I told you that I was heading off shopping in Singapore last Thursday. Well I did. I went to Orchard Road, which is to a confirmed shopper what Dinidu is to a chap manning a checkpoint; a massive opportunity for some guilty pleasure and enjoyment, even though it might cost someone a few quid.
If you like designer labels, if you like consumer goods, if you like food, whether expensive or cheap or medium, then Orchard Road is the place. If you like cheaper fake designer things or even cheaper genuine non designer things then it's the place. If you like shops where they treat the customer properly, where they don't follow you around like they do in Sri Lanka and put things back as soon as you've put them down, making you feel guilty that you looked at them, but also where they don't ignore you and act as if you're an unwelcome interruption to their conversation, as they do here in the UK, then Orchard (as we call it) is the place for you.
Rudyard Kipling eat your heart out, I think I've just written an even better poem called "If", without any of that deep and poncey stuff about being a man and walking with Kings and stuff.
Orchard is stuffed to the brim with malls. Each mall is about the size of Majestic City, but as you walk along the road there's one mall after another. They have real shops in them too.
In short, Orchard Road is a total blast for materialistic and shallow shopping loving girls like us.
I've got to a nice stage in my shopping life, one in which I can get a lot of enjoyment from browsing, trying on a few things but not necessarily buying. This is specific to clothing, trying on books looks weird and I've never quite mastered the balancing them on my head thing. But it means I can check things out, see if they suit me and reject things that look crap on me. That's the theory anyway.
I was in a mall called Paragon, I think, out of all the Orchard malls I've investigated, this is my favourite as it's got a G Star shop and a Diesel shop practically next door to each other. G Star is my current beau in terms of jeans and Diesel is a label I'm always curious about. I own a small clutch of Diesel T shirts and have grown rather fond of them but as yet haven't bought any other attire with the big D on it.
I walked past a white woman, she had that dowdy English look about her. It's a look that exists as sure as taxes do, I just can't describe it. As I passed her I realised the dowdiness was mostly because she was crying. I'm a highly sympathetic sort of chap who likes shopping but the sight of a crying woman sends me off into an area of manliness.
You would think that with two daughters, an ex wife and a Sri Lankan Mother I'd be used to dealing with crying females, that I'd be the perfect chap for a sobbing woman to come to and rest her teary head on. But no, I am to crying women what George W is to American international relations. Well, I exaggerate, I'm obviously not that bad, but you get my drift.
To me crying women are scary and dangerous, even more so than normal women, a term I use with that je ne sais oxymoron feeling. Give me a cryer and I don't know if it's best to cradle the head and rub the back in a burping a baby sort of way, or if I should hold a hand or make a joke. Often I do them all to play it safe. I have been advised, by a woman no less, that it's best not to say "it's ok, just let it all out". I have taken this advice in good faith but I don't know why it's correct. I'm told that good comforting of crying women involves saying not too much but also not too little.
If you're a woman I bet that makes perfect sense doesn't it? Well to us men it's jibberish, which is why most of us are scared to crap of you lot crying.
The woman, the crying one, was in her thirties, perhaps even her twenties, and she was holding her phone. I assumed that she was crying over some sort of boyfriend or relationship issue, the tears had that look to them and the crying seemed to be that sort of romantic variety. I walked past her, clocked the crying and contemplated asking her if she was alright, us being Brits together and all that. The other British bit kicked in, the one that makes us keep ourselves to ourselves and mind our own business, so I carried on with my perusing of designer labels.
Five minutes later I walked out of the Calvin Klein shop and passed her again. She was still crying but this time was talking on her phone. It was clear to a me, with my superior empathy, that she was talking to the boyfriend, begging him to reconsider but he was holding firm. Again I contemplated offering help, but the next shop was calling me and the boyfriend (ex) probably had it all under control.
Then, after coming out of the interesting travel shop, which had a magnetic globe that I sort of messed up, I saw her again. There was an older man talking to her, a white bloke, and he was asking her what "he" looked like, does he have short blonde hair and is he about this height. He led her up an escalator where he was saying he saw him a minute ago.
The cogs started to whirr in the old Rhythmic head as it dawned on me that this was no lovesick young adult business, it wasn't some romantic shenanigans because of an argument over which red wine to drink or which film to see. No, it was a mother who had lost her child.
Even now, as I think back, I wish I had asked if I could help her. As a parent I know how she must have been feeling. Being Singapore I know that the child would have been found safely and all would have been okay. As she was led up to the child there was a small crowd of Singaporean security guards looking on with looks of total cluelessness. They didn't have the faintest idea what to do and were happy that the older white bloke was taking care of the situation.
If it had been in Sri Lanka there would have been a crowd of about a hundred people watching and offering help. If it had been in the UK the Police would have been called and things would have been highly organised and serious, rightly so. Singapore didn't have a system for this and was lost.
I learned a lesson though. I may be crap at comforting the fairer sex when they're bawling their eyes out, I may have some stiff upper lip Brit in me and I can be an arse at times but, if I see a crying woman, next time I'll ask her if I can help.