Sunday, 16 November 2008

Send Your Sinuses To Singapore

The Vicks inhaler was rammed up his left nostril. His eyes were closed in a feigned slumber as the rhythm of the MRT lulled the passengers bound for Redhill.

What at first glance seems slightly incongruous becomes less so the longer one lives in Singapore.

Sinusitis is a significant problem in this part of the world. There used to be an advert shown on New Zealand television that extolled the virtues of a preparatory medicine. It guaranteed that by taking the product one would "send your sinuses to Arizona".

This is one reason I have never had an inclination to visit Arizona. I also now believe that the geographic accuracy of the advertisement's claim leaves much to be desired. Most of the sinuses ended up here in Singapore instead.

Much of life takes place in an air-conditioned environment and maintenance of these units should be, but is not always, a priority. The result is nasal congestion.

Similarly, the advent of green awareness in Singapore has seen more people switching off their "aircons" and going back to more energy efficient devices such as electric fans.

Not that this alleviates the allergies. Dust and other pollutants are simply distributed in a different manner and pollution is a problem here, especially so when the Indonesians decide to ignore their neighbours health and fire half the countryside.

With the current focus on heritage matters in this country what an opportune time to revert to that stalwart of colonial times, the 'punkah wallah'. The humble bearer pulled a cord that in turn gently raised and lowered a canvas flap, generated a breeze within the house.

This might be just the thing to re-employ the dozens of foreign workers that will be sent home as a result of the downturn in the Singaporean economy.

There is however one serious flaw in my labour redistribution plan. While the colonial bungalows of old Singapore could easily revert to this system of cooling, most of us now live in high rise condos or on HDB estates.

The small balconies outside where the airconditioning units are perched were never designed for a squatting and loin-clothed figure pulling listessly on a grimy piece of string.

Until they solve this architectural challenge I will snuffle my way to the chemist for another inhaler refill.

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