Report from Tomorrow - Vol 21

1USD = S$1.71 (S$1 = 0.58USD)

Driving in Singapore

We don't have a car here - nor is there any reason to, really, but just because we do not, does not mean there aren't a lot of cars on the streets. The streets of Singapore of filled with plenty of new and newer cars and just because they cost S$80,000-200,000 new, does not mean they are all from the low-end. Mercedes and BMWs are very evident here, but mostly we see the same Japanese models as in the US.

Actually, buying a fancy sports car here is the ultimate in a "fashion statement". No one can pretend you need a fast car here. The island is quite small (10-15 miles x 25 miles or so), so in no way can you go anywhere very fast for very long. It's not like you "need" a sports car that can go 80mph for 4 hours at stretch as in the US.

So, down to topic now, driving in Singapore. Mind you, this is not a driver's perspective, but rather a view from the passenger's side. Traffic moves pretty slowly here compared to most places in the US. The normal speed limit is 50kph (~30mph) and sometimes 80kph (~50mph) and there's not much chance to move faster anyway. Taxi's have some sort of alarm system which dings a bell when they speed (which usually only happens on short bypasses).

They've never heard of coordinating stop lights - or maybe it's just that the buses are so slow, they almost never seem to make the green light. But the distances are short - we're probably only a bit over a mile (2 km) from where I work. If the weather were nicer, I could easily walk or bike it.

There are very few aggressive drivers here, but that doesn't mean they are all good drivers. Turn signals generally don't get used much. If you need to change lanes, you start edging into the next lane. Cars continue to pass until one chickens out or there is space. Then you slowly move over, straddling both lanes so you don't really commit, in case you want to move back. It all happens in slow motion - just to maximize the stress on the hearts of Americans. I call this the "Asian Merge School of Driving".

But to give them credit, we've never come upon an accident scene and few vehicles appear to have more than a minor scrape. The general opinion here is that drivers in Malaysia are truly dangerous (I was told they are considering changing the driving age from 14 to 21) and Thai drivers are simply a terror to all of SouthEast Asia.

It's a Cultural Thing - IV

This is a nation of SLOW WALKERS. At first I thought it was just me being in a rush, but this has been confirmed by other ANG MOs. Most everyone seems to saunter along at a slow leisurely pace, wandering left and then right in a seemingly random pattern, oblivious to getting in the way of others. This is true whether it's a business man with his power briefcase or a group of 11 year old girls. It would not even be noticeable if there weren't so many people wandering at the same time - making a move from point A to B a zig-zag experience.

In the same vein, people do not walk consistently on one side of the sidewalk. Since this is a nation of driving on the left side, I figured people would naturally walk on the left side, but not so. After taking an unofficial survey, I've discovered that 12.5% always walk on the left, 12.5% always walk on the right, 25% take the middle and the remaining 50% are dedicated wanders, moving slowly but surely between the left and right hand side. Perhaps they wander so because most people do not drive and so are not trained on which side they should be walking.

BUGIS is the name of a local MRT station as well as a nation of nomadic boat people found all around the South China Sea area. These people seldom go on land and it is possible that a person of this group might live his entire life on boats or houses built on stilts in the ocean his entire life - only to be buried on land. The name BUGIS is also the origin of the term "boogie man". No, I don't know how this came about either.

We had our first direct experience with "the law" recently. Gretchen went to a movie with a friend. They would not sell her a ticket because she was underage (i.e. under 21). She tried to convince them she was 21, but since she did not have her passport with her, she could not prove it. Even if she did have her passport she could not have proven it. :-) So they went to a different movie. A few days later they returned and her friend bought two tickets while Gretchen stayed in the background. :-)