I’m back! With steely resolve to blog more this year, because someone needs to chronicle all the entertaining antics that my Singaporean Parents get up to.
I’m pretty certain that my Kancheong Spider (KCS) Singaporean parents aren’t the only ones who have an unexplained desire to Always Be First (henceforth known as ABF mentality). There’s really nothing wrong with having a healthy dose of ambition, but let me tell you that this ABF mentality transcends all sorts of situations – boarding a flight, getting off a flight, lining up for immigration (“Once the plane lands, you have to move out fast or you’ll have to line up very long at immigration, you know!”) …the list goes on.
[On a side note, can I just say that travelling with my Kancheong Spider Singaporean Parents is really stressful?]
There are 3 stages that the typical ABF Singaporean parent goes through.
This is the initial stage where an assessment of the situation is done. My Singaporean Dad takes this very seriously. Whenever we travel with him, he takes it upon himself to scout the area and find out exactly where the boarding gate is (as well as where the nearest bathroom is). Then he goes to the actual gate, asks the attendant at the counter whether it’s the correct flight (never mind that there’s a big LED screen above that has the flight details printed on it), and then checks the flight status on the monitor just to be sure.
You must check and double check, my Singaporean Dad always says. No sloppiness allowed around here.
This is the stage where you have to assess the situation or surroundings to see how to optimize your chances of having a perfect execution.
Once we took a Southwest flight to Vegas (read: no First Class) and my Singaporean Dad was practically overcome with ABF. The moment he saw the flight attendant reach for the microphone to make the boarding announcement, he jumped up and stood by the queue poles with his ticket in hand like an obedient schoolboy.
Unfortunately from him though, we were assigned one of the last boarding positions (because we booked our tickets online). This is not something my Singaporean Parents are used to.
“Aiyoh, sei lo sei lo…no more seats lah,” my Singaporean Dad exclaimed, as a group of college kids walked loftily past us, priority boarding tickets in hand. “Why do they let a bunch of little kids board before us? They should let old people board first.”
My Singaporean Parents are never last. They leave for the airport five hours early, wait around in the airline lounge for a few hours (while checking the flight status every ten minutes), then leave the lounge an hour before the scheduled boarding time. All this so they can be first in line, like eager school children waiting for the bell to ring.
Note that while the execution phase is most crucial, it might not always go as planned. One time we were on the Eurostar train from London, and my Singaporean Dad herded us to the luggage exit area 20 minutes before the train was scheduled to arrive.
“Okay once the train doors open – Mom takes the small one and waits on the platform. Are you all listening or not? Genna, you’re in charge of the big gray one and that small one. Gayle takes the purple and the black one, then you both leave the bags with Mom on the platform and come back up to help me with this one. Are you listening? Okay, chop chop!”
He then proceeded to pace around (all the while trying to balance as the train rumbled on) and asked repeatedly, “Which side do you think the exit doors will be on? This side? Or maybe that side. Yes, probably that side. Where that big lady is. She looks like she knows where the exit is,” he said, pointing at aforementioned lady with his chin. “She has a backpack, so she must travel on the train a lot.”
Once the train came to a complete stop, he stood by the exit, all ready and raring to go. The irony of the situation was that before he could even get a head start on the others in the cabin (which consisted of a grand total of eight other people, I think), a group of young boys cut in front of him and blocked his path – forcing him to wait as everyone else on the train cabin filed out.
“These young kids,” he grumbled, as he fumbled with his bulky Samsonite. “Jin pai si!”
ABF mentality also applies to many other situations, such as when H&M launches a new designer collaboration, or when Robinsons has a sale on bed linen. For some godforsaken reason, Singaporeans will willingly stand in line for hours (or days, even) just to be the first to get their hands on a good deal.
And then they’ll proceed to complain about how they have to wait an extra five minutes for the train to arrive at their station. Go figure.