I have spent the afternoon with some visitors from the US of A. From Manhattan to be precise. There was Chuck, his wife Rebecca and their 12 year old son Chuck Junior. I kid you not. I had met Chuck - senior that is - a couple of years ago in New York. He is an investment banker. Despite his occupation he seems like a nice guy although admittedly I do not know him very well.
It was one of those things that we all do. "If you are ever in Singapore do look me up". Not really expecting that he would. Look me up. But he did - and here he is.
Here they are.
It is their first time in Singapore. For Rebecca and Chuck Junior it is their first trip overseas. Chuck Senior has only ever been to London before and he told me that he likes the English.
They landed yesterday morning in Singapore and I received a call from Chuck last night. He wondered if I was free to catch up. I replied that I was. I suggested that I come by their hotel mid Sunday morning and we could have some brunch then I would show them around a bit. Chuck suggested that we meet later in the day. He told me that they wanted to go to church first. I told Chuck that this was no problem for me and I arranged to meet them about noon. I told Chuck that I would take them out for lunch somewhere nice.
I arrived at the Fullarton Hotel about a quarter past the hour. I was fashionably late. Chuck and his family were waiting for me in the lobby. To my horror Chuck and Chuck Junior were dressed identically. They were wearing very loud yellow checked shorts with stars and stripes tee-shirts. Chuck Senior had on knee-high white socks with patent leather sandals. Junior was sock less and was wearing unlaced Nike Runners. He had a New York Yankees cap on his head. Backwards. He was also chewing gum. Open mouthed.
Chuck’s wife Rebecca is a big girl. She is humungous in fact. She was adorned in a bright green sundress and had an enormous Panama type hat perched on her frizzy bright red hair. She is a ginger - a blood nut - a ranga. She is also as pale as a ghost and is fully freckled as well. The poor girl. The Good Lord obviously gave her a savage beating with the ugly stick as she entered the world. Then he thought what the fuck, and he beat her some more. To complete the picture both Rebecca and Chuck Senior had cameras slung around their necks and they were wearing bum-belts as well. Big ones.
Very big ones.
Upon seeing them my first and instinctive reaction was flight. Swiftly. Immediately. Alas Chuck had spotted me. He called out my name very loudly. He called me Pete. Only Americans seem to call me Pete. I don't know why. I don't like it.
So I greeted Chuck and he politely introduced me to the wife Rebecca and to Chuck Junior. I shook both their sweaty hands.
I said "Welcome to Singapore".
"Gosh" replied Rebecca.
"It's so great to be here"
"It is going to be confusing for me with two Chucks" I said.
"Is it OK if I call the young fella Junior?"
"Sure" replied Senior.
"That's what we call him."
This did not surprise me.
Junior replied "Awesome".
This did not surprise me either.
"How was church?" I asked.
“Did you find one OK?"
"Gosh" said Rebecca.
"We went this morning. We weren't sure if there were any churches here. And they spoke English too. It was awesome."
Both Chuck Senior and Junior nodded in agreement.
Oh fuck was all I could think to myself. Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck.
OK. I needed to get more positive about this so I tried to push the oh fucks from my mind. This whole event needed to be accelerated. Perhaps I could also find some entertainment.
"Before we go" I declared - looking at Chuck Junior
"I should warn you that chewing gum is illegal in Singapore"
Junior stopped chewing immediately and Mum looked panicked. Dad did too.
"So is wearing your cap backwards" I added.
"As is having your shoelaces undone."
Junior made a gulping noise as he swallowed his gum whilst Mum whipped the cap from his head. Big Chuck knelt and tied his son's shoes. Despite these adjustments to Chuck Junior's attire the urge to set him on fire was powerful. I needed to resist.
"Let's go then" I said.
"I will take you to my favorite Indian restaurant"
There were no objections and I thought I might be able to blast them with a good curry. We jumped into a cab and I instructed the driver to take us to Muhtu's. They make the best curries on the island. When seated I ordered a large serve of fish head curry, a spanking Bhindi Jhaipuri, some Roti - and a serve of jasmine rice.
Needless to say all three were reluctant to eat.
Out of sheer politeness Chuck Senior took all small serve of everything except the fish curry. He mostly pushed the food around his plate. The other two claimed jet lag and a big breakfast and they refused to eat anything at all. Even the rice. As I was wiping up my curry sauce with a hunk of roti I asked Rebecca what she did back in New York. When she replied that she was a preacher I nearly choked.
Even though I was quite desperate to say "What the fuck Chuck" I knew now that I couldn't swear.
I had to concentrate.
After our meal - or non-meal in the case of the visitors, we headed down to the quays. The Americans were sweating quite a bit. They were suffering in the humidity. Rebecca and Chuck Senior were very inquisitive though and asked me what many of the buildings were. They took a lot of photos. I told them that the Esplanade theatre was designed in the shape of a Durian. They had never heard of a durian before so I had to explain the fruit and it's strong but unusual smell. Junior looked horrified when I suggested I get him some durian ice-cream to try.
When we saw the new High Court building Junior said it looked like a flying saucer. I told him that it actually was. I told him that the Singaporean government had constructed it in the event of a hostile invasion and that the Prime Minister and all his cabinet had spent all day in it last month - when the Mayan's had predicted the end of the world. I told Chuck Junior that they were prepared for take off.
The Ginger said "Gosh" and Junior said "Awesome". Chuck Senior looked doubtful but he said nothing. However they all went on a photo taking frenzy.
After an hour or so of walking around poor Ginger had turned bright red. She looked like an over ripe tomato. The poor dear was dripping sweat and was claiming that she felt faint. Junior was eying off a McDonalds. I suggested that they should probably go back to their hotel and take a swim. When I dropped them off in the cab I stayed inside the car. I asked them to ring me if they needed anything at all.
I hope they don't.
Yet I somehow expect that they will.