Sunday, November 29, 2009

Maid in the Shade

We’re getting ready for a new addition to our household. No, the missus isn’t expecting. But with Cherisse beginning primary school in January (which is half day, rather than full day like her pre-school) we will need someone at home to look after her. So we’re getting a domestic helper, commonly called a maid.

The maid agents in Singapore really know their stuff. They have data sheets on all the candidates. Most of the comments look suspiciously similar, often identical. They all love children, they all cook fried rice and their native dishes and are willing to learn Chinese and Western recipes, etc. There is even a photo, so the ma’am can decide whether to risk frightening her children or losing her husband. In fact, there is nearly everything you could ever want to know about the gal, and a good bit that you might not.

For example, the maid’s religion is noted. You can’t have some other God being worshipped in your home, could you? Some employers don’t want their maid praying five times a day—they’re paying her to work work work! And the maid’s skin tone is also indicated—either fair, tan, or dark. I have no idea why this should matter, but apparently plenty of Singaporeans are concerned about this or it wouldn’t be included on the form. If I were a maid I would resent this mightily. (You might sense that I resent this even though I am not a maid.)

But on the positive side, it’s better for your employer to be aware of your skin tone before you take out a four-figure loan to make the trip, so as to avoid being sent back for being the wrong color.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Branding Mania

It's no secret that Singaporeans are brand crazy. But the government is also big on branding. The Singapore Tourism Board just unveiled their new mascot for the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. It is a Teletubby-looking creature with a durian spiked head and a red outfit depicting a merlion. I always thought a mascot should be naturally self explanatory rather than contrived, but perhaps they should be congratulated for their restraint in not having the legend "Singapore Mascot" emblazoned on the figure.

I'm not sure why Singapore needs a mascot for their country pavilion at the Expo. I can see where the host would have one, but imagine a separate mascot for every exhibiting country running around the grounds!

According to the Straits Times, the Singapore Pavilion also has a logo of its own! I would think a sign reading "Singapore Pavilion" with the Singapore flag would be good enough to identify it.

The Land Transport Authority recently began using a set of five musical notes in conjunction with its traffic updates on the radio. Why do they need those annoying tones? To distinguish them from other transport agencies or traffic update providers? Just keeping the traffic flowing smoothly is enough, as far as I'm concerned.

Usually I try to mute the radio before the traffic report's sponsor, King Koil mattresses, plays it's own tone. Doi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oing! This is the most annoying sound I have ever heard, and I respond to it like a dog responds to a vacuum cleaner. I will have to start listening to CDs in the car instead of the radio. Even if it means driving right into a traffic jam.

And to think I pay a car radio tax of about $27 a year for this!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Standing Room Only

Boarded a brand spanking new train on the MRT the other day and noticed that (lucky me!) no one was sitting at the pair of seats in the corner of the carriage, so I went for it. When I got there the mystery was made clear – there were no corner seats! They could not have been torn out, because such vandalism does not occur on these trains. A glimpse at the floor revealed that seats had never been installed there. There was enough open floor space in that car to play a soccer match, if not for the 800 or so people standing shoulder to shoulder. The trend of less seating and more standing continues. By not putting in those two seats they are probably able to cram another four or five people into the car. I’m just waiting for them to figure out how to put in overhead racks to get a few more people in there. If they ever come up with a way to get people up overhead without them falling on the standing room crowd I’m sure they will do it.

While I’m on the subject of standing around, I have long noticed that few public spaces have seating. You might find a few benches in some malls, but not much. The lobbies of office buildings are often barren. I guess they’ve figured out that people don’t spend money when they’re sitting, so the message is to keep walking and buy something.