Trolley terrors will kill us all

In the past, I've been accused of not taking Singapore's law-and-order issues seriously.

When I hear a friend mutter the phrase "low crime doesn't mean no crime", I stifle a giggle, point out what a real crime is and then rob his apartment.

It's all a matter of perspective.

I've been chased by teenage drug addicts waving knives through a London park. I've been chased by teenage charity collectors shaking tins in Marine Parade.

The teenage drug addicts shouted: "Give us your money or we'll cut your throat."

The teenage charity collectors usually say: "Give us your money and we'll give you a sticker."

The two aren't quite the same thing.

But it turns out I was wrong to make fun of Singapore's comparative safety.

A youthful crime epidemic washed upon our clean, sanitised shores this week.

A teenager was spotted sitting in a supermarket trolley.

I know. It's like Conrad's Heart of Darkness, isn't it? When society breaks down and all sense of law and order is lost ... we sit in a shopping trolley in a funny hat.

And to really underscore the horror, the teenage girl was sitting in the trolley and... taking selfies.

On the streets of Liberia right now, former child soldiers are sitting on the kerb and saying: "What we did was bad, but a teenager sitting in a supermarket trolley and taking selfies? That's just evil."

I read the story several times in various publications to check if I had missed something - a crucial fact, a soupcon of insight that might explain the public outrage.

People seemed so angry you would've thought the teenager was sitting in the trolley and peeing on other people's shopping as their trolleys went by.

When I was a teenager, I stacked supermarket shelves for three years and witnessed genuine crimes - masked guys holding up the cashier girls, aunties stealing frozen beef joints and employees throwing tins of soup against the wall to get them dented and discounted.

OK, the last one was me, but it was 20 years ago and I was poor.

The supermarket staffers even had trolley races. A co-worker and I once raced our trolleys down our respective aisles and asked an elderly shopper to judge who was the winner.

She was one of our Saturday morning regulars - a lovely, jovial auntie. But she insisted my colleague won so I pushed her into a freezer full of chickens.

(No, of course I didn't. She was an old woman. I just gently brushed her into the bakery section instead.)

But the vitriolic reaction to the teenagers' irreverent - but mostly harmless - trolley ride was balmy.

First, the girls were accused of putting their safety at risk. Apparently, the trolley "riders" were "endangered".

It's a shopping trolley, not a Formula 1 car.

More than one commenter pointed out that some irresponsible parents had even put children into the main section of the trolley. And I immediately cowered in the corner because I am guilty of such socially unacceptable behaviour.

I do it partly because those pull-out flappy children's seats were clearly designed only for the malnourished offspring of dwarves.

Getting a wriggling child's legs through those silver squares is like trying to thread the eye of the needle after 10 pints.

But mostly, I dump my daughter in the trolley for fun. She plays racing cars by herself and I slowly bury her under rice and damaged tins of discounted soups. (I still can't help myself.)

Apparently, sticking my little girl in a trolley is "disgusting" (another comment read online) because I did not factor in her unhygienic shoes.

Where do they think she goes to school? An abattoir?

Clearly, they are confusing me with that parent who grabs his kid by the ankles and drags her through horse manure before dumping her into a shopping trolley.

That's not me. Thanks to therapy, I haven't been near a farm in months.

According to reports, civic-minded citizens also sent photos of other shoppers misusing trolleys to various news sites. (How do people "misuse" trolleys? Are they wearing them as hats?)

Rather than speak, we now snap and tweet in the shadows.

I fear the day is fast approaching when an eyewitness tells a police officer, "Yes, I saw the whole thing. She murdered him in cold blood, battered him to death with a tin of discounted soup. I saw her flee in a shopping trolley. No, I didn't try to stop her. No, I didn't say anything. But I took some really cool photos for Instagram!"

If I saw a teenage girl sitting in a shopping trolley, I wouldn't burst a blood vessel snapping photos.

I'd probably ask her for a race.

 

This article was published on May 4 in The New Paper.

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