Public transport terminals are often given more credit than they are due, that is, when they’re not being totally ignored. People like to put them on a pedestal and pay homage to bus drivers and taxi drivers and metal handrails and all that – little knowing that MRT stations are the sites of almost all awkward conversations known to man. At these sites one bumps into an inordinate number of acquaintances, and the hi-bye combo is rendered useless here, given that you’d be taking the same train for at least two minutes. There’s only so many times you can say hi-bye in a variety of amusing ways before you have to launch into your Repertoire of Small Talk (RST), and when that begins, all that’s left is to pray to God and hope it lasts the whole journey.
It’s still fine and dandy at this point – until the convo dies, with minutes/HOURS to go before either of you alight. When the RST runs out on either side, both sides will launch into a series of non-verbal discomfitting gestures and body movements. One could only imagine what it would be if both parties vocalised their gestures/movements.
Bob: I shall stare out of the window, as if intensely interested in the flight movements of two birds a few miles away!
Tim: Coolly tapping the side of my gyrating hips, I shall hum a popular tune and feign engrossment!
Bob: Oh look, map of the MRT lines! Now that’s something I’ve never seen before! I shall stare at the map, mouth agape, with what appears to be a healthy curiosity!
Tim: While you’re doing that, I shall pretend to check my inbox and furrow my brow, evidently deeply confounded by the contents of a new text message – when in truth I’m merely fiddling with my Stopwatch function!
Bob: While I shall pretend to be fiddling with my Stopwatch function, while actually just massaging my number keys in a circular fashion!
Tim: Following which I – wait, wtf?
There is a breaking point which comes when both of you have exhausted all time-wasting diversions and yourselves – and still your stop seems an eternity away. This war of attrition finally concludes when someone evacuates before his stop, to spare both of them the mounting silence.
Bob: Oh, Yio Chu Kang! I’m getting off here. Bye!
Tim: Eh? I thought you lived at Bukit Batok.
Bob: Well, uh, yeah, I need to visit my grandmother. In the hospital. She fell off a cliff.
Tim: Oh, okay. Bye!
Tim: *doors close* Finally! That was pretty awkward – eh, f**k, I’m the one who stays at Yio Chu Kang.
*train chugs on relentlessly towards Khatib. Screams ensue.*