You know the embarrassing feeling when you open the door to the toilet at the same time as another person. Don’t swear on me yet, I guess the next worse thing is Looking directly into the eyes of stranger for more than 2 second. I say up to 1 second is still acceptable for Singapore.
So this happened to me, when I pooled in an Uber cab (BTW its just 5$) on my way to work. I was upset about a problem with my living situation and was banking loads of anger, ready to snap anytime. Which is why I avoided conversation with fellow passengers. We stopped at the traffic light and my gaze fell on the construction truck next to us. Behind the truck was array of workers presumably on their way to work. If you have lived in Singapore, for longer than expiry date of bananas, you have witnessed this for sure.
From the crowd who were catching up on their sleep, he looked right back at me. To my shame it lasted longer than 2 seconds. He had a dark serious face with thick beard and mustache with thin scar running right above his left eyebrow. Must be a very arrogant person, I thought to myself. His tired red eyes glimmered in the morning light. He squinted to get a better view of me. I turned and looked at my watch, as if to pretend I am busy or waiting for the cab to move. And thank god it did.
Then came the next traffic light, and both vehicles again stopped next to each other. Driven by curiosity aka my shameless behavior, I looked again. He was staring into nothingness, perhaps thinking. I studied his clothing, his torn jeans, stains of white paint on it and a shirt that had lost its original colors to several layers of dirt.
Well don’t close this page yet. When you come across this sight what would you do? Well this is what I thought. I sympathized with him for his poor life and compared it to mine. I mean, God knows how long has it been since he had a decent meal and slept well, no wonder he looks grumpy.
Now I realized he is looking right back at me with the same curiosity. I turned again cursing myself and watched the traffic light turn green. Like a poorly directed movie, the same situation repeated and we faced each other again. Only this time, he smiled and involuntarily I smiled too. The smile changed everything I thought about him. He looked like a friendly and decent person.
Now the vehicles started moving and we catch glimpse of each other in the freeway. Sometimes the vehicle over took each other like we were on a race. It lasted for some time until my cab took a different exit from the freeway. He smiled and waved at me one last time and I waved back. When I alighted, I was entirely in a different mood. I thought with a formal clothing and a bit of haircut, he could very well pass for a white collar worker.
I guess that’s what happens when we see someone based on our current state of mind. And that’s why we need to drop the shame and connect to each other beyond all differences. Really look into each others eyes and feel that deep human emotion. For everyone’s journey is different and hard, but as long as we are riding next to each other, remember to smile and wave.