I have just returned from a bit of grocery shopping. I am re-stocking my refrigerator with some essentials - milk and bread, a bunch of bananas, a nice mango - and a fresh packet of cocoa pops. The shops were more crowded than normal. This is because it has been raining all day so I guess people were looking for stuff to do indoors.
Shopping is always a bit of a challenge here in Singapore. Many Singaporeans have little spatial awareness so they block the narrow shopping aisles without paying heed to other customers. There is a tendency to also stare at products on the shelves in a blank fashion. Price is everything too to the Singaporean so they will rummage amongst items trying to find the best value for money. God forbid when there are sales on products. The normally placid and slow moving Singaporeans will get very aggressive in pursuing a bargain. It can become somewhat of a frenzy.
I rarely do enough shopping that justifies the use of a trolley however I have taken to getting one anyway simply to use as a battering ram to clear the aisle ways for me. A bit blunt and rude I know however my patience wears thin in shopping situations and I take small moments of joy where I can these days.
Anyway - the queues for the checkout were long today. I waited in line with my near empty trolley of bread, milk, cereal and fruits. Behind me in the queue was a Singaporean couple with a near full trolley of their own. I noticed that they had four boxes of essence of chicken in their supplies. I have seen this essence of chicken before in Singapore - and in fact years ago mistakenly bought some thinking it was chicken stock. Chicken stock it is not! It is a rather vile liquid substance that is very expensive. It costs about $50 for a small bottle in fact and it tastes nothing like chicken at all.
The line ahead of us was moving slowly. The Singaporeans are generally reluctant users of cash and swiping their debit and reward cards and presenting their discount coupons takes time. I didn't mind. I was in no hurry. I thought I would pass the time chatting to the Singaporean shoppers.
The conversation went something like this:
"Hello" I smiled.
"That's a lot of essence of chicken you have there"
I received an insipid smile back.
"Yes" said the man.
The woman said nothing.
"Pardon me asking" I enquired,
"But for what do you use this essence of chicken?"
"For stress" the man replied
"It gives you stress?" I asked
I received a blank stare in reply. I am used to empty stares in this country and was not deterred.
"How many chickens do you think are in each bottle?" I said.
The man looked puzzled and the woman looked alarmed. Neither replied.
I picked up one of their boxes and read the label. They both now looked panicked.
It says here that "Use Essence of Chicken daily to help you be at your best to face the daily demands of life, and to live life to the fullest".
The man nodded grimly. The woman looked like she was about to cry.
"I would think that the essence of at least 50 chickens must be in each bottle" I suggested. I was enjoying myself now.
I received more grim and empty looks.
"Essence implies that the souls of the chickens must also be captured in this product too?" I suggested.
"What do you think?"
There was no verbal response or reaction from either of them but in a sudden flash of movement the silent Singaporean woman snatched the box from my hand and clutched it to her chest. I suspect that she was aching to rip open the bottle and take an almighty swig to relieve her anxiety. I believe that she is an essence of chicken addict.
Perhaps they both are.