I work at the Airport, and everyday it’s busy and a constant struggle to keep up with the demands of work.
But there are some incidents which really stick in your mind, and the variety of experiences can sometimes be downright disorienting.
Let me relate two incidents which happened in recent memory:
- While walking along and performing my duties, I saw a young tourist boy startle and look around anxiously, as if he were looking for someone or something. Soon enough, his face broke into a wretched frown and a look of distress broke out on his face, he started crying. It was obvious he was lost and he frantically turned round and round looking for his lost parents, screaming for his father in Chinese.Several passersby turned their heads immediately, reacting to the child’s cries. It didn’t matter then that this boy was from a foreign land that was detested by many Singaporeans, or that many of the people standing around him were foreigners too. Many of them looked concerned, and so was I. I reached out to the boy and asked him where were his parents, but in his haste and frightened state of mind, he ran off in another direction looking for his parents.
I found the boy again when he was brought to the information counter by a middle-aged Singaporean “Auntie”, who did an excellent job consoling the boy. Of course, at the reception desk, we did our best to find the boy’s parents and they came running for him as soon as they could. They thanked us, but there was no need. All in a day’s work.
- This other incident happened weeks ago when I encountered a raging airline passenger who insisted on hogging a ticket counter until his problem was resolved. His flight had been delayed and he was visibly upset, his face flooded with blood like he was a thermometer about to pop.Customer service reps from the airline and my team were trying hard to calm him down but he just kept mumbling, grumbling and pacing the counter, refusing to release the airline staff on duty until someone resolved his problem. Amidst the tense encounter, we were “treated” to a thorough display of racially abusive curses – I will not do the man any favours to repeat his racist pronouncements.
I won’t name the nationality of the man because it will not do any good even if I did. All the more terrible is the fact that I share the same religion as this unfortunately rather nasty passenger.
These two incidents stick out in my mind these past few weeks as I thought about the difference between the local men and women who trained and fought hard for their medals at the Olympics and Paralympics.
In the case of the boy, he was a young child in distress. Everyone felt a sense of empathy in this case, in spite of race, language or any other barrier. In the unfortunate case of the racist passenger, my colleagues and I, and the airline staff, felt belittled and divided, treated as though we were somehow at fault for being of a different skin colour from one another.
Maybe that is the feeling and message we are sending across to our athletes as we cheer the local and deride the foreign-born talent in our teams.
I have but one small wish, if I may, and a prayer for my fellow Singaporeans – May we find it in us to accept others, regardless of their flaws and differences, and be inclusive in spite of our misgivings.
The writer, who wishes to remain anonymous, works at Changi Airport. Her writing has been edited and rewritten for clarity.