Prequel As known to most travelers, the MTRs of Singapore have a characteristic smell embedded in its air conditioner filters. Well, I would take that anytime than having someone let out gas inside a train cabin full of people, which is what you are guaranteed to experience at least once every three rides in the Red Line. There was even this one guy seated to my right, on earphones and oblivious to the world, who deliberately lifted his left thigh to let out gas with such freedom. I just had to stand up and move away while Mr. Diplomat can’t help but laugh as I always fall victim to such creatures. It comes out naturally, you might say. Indeed! However, it is at the same time a violation of personal space. If only you could breathe in every gas molecule you let out, then we won’t have an issue here.
Going back to that fateful night, Mr. Diplomat offered his seat, the one to my left, to an elderly lady. Her elderly husband stood by. At the next station, the seat to my right was vacated. On any other day, I would have moved one seat to allow the elderly couple to sit next to each other if not for a pole blocking the way. As so, my ordeal began. The two started talking while my bag and my arms were caught in the middle. I initially felt two to four droplets. I was contemplating on standing, but I was trying to be polite and I thought it would not be a long conversation anyway. Boy, was I wrong. The exchange continued for two more stations and so did the droplets landing on my arms. We were three stations away, but I just had to stand. I could not take it anymore. And because I left my seat without alighting the train, I felt some people staring at us. I truly did not care anymore. I just had to wipe all the droplets off from my arms and my bag.
That night did not compare, however, to what we experienced the other day in the Tung Chung Line (Orange Line). Two ladies all made up and with funny wigs went down at Sunny Bay Station. We intended to take their seats, but there it was, some bloody DNA left by one of them. Either it was the first day of her monthlies or she was injured down there but happily ignored it on the way to Hong Kong Disneyland. I just hope she spared the rest of the visitors of the magical world from the horror.
This city bounced back from the SARS and avian influenza A outbreaks. Its government admirably spends a lot of money to sanitize their lifts and other public facilities every couple of hours, on information about coughing and sneezing etiquette (seriously!), on the countless free hand sanitizers spread across this bustling city, and on ads about cleanliness. However, we have barely been a year here, and Mr. Diplomat has drafted health advisories on outbreaks of enterovirus 71 infection, hand, foot and mouth disease, influenza A infection, swine flu, meningoccoccal infection, influenza B infection, and scarlet fever. That’s like one outbreak every 2 months. That alone says a lot. Hygiene, not to mention respect for someone else’s personal space, starts no less with one’s self, not with the government.
This is where I draw the line with the saying When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
Live it. Love it. Hong Kong.