I burn. Every pore, every muscle, every joint. Inside, as well, in my heart, where shame burns as surely as my tired legs do, for sharing this, this most embarrassing of moments.
As I have been wont to do this past week, unhappy and unwilling to cook for myself, I have been walking down to Holland Village for dinner, sampling the local restaurants. Tonight was the same, as I have been trying to acclimate myself to the walk down as the sun sets. The walk to Holland has been a bit frustrating. It starts out pleasant and cool, a gentle breeze usually kicks up along Jalan Kuning1“Jalan” is Malay for “road”, so Kuning Road. It is often abbreviated Jln, which I will do often. and I wonder why I dislike the climate so. By the time I approach Holland Ave, the main road through the Village, though, I begin to sweat a bit. The breeze dies down, and the urban heat rises. At some point, I’m sure this will stop to bother me as much as it does, but my thoughts turn to fans and air movement as I close in the eateries and the food centre where the hawkers tout2but not really, touting is actually a no-no their scrumptious creations.
I settled on an inside location today, and tried Indian, as I continued to sweat – it probably didn’t help that I ordered chicken masala, though I did ask the waiter to tell the chef to take it easy on poor little old me. Still, it was good food and I left satisfied, though sweaty, and started the trek back up the hill.
That same breeze never seems to be hanging around Jln Kuning on the way back up. But no matter, I was in the mood to sweat for once, and I kept up my pace, eager to get back to the apartment, maybe take a dip in the pool after. I climbed the stairs up to the park behind Parvis, squeezing myself against the rail to allow a couple with their stroller through the narrow causeway, laughing that I can only get so skinny. I approached the gate to Parvis, took out my wallet and tapped it against the sensor that allows only Parvis residents in, and…
… nothing. I tapped the other side. I thought that it must be particularly sensitive today, so I opened my wallet.
No access card.
No way into the grounds. No way into the lobby, and most importantly – no way into the unit. I do have keys for the “front door” though technically, it’s the back door, from the service lift. The main lift from the air conditioned lobby goes right into the unit, and it will not allow you to push a unit number if you don’t tap in.
In short, I had locked myself out of the unit.
Panic set in, but I quickly found someone who could at least let me into Parvis. Now drenched with sweat, I double timed it to the management office, but of course they were closed. At least the number for security was posted, so I called that, panic now rising, and explained the situation. The heavily Indian-accented guard explained to me3several times because I am foreigner and don’t fully understand the combination of accents and the Queen’s Own English. that I had two options – he could call the locksmith at $130 to open the door, or call the lift operator for $50 to let me into the unit.
Well, of course, I chose option 2. Wouldn’t you?
Security opened the lobby entrance for me remotely. My upstairs neighbor came in, amused but a bit worried at my disheveled and frantic appearance. Her and her husband had moved in not long before I had so she could understand the horror and panic. She wished me well, but there was nothing she could do – she could only allow me into her unit, not mine.
Five minutes later, an incredibly good looking man rolled up on a scooter. His jumpsuit, adorned with reflective stripes and a sort of uniform appearance, identified him as the lift operator I was waiting for. He got off his bike as I opened the lobby doors, smiled in a reassuring way and said, “Security’s right behind me. No problems.” Both him and security guard were in good spirits and reassured me that this was no problem. A few switches within the lift control panel and we were on the way up. I warned them of an incredibly barky dog in the unit, as the First Class Pooch is when strangers come into her space. The guard scooted to the back of the lift. The lift operator laughed.
In the unit, I quickly deposited Mini outside and offered my Visa card to pay for the lift override, happy at least this ordeal was over.
“No Visa. Cash only. You don’t have cash?”
No, of course I didn’t. I just went to dinner, all I had in my wallet was $16. My mind swam… what could I do? Go back to Holland? That would take way too long. Could I be billed? To the unit, to…
“There’s an ATM in the market near the HDB.”
I should explain at this point the layout of Parvis’ backyard. Behind my unit, is the gate where I discovered my folly. Beyond that lies a triangularly-shaped park that is also behind a set of high-rise towers, public housing that is ubiquitous within Singapore. They’re referred to by HDB – Housing and Development Board – the body responsible for their construction and oversight. Almost every HDB complex has its own market, the one behind me on Commonwealth has not only a marketplace, but a cafe and a hawker centre as well.
It also has ATMs.
“I’ll wait for you, no problem,” said the overly kind lift man. I nodded my thanks and started to put on the loafers I had just taken off4shoes off in our house, family!. I looked down. My running shoes still lay by the lift entrance, from my time on the hamster wheel this morning. I was wearing a dry fit polo, the ATM could only be 500m away or so…
I ran. I ran with my pockets full, my phone on one side and my wallet on the other. I had checked, triple checked and quintuple checked that I had my key card and keys on me. The shorts I was wearing had deep pockets, so I picked up the pace.
I ran. Through humidity and the windless Singapore night, I ran until my heart pounded and my lungs filled with so much wet air that I felt like I might drown. I ran through the park and down the hill. Two policemen were on patrol, and my mind, now expecting the worst, filled with scenarios fit for a sitcom as I thought I might have to explain my actions. What explanation would work? I jogged on, trying to look every part like this was my evening routine, as I made a show of looking down the streets before I sprinted across, sweat now permeating every essence of my being.
And, of course, there was a queue for the ATM. Elevator music entered my mind, the rise and fall of a thousand bands all playing Yakity Sax coming crashing towards an abyssal stop as time stretched for as the man in front of me leisurely topped off his cash card.
Enriched by the graces of the ATM, I ran some more. The HDB flats are below us, so I once again ran uphill, past the patrolmen again, across the park, to the gate, which I now, finally, had the key…
… and it was open from a previous resident. I sprinted through, my labors now audible to anyone around, and the lift operator sat lounging on his bike, a smile wide across his handsome face. Without a word, he jerked his thumb behind him towards another, elderly, and confused, security guard, who, for one ludicrous second, couldn’t fathom white this overweight white guy just came sprinting up to him and wordlessly handed him a fifty dollar bill. He finally nodded, and the lift man laughed again, thanked us all, and got on his bike. Visions of Santa riding off into the night on his sleigh drew a chuckle between my gasping for air, and I entered the lobby, assured that I will never forget my key again.
Another tenant was coming in at the same time and assessed me as we boarded the lift. “Out for a run, huh?”