On Friday Partner and I had to go visit the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to have our visa and employment pass paperwork approved. As our appointment was at 10:30am, I just went into work with him to experience his commute, see his new office, and make sure we had all of the paperwork in order for our visit with MOM.
I’ve taken the bus several times since we arrived five days ago, but this was the first time I had taken it during rush hour, and it was also the first time that I was relaxed enough (i.e. not nervous about missing my stop) to really take in the whole commuting experience. The bus was silent.
It was eerily quiet on that bus ride. Very few people were listening to iPods. No one was talking. No one was panhandling. No one was drunk and pissing on themselves. No one was trying to start a fight. (Reflecting on this list as I was writing it out, I may need to reconsider what I accept as the status-quo on NYC subways and Seattle and Columbus busses.) Our bus ride this morning in Singapore was an all together civilized commute.
I have heard lots of stories about rudeness in Singapore, attempts from the government at politeness campaigns, and have even experienced some generalized pushiness (often a pointed “Excuse me” coupled with a withering stare does the trick). I don’t know that I would characterize this place as friendly or polite. But in truth, I’ve not been here long enough to make that judgement call yet. Nevertheless, as commutes go, the silence on the bus ride and during my trek on the MRT later on in the day was certainly far more civilized than what I’ve experienced during commutes in other major metropolitan cities.