It had been an especially gruelling travel schedule and so one Tuesday in Singapore this December rather than going out on the lash for the umpteenth night in a row a colleague and I decided to check what was on at the flicks. A quick bit of research around lunchtime showed the best option was Ridley Scott’s Iraq spy movie, Body of Lies. To be safe we booked online though we had nothing to worry about, with just ten of the seats taken.
We bundled down to one of Singapore’s many shopping malls that evening where there was little sign of the credit crunch. The place was mobbed making negotiating the countless cluttered escalators to get to the top floor cinema a very trying experience; Singaporeans, like many in this part of the world, have zero spatial awareness.
I cannot stand shopping malls as a rule. The muzak gets on my nerves; the sheer volume of people buying pointless tack annoys me. In situations such as negotiating a mall, I switch off – I go on autopilot, turn down most of my sensors and adopt a sort of tunnel vision.
A spot of nosh, a quick pee (there’s nothing more annoying than needing a piss during a movie) and film time beckoned. Into the cinema with ten minutes to spare and we’ve got the whole place to ourselves. We plonk ourselves down at the centre of our allotted aisle and wait, leaving a gap of one seat between us because a) I’m tall and b) two blokes going together to a cinema frankly need some breathing space or people will wonder!
A couple come in and sit a couple of rows behind us. Two more come in and take up seats at the far end of our aisle. Still, with barely five minutes to go before lights down it’s about as busy as a Lehman Brothers board meeting.
Suddenly they started filing in. Not in any great torrent, but a steady number. At no point was this cinema, which could hold around 200, busier than 25 people. For some strange reason though 15 of the said 25 people had opted for tickets on our row.
Gradually our row filled up. We were shunted more towards our actual seat numbers as the row filled up, even though the rest of the room was pretty much empty. To my right a gigantically fat pair were chowing down on three courses of cinema junk food, blubber rolling onto the arm rest where my elbow had been.
The situation was crazy and very Singaporean in the lack of spatial awareness and the supreme observance of following rules, in this case seat numbers.
It got to a point whereby there was a guy and a gal who came in just before lights down and who had the end seats of the row. They were taken as we had shunted everyone to our right down by one to ensure we had a seat between us. The film was about to start, the man could have had a centre seat on just about any other row in the place but, oh no, he wanted to stick with what he had been given, the crappy pair of seats on the end. He called an attendant over. Our extra seat was swallowed up. The entire row was full. Crazy-la!
As the ads came we made our move getting in everyone’s way as we tramped over the refuse of my neighbour’s junk food, trod on people’s toes, tripped on people’s shopping and clobbered others with our bags. We bolted for a nice empty row two ahead of where we had been. Phew! The movie was a humdinger; the movie experience uniquely Singaporean!
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