dodge and half embrace an old bloke who stepped into my path without looking. (Yes, the experience made me worse at mathematics.) But despite the mob of people on the street, I got round the bay in extra quick time, before conking out at the Merlion and walking home.

The Marina Bay was fairly crowded with people, but so was everywhere else. I keep encountering the same gang of naval types: Chinese, ice white uniforms, too many medals and close-cropped hair, wandering around. I wasn't sure if this was the People's Liberation Navy, or a Singaporean dance troupe, or a curiously racially homogenous group from the US. They were there crossing the Helix bridge to the Marina Bay Sands. They were wandering by the Merlion. And they were looking a bit lost in the car park outside the Temple of Buddha's Tooth.

To be honest, if you found yourself in the carpark outside the Temple of Buddha's Tooth, you might feel a bit lost too. Especially if there were a hundred people line-dancing to Swedish techno-pop in the square outside the temple. I'm used to that, because the line-dancing happens every fortnight, but there was also a long line of people walking round the perimeter of the temple, each one holding a small candle in a glass bowl and singing softly.

I've nothing against religious ceremonies, but clearly the line-dancers do, because instead of giving the Buddha's Tooth people a bit of peace and quiet, the terrible techno was cranked up louder than ever. That, plus the undissipated crowd at the Hindu prayer joint down the way, and the unexplained sailors (were they actually just a highly decorated tour group from Hangzhou, waiting for the bus to pick them up?), made me think that perhaps a few more people should stay inside on these hot summer nights, or at least take turns to leave the house. There's only a finite amount of pavement, people.


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