Human behavior never ceases to amaze me. Human behavior on the bus in particular.
There was the lady who told me she was carrying the baby Jesus inside her womb. And there was the balding guy with the Hitler moustache who professed his undying love for me, and the Vietnam vet who offered me a joint, and then who could forget the little old man who pulled down his pants and took a dump on the seat.… Now I have my Singapore bus story.
I am all for good foot hygiene. Let me be perfectly clear about that. I can even imagine instances where it would be necessary to conduct foot hygiene in public (though I have to stretch my imagination to do so). But when I saw a man clipping his toenails on the upper deck of the No. 7 bus, my mind just sorta seized up.
He had the front seats to himself, but the bus was far from empty. I was seated on the other row, but I didn’t even notice him until I heard that distinctive cleop sound of a toenail being forcibly shortened by nail clippers.
My head swiveled around from staring out the side window instinctively. Such a familiar sound, so very out of place…
He looked like any kopi stall assistant. He was wearing a droopy blue and white striped polo shirt, baggy gray shorts and sandals. Actually, the sandals were on the floor next to him. He was bent over his right foot, eyes inches from toes and head inches from the wall below the front windshield, and with every lurch of the bus, his bristly hair brushed that wall. His face, what I could see of it, was set in that sort of stony-blank mold of concentration.
We pulled into a stop with a shuddering lurch. I waited for blood to flow.
A dim part of my mind wondered if I should put on my glasses, just in case a clipping happened fly in my direction, but I couldn’t seem to tear my eyes away. I knew, knew that this was going to end badly. And I didn’t want to miss it.
We pulled out again, and I guess he was satisfied with his left foot. He moved on to the right. But the angle was wrong or he was finally, belatedly worried about smashing his head in, because he then put his left foot on the seat in order to finish his little mobile DIY pedicure.
It was at this point that my fear of being blinded really kicked in. Yes, it would end badly. For me. And still I couldn’t look away.
Destiny cheated me of my resolution. The bus pulled up to Dhoby Ghaut and I had to disembark. The cognitive dissonance, the catharsis denied is fading only slowly. But I know that somewhere in Singapore there is a kopi stall assistant walking around with 9 3/4 toes, who will never, ever attempt a mobile pedicure again.