Living in Singapore has been an eye-opening experience regarding the mechanics of life. If you think this is going to be some profound post regarding what it means to be alive, I feel it’s safe to say you’ll be disappointed on two front: first in that I’ve never been known to post anything profound, and second, this post has nothing to do with the meaning of life. By, “mechanics of life,” I am literally referring to the mechanical devices which seem to rule my new life: elevators, escalators and automated doors.
Directly before Singapore, I was living in a semi-rural area outside of the city of Mombasa in Kenya. There, my life was almost no elevator or escalators, and only a few automated doors. It certainly wasn’t the Caves of Steal-esque life I lead here in Singapore. Before that, my life in the States was not necessarily the most urbanized, and though of course I encountered elevators and escalators on a regular basis, I would not quite place them in the same level as to which they are now everyday facets of my routine.
It’s gotten to the point where as I go about my day, I anticipate my interaction with them. In order to survive without stress or worry, you must treat these mechanical beasts like they are humans, fickle, selfish, but ultimately willing to help you out, if only to a mild level of inconvenience reciprocated.
Approaching and escalator, you know it’s a bottleneck in the general flow of humanity around you. A quick assessment of your surroundings reveals a group of young people both pecking away at their smartphones AND chatting nonsensically with each other. They’ll approach the escalator as if it were a game, laughing as they plan which on which step to embark. If you’re in a rush, possibly quickening your pace to circumvent this crowd might be in your best interest. Of course, the delay caused by this group is no worse than a delay potentially caused when a building switches directions of the escalators the next day and the businessman is harshly extracted from his routine by his necessity to go up, while in fact each steps seems to yield him only back at the start.
With elevators, you must just assume a wait. You must build a relationship with an elevator over time, especially if it’s in your daily route. What time periods will produce the heaviest traffic; which floors seem to get preference for the lift car; which cars allow you to override their current instructions if you push the correct sequence of buttons, all of these are characteristics of the elevator a person must appreciate.
Finally, automated doors. Some might be labeled “push” or “pull” but you know better. A mere ruse, most likely instigated by the CCTV culture, ensuring endless hours of entertainment for the screen-watchers. Some automated doors, such as those of the MRT (subway) give warning when they are closing. Why? Because these doors take no prisoners and care not if your arm is stuck between them. Learning how to time your leap into the train on the cadence of the chime is a skill worthy of it’s own post. Thankfully elevator doors are much more forgiving and willing to re-open upon detecting a small child’s head lodged in the between. However, there is still gradation amongst different lifts in how begrudgingly they will re-open; some far more willing, others make your squirm a bit first.
As with all parts of your routine, it’s safest to understand all of the idiosyncrasies of these mechanical things over time, but for the most part the mechanics of life here are kind and will gladly ease you into a personal understanding, though you may hear some chuckling along the way.