When David and I first moved to this highly populated and touristy area near Orchard Road, if someone in our path was taking a picture, we dutifully stopped and waited, replying, “No problem,” to their “Thank you.” But we soon found that there were so many lens-up folks blocking the sidewalks that our progress was more stop than go. So we ceased being polite about it. Now we’re the couple that barges on through. Our images can be found in photo albums from India to Indiana. If the tourists aren’t taking pictures of each other, they’re blocking foot traffic by huddling around their cameras or phones, looking at the pictures they’ve taken so far and trying to decide where they should set up the next shot.
This excess photography is because Singapore is too stunning. Perfect backdrops are everywhere. Interesting statues are tucked into shady corners. Fountains flow from walls and splash in courtyards. Forests grow on rooftops. Colorful bougainvillea waves from overhead walkways. Malls, ultramodern at ground-level, sprout massive towers that poke the sky. A museum in the shape of a hand? I gotta get my picture taken in front of that. A giant spiral pedestrian bridge? Perfect place to stop and snap a selfie. A ship on top of a fifty-five story hotel? Take one of me, right here, slanted upward so it’s in the background.
Another result of having so many people taking pictures is a ridiculous camaraderie, a sort of “Hey, we’re all in this together” friendliness that grates on someone who’s as easily irritated as I am. Men and women on the street have no problem approaching me, a stranger, holding out their cameras, and asking me to take pictures of them. Regardless of what the insane camera people assume, all cameras are not alike. The zooms, the on/offs, and the shutter releases are located differently on every model—but that doesn’t stop someone I don’t know from pushing his or her camera into my hands and rushing away to pose for what seems like forever while I try to figure out how the stupid thing works.
The oddest camera-related experience David and I had was in Goa. We were scrambling around a Portuguese ruin, Fort Aguada, when a group of about six approached. One of them was holding out a camera. David smiled—he tends to be friendlier than I am—and graciously resigned himself to the imposition of stopping mid-step and fiddling with their camera. To my dismay, they all circled around me, putting their sweaty arms around my shoulders like we were the best of friends, signaling to David that they were ready. When David returned their camera, they handed it to me, gathered around David, and asked me to take a picture of them with him. Then they grabbed some other hapless stranger, asking him to take another picture, this time with all of them squeezing in around both of us. When other fort scramblers saw this camera dance, they, too, moved in and held out their cameras, asking the people of the current group to take their picture with us. By the time we left the fort, David and I estimated that about twenty memory cards held pictures with the two of us as the focal point, surrounded by strangers. This was over a year ago and I still don’t have a clue what it was about. I mean, what the hell, right?