Tudor Vlădescu, reporting from Singapore
A smile. It may be offered to everybody, indiscriminately. And with no identifiable reason, too, although the clearance of all four security checks seemed to have altered a prior state of morose seriousness which borderlines the poker face panic of my aunt who, whenever close to a runway, starts checking every detail ten times over for fear of having overseen a tiny, but tremendously important detail that might lead to losing the flight, having to pay fees, or both. One could not rule out the influence of the book of humor that I have been reading in the duty free area. Written by a famous Romanian philosopher, the introductory chapter claimed that some passages to follow were below standards, and that made me sail through all passages, both below or above standards, with equal glee and humorous satisfaction. A book that claims to be funny, without any guarantee that it might be so or not, is a rare, if not unique occurrence in the otherwise mostly confrontational, resentment-ridden and sorry-for-itself or downright arrogant Romanian mass-media book market.
Back to smiling, it seems to be quite a risky endeavor, especially when the smiler is not trying to sell anything. Probably because she had identified the author of the book I was reading, and assimilated me with a class of stiff-upper-lip intellectual parasites that suck the blood off the working people’s class, a middle-aged lady replied with an icy glare to my smile. The same, for unidentified reasons, happened with a young ballerina-type girl, who locked her eyesight on my wedding ring, once smiled at. The third trial triggered a different reaction, this time from a male. A string of saliva oozed from the mouth of a child of uncertain age who was being carried by his mother and who was obviously trying to replicate my chewing gum bubbles. It was not my fault that he was not of legal chewing gum age, if such a thing existed.
I do not recall to have been smiling on the way to the airport. Although the idea of common courtesy seems to have been exclusively confined to the pages of driving school textbooks theory, I meditated a few moments on the possibility that some of the drivers might be commercial pilots too. Soon we will be reaching cruise altitude and just behind me a spoilt brat has been pressing in force all available buttons and pulled all available leavers, sending repeated mini-shockwaves through my spine while his caretaker seemed to ignore him and kept snapping pictures of the runway green belt and auxiliary airport buildings. Once the little darling discovered the safety belt buckle, which produces quite a ruckus, she told him off and that made the child say that he is utterly crossed with her and two other relatives who were definitely absent. A „caution there” from her and it was all over.
Ten years ago I was flying to Singapore for the first time. A good friend of mine, a Portuguese called Antonio, saw me off to the airport. Just before boarding in Macau, China, he warned me that Singapore is famous for many good things, but notorious for its lack of humor. Such a place should be really funny, I thought, and went on. I know now that starting over is far from being a joke. It’s much more risky than gambling. The latter diminishes your funds, whereas the former squeezes you dry of time and money. Twice as risky, that is. These being said, the author of this article wishes to thank you for the patience of reading this text and to remind you that although much shorter a period than a decade, reading this first episode of „Singapore as seen from Măgură” made you also get incrementally older.
Tudor Vlădescu is our correspondent in Singapore since January 15th, 2020.