What triggered the longer than usual conversation between my hairdresser and I, covering topics that we have not ventured into, even after more than 10 years of my regular visit, I do not know. Maybe it was the closing hours. An empty salon with me wanting a haircut, her working with the shaver and scissors with such dexterity, and the rest of the staffs idled, waiting for the clock to strike eight-thirty. All of a sudden, she pondered out loud on how long we have known each other. More than 10 years I reckon. She nodded, I nodded, and we smiled. More than 10 years we reckon. “We are both getting old,” she giggled. “No, you look the same. I am the one who is getting older. Look at my white hairs!” I gasped.
My hairdresser is the quiet type, seldom talks. And she understands my Cantonese. She never complains about my straw-like hairs that are harder to style, take much longer to cut. Unlike what some hairdressers did in the past. Most amazingly, she is always there. I know which day of the week she is off. She lets me know her holiday schedule in advance. She even called me once to let me know that she has moved to a different branch, in a different mall. Every three weeks, I turn up at the salon. And she is always there. We always stick to the same hairstyle, for many years. Then one day, she wanted to do something different. That didn’t bother me. Variety always does people good. Whatever that makes her happy. That new style didn’t last. And she morphed that into something else, during one of my subsequent visits, while I was napping. That too, didn’t bother me.
No, I wouldn’t have known that she is older than me. Shocking, indeed. Yes, I guessed right that she is still single, which too is shocking. She looks decent, and sweet, charming, and attractive. But I reckon even Cupid can have some hits and misses. Coincidentally, on the same day, I had another conversation with a friend of mine, on her relationship that doesn’t seem to work out. She too looks decent, and sweet, charming, and attractive. This world is strange, in a melancholy way. If I could champion one new idea for this coming new decade of 2010, I would encourage everyone to set a target to get married and have kids by the age of 22, not later than 24. Start the high key dating process when you turn 16, not later than 18. This world would be a much happier place, in so many ways. Think about it.
I had my fear prior to moving to my newly relocated workplace, away from the central business district. Now that I am three months into the move, in a strange way, I begin to like where I am. I guess if you are the type that often see the good in the things around you – though some may argue that the good and bad in life is nothing but illusion – it doesn’t quite matter where you stay. Next to my workplace there is a museum. Opposite is a university. Just a stone’s throw away is a Cathedral. At about five every evening, I hear the chiming of the church bell. Within a five minutes walking distance, there is a mosque, a state-of-an-art cinema, restaurants of low end to mid to high end. There are expensive hotels, service apartments, private condos, and there are a good numbers of cheap motels. There is a KTV next to Hotel 81. Down the road, there are dubious health centers and night clubs and more KTV joints dotted along the main road that leads all the way into Little India.
I often leave office on time (if there is another idea to champion for this coming new decade of 2010, that would be: It is OK to leave your workplace on time). But on one particular evening, I had to stay till seven, which is late for my standard. As I dragged my tired body out of the office and into the condo where my car was packed, I saw a group of young girls in very tight, dark, and sexy outfits, by the taxi stop in front of the motel and the KTV. As I walked towards them, more taxis pulled up at the stop and more girls with similar outfits stepped out of the vehicles and joined the group. What a scene! Seven o’clock, the magic hour of the assembly. Surprise, it was not. As I often see groups of girls with such outfit, pacing along this stretch of the street, at times on the phone. Some would wrap their arms onto some Westerners. Maybe they are legitimate couples, I wouldn’t have known. Some days at around nine in the morning, I would spot some girls dressed in sexy party outfits, san make-up, walking out of the motels looking for a taxi.
But if I am to instead take the pedestrian walkway on the opposite side of the road, away from the stretch of motels and lounges, I would inevitably bump onto what I presume as students of art and fashion design. The school is just right there. Some look like models, with short skirts and long boots. With fashionable hairstyle, very fashionable or rather unique outfits. Some carry a huge portfolio of what I presume as drawing of their designs. Most hang out with their friends. Cigarettes in their hands. Oh happy student’s life.
Either walkway I choose, I often bump onto tourists trying to haul a taxi, get frustrated that the taxis don’t stop for them. And I would direct them to the nearest taxi stand, where there is often a queue of taxis waiting for passengers. And no, please don’t jaywalk like that. There is a traffic light down the road.
Between my office building and the university opposite, there is a pedestrian traffic light that is only in operation during non-rush hours. During rush hours, it is perpetually lit up in red. Initially, like many pedestrians I observed, myself included, did not know of this strange traffic light behavior. Then one day I spotted a little signboard (that has always been there I suppose), next to the traffic light, stating the operation hours. I suspect many don’t notice the signboard. Everyday, I used to see someone standing there, getting frustrated, and has decided to cross the road in red regardless, causing the left-turning traffic to stop. It affects me, as a driver, because the traffic light timing does not take into account of the crossing pedestrians, during rush hours, on that particular crossing.
Then, the land transport authority did something smart. They printed the traffic light operation hours onto the road, which cannot be missed. Whoever thought of that deserves a medal. That idea simply works.
One morning, I saw a pedestrian traffic light next to the condo where I park my car partially vanished, only left with the main shaft bent in an unnatural way. What knocked the entire traffic light off, I have no clue. Did something knocked the traffic light off, I have no clue. The next day, it was replaced by a brand new shinny traffic light. And on that day, across the junction on my right, a van stopped at the traffic light, with a missing wheel. 20 or so meters away from the van, a wheel lied motionless on the road. In around that few blocks of buildings, near my workplace, I often see the same girl, for a few consecutive days, or a few consecutive times within the day. Then all of a sudden, I don’t see her walking on the street anymore. And that is replaced by another girl, on another day, in the same area. In around that few blocks of buildings, there is an old man, with a crumpled face, slowing pacing around the blocks on a walking stick, every morning. I can almost tell the time by where I meet him.
Maybe all these strange encounters are simply illusions. Maybe time itself is an illusion. May all these flashbacks are simply frames that will fill up yet another 10 years of my life. What triggered this longer than usual blog entry, I do not know.