Go ahead, have a guilt trip in August

Go ahead, have a guilt trip in August

I hope you have a pen and paper handy because in honour of Cheryl's birthday going viral, I thought I would start off this week's column with a little Singaporean logic quiz of my own.

Jack wants to go to Tokyo for the weekend and he has three flights to choose from. Flight A takes one third as long as Flight B, but is three times the price of Flight C. Flight C is 21/2 times longer than Flight A, but has USB chargers in every seat and a better movie selection. Flight A's price will go up by 20 per cent if both Flight B and C become fully booked.

Which flight should Jack take to Tokyo?

Answer: None of them. It is ridiculous to fly all the way for just two nights. He should wait until the SG50 four-day weekend in August.

I am sure most of you got this question right. After all, it seems like everyone began to tackle this problem the moment they found out we had an extra holiday. I am sure everyone remembers the whole rumpus a little while back when everyone demonstrated their patriotic spirit by making plans to leave the country the minute Aug 7 was declared a holiday.

I personally wasn't all that surprised by the reaction. I mean, what did we think was going to happen when Singaporeans found out they had a four-day weekend?

It doesn't take a genius to predict that there would be an astronomical spike in flight bookings.

We see a long weekend, we book a holiday. It is a reflex action. It is one of the unique things about us that makes us uniquely Singaporean - like complaining or queueing for mee pok.

Still, I can't help but feel that this one is different.

It's almost like abandoning a loved one on her birthday even after she called your workplace and got you an extra day off so you can celebrate it with her.

If it were one of my parents' birthdays, they would never let me get away with this. And that got me thinking - maybe there is a way to get Singaporeans to stay put in August.

If there is a force more powerful than the desire to go to Bangkok for the long weekend, then surely it is the parental guilt trip.

At the very least, I think we should give the strategy a shot. Instead of just urging people to stay, the SG50 committee should try guilt-tripping people.

As a guide, I have provided the following passive-aggressive open letter, written on behalf of a country that just found out its citizens are not going to come to its birthday party.

Dear citizen, I'm not angry, I'm just a little disappointed.

I see you have booked a holiday on my 50th birthday weekend. You know how much this birthday means to me, I can't even remember how many times I told you about it.

I stuck little stickers all over town to remind you and I have more or less spent the past few months doing nothing, but making lists of 50 things. Still, you decided you want to go on a holiday at the same time.

Well, what can I do? I can't stop you. You are an adult and you can make your own decisions now, you've told me that many times.

I guess I'll just have to get used to it.

But don't worry about me. I'll be fine on my own. You go out and enjoy yourselves in another country. I'll just stay here. I have a lot of things to do anyway.

You know, little things - feed the Merlion, crafting foreign policy, providing citizens a sense of rootedness and national identity - the same things I have been doing for the past 50 years without receiving a word of thanks.

Look, I know a four-day weekend is rare. And I know it is nearly impossible to get an unexpected public holiday these days. I remember the time when our table-tennis team won a silver medal at the Olympics. I, too, thought that there was going to be a holiday after that.

So I get that you want to spend this time with your family. And I know it doesn't matter that the only reason you are getting a four-day weekend is because of my birthday. Family still comes first.

What I don't really understand is why you can't spend time with your family here at my birthday? I'm not asking you to come alone.

I mean, I went to a lot of trouble to put together a nice party. I thought that since I'm going to turn 50 only once, I should make the birthday a good one. There are going to be a lot of events. If you stay, I promise you won't be bored.

Never mind, you have your reasons. You don't have to say it. I know I am old now and not very fun to be with any more. You think I'm uptight, I've heard you tell your friends. I guess it serves me right to be left alone on my birthday.

These days, you would rather hang around Bangkok or Hong Kong or I don't know who else. Whenever you get a little bit of free time, off you go.

You are only with me when you need money or when you are not feeling well.

I wasn't always like this, you know. I actually changed for you. A long time ago, I was a backwater. But then because you wanted all kinds of things, I had to become a newly industrialised nation. Don't you remember?

And it's not as if I ask that much of you. I try not to ask you to do things for me because you are so busy. My two big requests were for you to do national service and to have babies. You couldn't even give me the babies.

And now you are leaving on my birthday. I don't even know what I have done to deserve this.

Anyway, that's all water under the bridge. Your booking is made, the non- refundable deposit has been paid. So yes, go and enjoy yourself on my birthday.

Just know that even though this hurts very much, Singapore always loves you.

jeremyau@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 20, 2015.
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