Saturday, 21 July 2007

Knock Knock, Who's There?

Living in a flat 10 floors up, the front door becomes the only portal to the outside world. Almost uniquely, I leave mine open most of the time to let the wind in and so I can see what's going on out on the landing. Indeed, my desk is just inside the door. There's a couple of downsides to this, but not probably the one you imagine, that is, lack of privacy. As a hairy pink foreigner, one glance at me and most people keep their heads down as they shuffle past. Result!

The issues are noise and smell, the latter being the worst offender by far. Let me explain. Noise-wise, it's kids screaming. A feat of human vocal ability that leaves me unable to hear my own radio and yet does not render the little blighters deaf. How's that fair?

The smells are all those of combustion. Incense sticks outside front doors and most bizarrely, even charcoal burners used to boil big pans of water to cook rice, etc. The prevailing Southerly wind blows the smoke through the front door and past my nose giving me an instant headache, the sort I get (psychosomatically?) from smokers. It's all against the rules of course. Open fires and big pots of boiling water on landings are hardly safe or neighbourly but it's just another facet of Chinese domestic life transplanted Lock Stock into an HDB flat, rules or no rules.

There are people who eagerly stop at my open door: charities. Frankly, I get the impression they have a hard time finding anyone to even open their door, let alone talk to them, such is the desperate tone in their voices. Let's see, we've had Ice Cream-selling students trying to fund school books, Boys Brigade (which has girls as members) seeking funds to give Bibles to (Muslim) Malays, the Singapore Cancer Society wanting direct-debit donations and even a plastic bucket-selling Malay lady, though she gave up early on.

Since all doors are supplemented with an additional metal gate, these conversations occur through bars, like an Alcatraz librarian dealing with his clientele. I've never considered myself threatened and prefer the feeling I can get out than fearing someone would come in. Singaporeans say they have Low Crime, not No Crime.