It’s 6.30 pm and the sky’s pissing down on us. I’m waddling through tiny puddles, looking out for pockets of space around the crowded bus stop. My shoes and socks are soaking, the legs of my jeans are a darker colour than the rest of its body, and lecture begins in half an hour. I look out at the road and am instantly mesmerised by the amount of water being sloshed about by oncoming vehicles. My fascination with water extends way back to when i was a child, and a very avid swimmer. Finally, the bus pulls up. After more than a decade of taking public transport in this country, I know very well the habits of Singaporeans when it comes to boarding and alighting. I step back and allow the pushers to shove their way in. At the other end, people pour out of the bus. It’s emptying fast, but not fast enough. Because it takes at least a second or two to tap your card, the delay causes a slight bottle neck, and the first wave of pushers get drenched. I turn to my friend and hold her back. No point rushing in, I tell her. There’s plenty of room. Wait til they’re done shoving, then when the steps clear up we can slip in quickly without getting wet.
The second wave, right behind them, begin opening up their umbrellas in an attempt to shelter themselves. What this means for the poor people around them is they have less space, and more water falling on their heads (since the umbrella directs whatever raindrops fall on it to the sides). As I watch the desperados trying in vain to keep themselves dry, it hits me. All this time I’ve spoken so much about my disdain for this country and my fellow citizens, but I’ve never really been able to articulate what it is that I dislike about them. I call it stupidity, but I don’t elaborate. I call it selfishness, but I don’t explain.
If all of us at the bus stop could’ve just gone in two by two, with a one to two second delay between pairs, all of us would’ve been able to board that bus dry. It would’ve saved time, and certainly made the evening a lot more pleasant. Which brings me to my point. Singaporeans don’t see the bigger picture. All we see is our destination, and how to get ourselves there. We don’t take into consideration that many others are making their way there too, and if we just work together, we could get there quicker. We don’t realise that while an open umbrella means we stay dry, it also means someone else gets wetter, and the process gets stalled. The unfortunate thing is most of us don’t see it, and we don’t know where we get it from.
I think that society mirrors it’s leaders. Our leaders have not been the most generous people. They’ve very often sought to look after themselves before anything. It is as if we don’t matter. And that is exactly the idea we’ve adopted. That nothing and no one else matters. There is no talk of teamwork. There is no mention of a group dynamic. We just don’t care that much about anything or anyone except ourselves.
I manage to get on the bus dry, save for a few specks on water on my backpack and hat. The first and second wave of pushers are seated, and drenched to the bone. It’s a sad world, when common sense is usurped by self-centredness and apathy. Is there any hope for us at all?