Walking in Singapore

Here are some cultural generalizations that are irrefutable:  Egyptians are good-hearted and hard-working.  The English have a resentful way of looking at things.  Kuwaitis are stingy to the point of dishonesty.  Germans go crazy when they’re on holiday.  And the Singaporeans are unable to walk in a straight line. 

No matter what social strata, everybody here walks.  Well, except for the rich and the really rich, who employ drivers.  The public transit system is good at moving the populace from one place to another, but most people don’t live near a bus stop, and they don’t work across from the MRT.  So quite a bit of walking is involved. 

I walk a lot.  I don’t amble and I don’t stroll.  I lack the patience.  A quick-paced stride is the way I get from here to there and back again.  But, as there are a lot of other people in Singapore who also walk, the crowd dictates the pace and progress is often more wish than reality.  Which is why it makes no sense that people wander sideways instead of going straight.  For instance, I’m walking.  The woman next to me is also walking.  We’re heading in the same direction.  And before I know it, she’s sliding over, pressing into my space, placing her ankle across mine; then she's directly in front of me and she slows, inviting me to crash into her back.  Which I have done on occasion. 

Also, there’s the difficult act of passing.  Imagine a lull in foot traffic.  The sidewalk is medium-width, certainly broad enough for two people to walk side-by-side without brushing; and no one else is on it except for me and one other person, a man, who’s in front of me—and the man is moving slower than I am, and I’d like to get by, get ahead, get there already.  When my decision to pass is made, the guy is to the left, so I angle to pass on the right.  But as soon as I aim myself in that direction, he also shuffles right.  The same thing’ll happen again when I make an attempt at the left flank. 

Scoff, you might.  But I’m telling the full truth about this.  This happens every time I go a-walking.  Every time.  The Singaporeans don’t walk straight.  One of the world’s mysteries.