Monday, March 5, 2007

Singapourin' Rain

My beloved is right: rain in Singapore is beautiful and refreshing, well worth watching from a dry, comfy spot. Aside from the aesthetically pleasing aspects, though, rain has a somewhat different effect on practical Singaporean life - as I learned on my way home from work.

It started to pour just as I left the office. You’d think it had never rained before in Singapore. Suddenly, all public-transportation bets were off, stranding commuters all over the city. For starters, no taxis. Couldn't hail one, couldn't book one. Literally every single taxi was hired. For a while, I stood on the street with everyone else, trying to hail a taxi and slowly taking on the appearance of a drowned rat. After watching taxi after taxi speed by with some DRY happy passenger, I tried booking one over the phone. Normally, for a small fee, this method puts a taxi at your doorstep in ten minutes flat. But the central line was busy - too many other people trying to get through.

If I can't get a taxi, my other option is to walk a few blocks to the bus stop. It’s easy enough in good weather. But when it’s raining, I know I’m in for another round of the oft-maligned Singapore Shuffle. Even in sunny weather, this affliction strikes many of the most able-bodied and ambitious Singaporeans. People stroll along at a pace that would make a New Yorker scream with impatience. Usually, the excuses involve staying cool in the heat or being distracted by constant text messaging. But even the most purposefully striding pedestrian can hobbled by the rain.

It has everything to do with glazed tile. Pedestrian bridges over busy intersections, walking lanes right outside shops, central courts in malls or corporate parks - all are beautifully adorned with tile. It’s nice to look at. But those nice, wide walking areas become ice-skating rinks without rails in the rain. While in my sturdy Rockports, walking at a normal pace, I've come close to a double-axel - without the pretty landing. So now when it rains, I move like a tree sloth, but I'm still standing on my own two feet. Next on my shopping list? Galoshes.

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