Who bears the costs?

Why are there now so many people in Singapore who seem to think it’s acceptable and appropriate to take up seats at McDonald’s or Starbucks without actually being patrons?

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops or cafes reading or writing or doing yarn work, because it gets me out of the house at least. But when I do, I’ll buy a drink or two, maybe a snack. There’s rental and utilities and employees to be paid, after all. And yes, if I linger a long time, I feel faintly guilty and I’ll spend a little more. I also make a point of clearing after myself, so that the already overworked staff have less to do.

But in the last year or so, I’ve noticed a lot of people who walk into a Starbucks, sit down, and proceed to spend the next half-hour or hour there without purchasing anything. I’ve even seen several pull out drinks and food—obviously freshly purchased elsewhere—for consumption. They sit for quite a while, and often even leave their debris behind for the staff to clear. I’ve witnessed the establishment lose customers because of lack of seating.

Look, I get that I’m privileged in my disposable income, and I get that not everyone has the means to or wants to spend money at Starbucks (but McDonald’s? A cone is 50 cents…) but that doesn’t automatically give you the right to sit in their space, use their facilities, and deprive them of paying customers. If you don’t want to spend the money, or can’t, you need to find a different place to be, no? I’ve seen clearly homeless people asleep in the 24-hour McDonald’s near my home at 2 a.m. and think it’s sweet McDonald’s leaves them alone. That’s different.

I also get that you can be tired from a day of walking around, and it’s hot outside and you want a seat and some AC. But in most cases I’ve observed, these people are carrying shopping or the food they’ve purchased is… well, it isn’t homemade food. The people I’ve observed do honestly appear to be at least comfortably middle-class people, who can’t even say “I can’t afford it.”

You could argue we need more seating in malls and commercial spaces, more communal spaces that are free of charge, and maybe water fountains—and I’d agree!—but that’s a separate discussion too. I remember hanging out at open air car parks and green spaces and sharing a drink at a fast food place when I was a poor student or early on in my working life. Some public amenity not existing doesn’t mean a private establishment is required to provide you with it, especially at cost to them. We do have parks and void decks and libraries and community centres and kopitiams and food courts, where space is often abundant, often free, and also often air-conditioned. Why not choose those?

So honestly, serious question, I want to know what is going through their heads that they think this is okay. Is it more “I want this and therefore I should have it” thinking? Because that just seems wrong.


Blessings leaven burdens

This morning, I checked in to Thomson Medical Centre for day surgery. I’ve been in Singapore for the last two weeks, waiting to do a couple of procedures I’d been hoping were unnecessary. Suffice to say that it’s girl stuff surgery, I’m waiting for results, and that’s all the detail that’s necessary for now.

What I’m thinking about today though is grace. The husband couldn’t take time off work to accompany me, in part because he already lost two weeks to dengue. And yes, that was terrifying. Small-t terrifying, but still terrifying. The last couple of times I’ve been under, I was comforted by knowing he was on the other end, ready to catch me as I came out.

Despite that, I feel blessed. Blessed in my friends, that my friend R came to ferry me home after surgery, even though she lives in the west end of Singapore, even though I’m staying in the east.

And she even brought me flowers!!!

That when my surgery date was confirmed, I immediately had friends—not just one!—ask who would be there to take me home after surgery.

That tonight I’ve been fed out of my sister’s fridge. That my sister and brother-in-law have had me stay with them the last two weeks, despite being busy and having a baby, and that what was supposed to be a weekend turned into two weeks! That I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with my amazing, adorable niece.

Someone being moody, hehheh.

A post shared by smokegrey (@smokegrey) on

人见人爱。Yes, I’m totally biased. 🙂

That all week, and all today, I’ve had people care enough to ask me what’s going on, how I am.

That my sister-in-law is finally out of the hospital after 43 days, and can eat. That this eases the strain on my brother a little.

That I come from a country where I can walk down the street, in shorts, alone, late at night, and feel nothing at all, that worrying about my safety isn’t the first, or even the second, or the third, thing on my mind. That I can even walk along the street at all without dodging open drains, random gawkers, traffic, importunate strangers.

And where you see all of this on one road.

That my friend C has been, as usual, open with his home and his time and his appetite, and will also be accompanying me to the airport on Friday so I don’t have to schlep my own bags.

Mmm, amazing burger at Luke’s Oyster Bar and Chop House, with C.

Meat and oysters. My mouth was very happy; my waistline perhaps less so.

That my friends have made time for me, to go shopping, trawling Katong for food, to play Rock Band, to eat very good food, to waste time trying to figure out a labyrinthine board game. 🙂

Thank you, universe. More often than not, I forget this, but that doesn’t make it any less true: I am lucky to be loved in so many ways, by so many people. Thank you all. ❤


Moving, and Weekends

Before we moved to Jakarta, the husband and I hadn’t spent much time together in a year. He started this new job, you see, in June 2012, and wound up travelling for work a lot. When he took the job, he was told to expect 25-50% travel, but he wound up being gone more often than not. From July last year to January this year, he would spend approximately 3-4 weeks away in Mumbai, fly home for maybe 3-6 days, and then the cycle would repeat.

Eventually the husband’s involvement in the Mumbai project ended, but then the Jakarta project needed his attention. By then we’d been talking for a couple of months about the possibility of his accepting an expatriate posting to Jakarta. We also discussed the option of having him commute through the week; essentially he’d spend the weekdays here, staying in a hotel or a serviced apartment, and flying home for the weekend.

I know lots of couples do the long-distance thing, especially if both of them travel for work, and we’re friends with at least one couple who did the weekday commute thing. When we talked to friends and family about moving, several asked why we didn’t do the weekday commute thing. After all, Jakarta is less than two hours’ flight from Singapore. Not moving would have meant that I’d still be in Singapore, still have access to familiar things and faces, have a support network. We wouldn’t have to subject our rabbit and cat to a move, or to quarantine. There were plenty of good, practical, sensible reasons to split up, for him to commute instead of us packing up and moving. When it came right down to it, however, the reasons for not doing so were fairly simple: I didn’t want to.

I was tired of missing him. We’ve been together for twelve years, nearly thirteen years; this November we’ll have been married for five. He’s thirteen years older than I am; statistically this suggests that we’ll have many fewer years together than most couples closer in age will. I was tired of going, “Hello? Hello? Are you there? You’re breaking up…” into the phone or computer every couple of nights, as we attempted to stay in contact. And after a year in which neither of us was employed full-time, I was reminded that I really do like the husband, and I like spending time with him. I don’t want a marriage that exists in the spaces between the other things we do; I want to place my marriage at the centre. I want to crawl into the same bed every night, and to spend lazy Sunday evenings sprawled across the living room, reading, watching TV, maybe playing a game, or hanging out with the furries (see the furries? Wouldn’t you want to spend an evening cuddling them too?), instead of watching him pack for another week away.


I wouldn’t say I’ve ever lived anywhere else but Singapore, really. A short stint working at Club Med Phuket when I was young, a couple of months in Sydney while I was working on a project, and a healthy amount of travel are all interesting things to have done, but it’s not the same as committing to living somewhere else. I didn’t want to wait and to wake up one day, be 40, and go, “I should have tried it!” and feel too afraid to expand my horizons. So this, along with the missing, is why we’re here in Jakarta.