A fine culture

Singapore is a great place. Not that I have always thought that, but hey, changing my mind (or not changing it) is my prerogative, especially when it is about my opinions on somewhere, something which, even in the most liberal definition of other people’s business, must fall into the realm of my personal control.

It is inordinately famous for its attitude to chewing gum (no, but apparently changing), queues at the airport (unheard of), and underground shopping malls (ubiquitous).

It is also famous, at least in my mind, for fines. The fine culture comment is not mine – I am not clever enough for such word play, or devious enough for plaigarism (although I suspect the turner of the phrase did not realise its compact genius either, given his non-English-speaking background). But I can confirm it as true.

There are fines for spitting, fines for waiting, fines for taking a taxi from the wrong place (I am guilty of this for sure). There are fines for eating or drinking on the MRT (consider me guilty of that one as well, several times), or carrying certain types of fruit (admittedly horribly stinky).

But my personal favourite is the fine for not having your gas tank full enough when you cross the border into Malaysia. Because gas is cheaper there. So if they didn’t fine the average Singaporean for not having his/her tank three quarters full when crossing the causeway, s/he could go and save some money in Malaysia.

Imagine the complete social collapse that that would engender. I mean, if people could buy cheaper petrol they would spend the cash they save on crack cocaine and prostitutes. The next thing you know you would have schoolkids with their socks down and it is a slippery slippery slope from there to complete societal destruction. So, should you be driving into Malaysia from Singapore, don’t forget to fill the tank. But don’t do it. Drive into Malaysia from Singapore, that is. Go to Malaysia and hire your car there. It is much cheaper.

And what is with these punishments for self-destruction? Don’t climb on the train tracks. You will be electrocuted and die. And if that does not completely stuff up your social diary for the rest of your life, we will send you the cleaning bill and pursue your hapless relatives through the courts for the cash.

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