First thing I noticed at the entrance to Singapore customs was a couple of signs saying all tobacco had to be declared, etc. I had a pack of bidis (Indian mini-cigarettes) in my bag from when I was in Bangalore. Did this mean I was gon have to either shed them or pay massive duties on them, or try to sneak them in and risk getting caned? I was sweating this as I got in the long, slow-moving line. Apparently Singapore is paranoid about guerrilla attacks. Wouldn’t You be too, if You sold out the way Singapore did?
I get to the front of the line and the lady says I had to fill out this form. No, You can’t just do it here. So I went got a form and got back in another long, slow-moving line. When I get to the front again, maybe I’m giving off a nervous vibe, because of the bidis. This other lady takes great pleasure in flagging me for extra review. More on this part some other time.
It’s at least a half hour before I get out of extra review. Now for the big decision on the bidis. Do I throw them away and try to live down the regret over the wastage? Or do I go for it, come what may? I ask a security guy what should I do. He says just go for it, so I do. I empty my pockets, put everything in my bags, put my bags on the belt, and step through the detector.
Nothing. I’m free.
Out to the bus bay. My bus done left. I shell out to take another bus to town. A half hour later, bus cruises past where I’ll be staying. I ask them to let me out there, but they can’t. This ain’t Anytown, Southeast Asia.
We cross a bridge and stop at a packed food mall full of Thai ex-hookers and drunk dudes in their 50s. I leg it a half mile to the closest metro station. My metro card from last time ain’t working. I go to the guy on duty and ask him what’s wrong in Hokkien and Cantonese. “What? This card is OBSOLETE,” he says in English, disgusted but with great gusto. I shell out for a new one.
First thing I see when I get out of my station is a guy smoking a cigarette next to a trash bin with an ashtray up top. Wow, I didn’t know it was legal to smoke in public in Singapore. I guess only ashing on the ground is illegal. So I post up next to another ashtray and light a bidi, just for the hell of it.
As I’m finishing, this Indian guy walks by with his friends and does a double-take when he sees me. Priceless facial expression. I finish my bidi and put it out like my life depended on it. As I walk past that guy, I glance over at him. He looks back again with that priceless facial expression, like, “What the hell was this non-Indian migrant Buddhist expat doing smoking a bidi?”
If You come to Lion City, be sure to slip some bidis in your bag, ’cause You never know.