If you read my previous post
, you’ll know that I had a lovely Friday evening meeting a group of wonderful people who all want to live in a society without prejudice, without xenophobia, without unkindness, just like I do. And if that’s too much to ask, at the very least, we hope for a society that practises tolerance.
Then on Saturday, my hubby and I went for our usual late lunch at our favourite neighbourhood coffeeshop. Why favourite? Well, for one, we’ve built up quite a rapport with the girls who take our drink orders and bring us our daily dose of ‘kopi-peng’ (Kevin’s iced coffee with milk and sugar) and ‘teh-o ban sao’ (my warm tea with sugar but without milk), so much so that we just have to raise two fingers and they bring us our drinks with a cheery smile. Sometimes we chat with them and my angmoh hubby and these PRC (mainland Chinese) girls often take turns to tease the other, despite barely being able to understand one another! I, naturally, play the role of translator, if I can stop laughing enough to speak, that is!
So anyhow, we were enjoying our meal when an Indian couple we didn’t know sat down at the table next to ours. Something I wouldn’t even have noticed or thought twice about, except that the sudden raising of voices caught my attention. The guy was shouting at one of our coffee girls - let’s call her XiaoMei (little sister), who could only stand there helplessly, trying to figure out what she had done wrong. As far as I could tell, he was pissed off that she couldn’t understand what he had asked for in English. Finally, the girlfriend/wife managed to explain and XiaoMei went off to get their drinks.
Mr Jerk continued to bitch loudly about why he has to deal with these ‘people’ in his own country, why she should even be working here if she can’t understand English, is he expected to learn to speak Mandarin to her, why not since she speaks to him in Mandarin that he should reply in Tamil… on and on he went. XiaoMei returned with their drinks (correctly, I might add) and he begrudgingly tossed some money at her, still going ranting away. Oh, and throwing out expletives in both English and Hokkien and calling her ‘cunt’ and all kinds of names. I could tell that Mr Jerk’s girlfriend/wife was pretty embarrassed at the whole thing and was trying to smooth things over and appease him. Which just led to him ranting even more. Singapore’s official language is English and our national language is Malay, why should he have to learn Chinese, that unless the government changes and makes Chinese our national language that he shouldn’t have to, that what was the point of him taking ‘O’ Level English in school… I wonder if he could even hear how ridiculous he sounded.
Of course, neither myself nor my angmoh hubby could resist making comments under our breath. Also, I had to explain some of what had taken place to him, since a percentage of it had gone on in Mandarin. Oh, and when I say ‘under our breath’, it was still sorta within earshot of Mr Jerk and his girlfriend/wife, which is exactly how we meant for it to be anyhow. Which made her feel uncomfortable, and she must’ve tried to shush him, saying that there were others listening.
Which only led to him becoming more belligerent. He went on… So what if other people hear him since he’s right, that Singaporeans all just tolerate these PRC people coming here and don’t care, that even if he were to hit her (speaking to his girlfriend/wife) at the table right there, that no one would even dare to step up and say anything…
The whole situation was really incredible to me. Please excuse me as I go on a little rant of my own here. If people can act like this just because they’ve got ‘O’ Level education, then I’d rather be illiterate! Those ‘poor’ people with little or no formal education are way more educated and civilised than this jerk was. And what about upbringing? It made me wonder about his parents, because I know my mother would have my hide if I ever dared to make a scene in public even as a child. And then the cussing. I’m no wide-eyed ingenue; my angmoh husband tosses out the f-bomb as often as a Singaporean ends sentences with ‘lah’. It was the hypocrisy of it that really got to me. There he was putting down her use of Chinese as if he spoke the Queen’s English like a BBC news anchor - which he certainly did not, by the way - and at the same time wielding Hokkien swear words like a pro! If this was the behaviour of the typical Singaporean, which thankfully it’s not, then I’m telling my hubby that never mind trying to get Singaporean citizenship because I’m giving up mine. As it was, I was already so embarrassed that I was a fellow human being, much less a fellow Singaporean! Chinese or Indian, Singaporean or PRC, aren’t we all flesh and blood on the inside?
Ok, I’m done. After they finished their meal and left, the first thing I said was, “Wow, the air suddenly got so much fresher. And brighter too!” I’m no saint, but I don’t believe racism is one of my faults; still, the moment just called for it. I have friends of different races (including Indians), different faiths, different nationalities, and I hope they know that I don’t stereotype them as such. The other overriding feeling I was left with was how sorry I felt for Mr Jerk’s girlfriend/wife. That he could embarrass her like that and not feel the need to apologise, that he could even talk about how he might hit her - even if it were a joke - that’s just not acceptable in my books. Perhaps she has her reasons but I know that I could never love someone who had that little respect for others.
So there you go. Two consecutive days, two very different groups of people, two extreme mindsets. Displayed almost side by side, the distinction was almost too mind-boggling to process. All I can say is, I’m glad that I surround myself with kind people, like those I met on Friday. And I pray for enlightenment - and for someone to offer an anger management class - for Mr Jerk.