Today was the third and final day of the Singapore Baby Expo, so we went down to take a look at all the baby related paraphernalia available. The Singapore Expo is like a sanitized version of Dante’s hell, but instead of circles filled with sinners there are aircraft-hangar sized spaces full of people having shouting competitions.
There is an eternity of suffering in hell. At the Expo there is an eternal electronics sale, which is always in its last day and is always full of men bellowing about bargains. The bargains are never that great; either the discount is only so much that you’re still paying 30% more than you would elsewhere, or you are buying a geriatric television manufactured from Bakelite and pig iron with a “massive” 6 inch screen (or a no-brand Chinese Android tablet, which is much the same thing).
We walked past the entrance, and it looked like one of those enterprising fiddles that were run out of many disused shops in the UK back in the Eighties. You gave a man with a big mouth a microphone and a gadget to sell, and he’d stand there flogging it to the onlooking crowd. Any punter dumb enough to purchase would be given a box by somebody else in exchange for their cash, and only later realize the contents bore no relation to what they thought they were buying. I’m not saying that happens here, but there have been people complaining that they’ve been sold non-genuine goods at the Electronics Expo, so maybe my sense is right. It’s like the general rule that you shouldn’t buy food from anything on wheels because it can always roll away from responsibility; if you’re buying something that might possibly require a warranty, you’re better off buying it from somewhere that doesn’t make a virtue of its own impermanence.
But we weren’t in the mood for slightly out-of-date iPads today, we needed to walk on, past the hall of the Food Expo (more like Junk Food Expo, I’m afraid), and into the Baby Expo, where at that very moment a small child was being persuaded to sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” through an echoing PA system. The echo, combined with the ‘adorably’ atonal infant made it sound like we were walking into a low budget psychological horror film themed around baby buggies.
I was ready for this. If all the lights were abruptly extinguished and a toddler appeared with its face entirely obscured by hair, I’d be sprinting for the exit.
This didn’t come to pass.
I wasn’t prepared for the prices. Anything baby-related in Singapore costs at least twice as much as it does elsewhere. Nevermind stress and overwork contributing to a lower birth rate here, I think people are taking one look at $180 sterilizers (“reduced” from $260 when that’s already $100 more than anyone should be paying) and deciding a child really is too expensive. The only people who can afford a baby are the owners of baby shops.
We wandered amongst the stalls. Once we were pounces on by an insurance salesman, who tried to flog us a policy, but he was no good at closing the deal. You need brass balls to be a salesman, coffee is for closers, and I only buy things from a proper egomaniac like Michael Baldwin. And in any case, without any prompting he’d guessed I was German, and I’ve had quite enough of people in Singapore getting my nationality wrong. Perhaps he had been distracted by my comedy moustache, but still, you don’t make unforced errors and expect to win in the cut throat world of baby insurance.
So on we wandered through the masses, past gold plated strollers and breast pumps made from diamonds ground up and dissolved in unicorn spit. We bought a waterproof bag to contain all the befouled nappies that our progeny may produce. We didn’t purchase a series of fetal yoga lessons. We bought some towels. This will be my life now, purchasing towels to wipe up stains and purchasing things to put those stained towels into, and then probably purchasing advanced filing systems to store those containers of befouled towels in. We didn’t buy a pair of enormous chopsticks guaranteed to make our child’s hair grow. I bought a sandwich from Subway. I felt vaguely dissatisfied with the direction my life was taking.
Eventually, when it was clear that we weren’t going to buy a thousand dollar stroller marked down from two thousand dollars to a grand and a half, we gave up on the whole charade and headed for home.
On the way out, we’d taken a taxi. There was a paper in the back that we read, and the front-page story was about how a chubby twenty-something had refused to yield his seat on the MRT to an old geezer. An argument had broken out between them, which ended with the younger guy spitting three times on the older one. I’m of the opinion that once you’ve started spitting on the person you’re quarrelling with, that’s a pretty good sign that you’re losing the argument. It’s a bit of a shame that not everyone will get up when somebody else needs a seat more than them, but on the other hand I don’t like being covered in another man’s saliva. Thus I was a little troubled when we got on the train home and there was a twenty-something guy sat in the reserved seat, doggedly staring at his phone in order to avoid the sight of my very pregnant wife.
Another gent elsewhere gave up his seat, which was very nice, but I wondered what was up with the chap in the seat marked for the aged, infirm and pregnant. I mean, he wasn’t chubby enough to count as infirm, and although he seemed to have his finger jammed knuckle-deep in his nose half the journey, I don’t think having a lot of stuff up your nose counts as pregnancy either. Certainly we haven’t endured weeks of ante-natal classes just for my wife to have to blow her nose in a medical environment. I hope.
I would have asked him if he was just vehemently opposed to societal norms and was engaging in a silent protest by refusing to give up his seat, but then I didn’t want to get spat on, so I went home and watched The Godfather instead.