The Adventure Chronicle

Singapore Police- Nice Guys

Another picture-less anecdote. This one, I think, extremely funny. Like, really really funny. If not. Shocking? Unbelievable? You tell me…

So, my first stop in Singapore was the police station. My 8 inch Gerber hunting knife failed to make it through the metal detector. I wasn’t dumb enough to think it would. I was just dumb enough to forget that Singapore wasn’t another lawless state in South East Asia, but instead the most regulated and safe city in the world (the knife made it through Thailand and Malaysia no problem). FYI, hunting knives are on the controled imports list in Singapore.

So, I was escorted by 2 security guards, immediately and briskly to the police station. I would be losing my knife. The train was departing the check point without me, this was going to take a minute, I was on my own to get into the city. The officer accepted the knife, admired the blade, re-secured it in the sheath and asked for my passport. It was easier to consult for my information than asking me personally for the load of forthcoming paperwork.

“Will I be getting that back?” I peeped?

He stared at me.

“Is there a fine?” I ventured.

He stared again.

“How much, sir?”

Before he had a chance to respond, I was at full speed.

“Sir! It’s for camping! I wasn’t trying to sneak it in, I thought it was ok. I casually left it in the bag, isn’t that proof!? How dumb could I be?”

He stared at me again…

“Sir, it’s not a weapon! It’s a tool! I NEED it to camp. I NEED it to survive. It goes with my tent, my tarp, my sleeping bag, my stove! SEE!”

“Where are you coming from?” he asked?

“Kuala Lumpur” I responded.

“Where are you going?”

“TAMAN NEGARA! It’s the jungle! In Malaysia. See I was in the Cameron Highlands, hiking; I almost died, it was raining and I slipped, it was 150 ft until…” he cut me off with that stare.

This wasn’t working. He was filling out the papers, I saw “fine” several times.

Drastic times call for drastic measures. “Sir! I’m a teacher! A lowly teacher who just likes to camp! I got so wet and exhausted, I needed a break… but, back! I’m going back! This is a break…” The stare.

I dropped my bags. I took out the tarp. I unrolled it neatly, as I have done so many times. He was watching, intrigued? I took out the tent, put it on the tarp. Then, the stove! I was setting up my butane stove. Why? I have no idea. I was acting, I NEEDED that knife back: it’s 8 inches, beautiful black blade, black rubber handle, black skull masher hilt, 150$ (on sale for 55$ at the time from Amazon), my baby. I had no plan, my body was executing, I’m an executor.

“Uh… Sir, what are you doing?”

I didn’t know. So I didn’t speak. I finished, the stove could be lit, but first, the sleeping bag! I just kept moving. Finally, they came. “See! I’m an outdoors-man, that’s all. I need the knife sir, for survival. Defense in the jungle, for cutting sticks and such, don’t you know!?” I think I may have asked if he had seen Bear Grylls next, I can’t be sure. My adrenaline was pumping and it has adversely affected my memory of everything that came next.

This was not ok. In Singapore, there be laws, and these laws prevent “scenes” and “situations.” This was a scene. This was a situation. There was a guy pitching camp in the police department. Is that illegal? What should be done? There was a sense of propriety at risk, this had to be stopped, I saw it in his face. The bored TSA guys were smiling (I think?). I was shocked at myself. I NEEDED the knife back. And, what’s more, I couldn’t pay any fines. “Sir!” he didn’t know what to say! “See, sir, camping sir. I’m telling you…” “Sir!” he said.

“OK OK OK OK” for camping. He ripped up the paper. “You need to pack that up.” I started, I knew I did. “Sir, I’m sorry, I was just trying to show you… you can take the knife, but I think a fine is excessive…”I ventured, seeing the paper ripped up and assuming that was the plan.

“You can have the knife” he said. I was shocked.

“Next time, don’t bring this into Singapore. Leave it in Malaysia” he instructed.

“Yes sir, absolutely sir, I know just the place sir! There wont be a next time! Well, there ill, I’ll come back, I’ll spend money… but…. no, uh… knife! Sir, thank you, you….”

He was scribbling something. I wasn’t sure if he even heard me. When I was finishing my packing, he handed me a slip. “If someone hassles you about the knife, show them this; you’ll be fine. BUT, keep it in your bag, eh? So no one can hassle…”

“Sir, I never intended it to meet the light of day…”

I was escorted out by the two security guards. I looked at the bored one that caught me initially. Skinny, mustache, probably my age, looked the part of a wall flower. “Was that exciting?” I asked. “No.” He said. “What about taking me in?” “No” he said. “I thought maybe you were in line for a commendation or reward…” We looked at each other for all of 3 seconds. I think he mentally smiled.

I asked the other guy how to get into Singapore. He was talkative on the way over and I think he was rooting for me in the station. “You take a bus, where will you go?” I had no idea. The plan was to find someplace when I got out of the train station. “Orchard Rd?” he ventured after tiring of my contemplative silence. “Yep” I chirped. “I was just going to find a hostel.”

“Take the yellow bus” he said.

“What number?” I asked.

“The yellow one.”

“The number doesn’t matter?” I was worried there were a couple yellow ones.

“No, just make sure it’s yellow.”

“OK! Great. Thank you so much” I said. “Oh, do you know where an ATM is, I have no money…”

He informed me there wasn’t one in the station. “OK, well I can walk to one outside, where is the exit?” I asked.

“It’s a long walk” he replied.

“Well, I mean I literally don’t have anything but 200 Thai baht, I even spent my last Malaysian Ringet on this donut and a magazine in Kuala Lumpur.” We stared at each other for a while.

“You know what my friend?” he rhetorically posed. “It is a very very long walk.”

“I really have no other option” I snickered, exasperated at the turn of events and starting to think about what I just pulled in that police station.

He smiled. Patted my back, counted out 2.40 Singapore Dollars; walked me to the correct bus line (there were 5). Told the guy to make sure I got on that bus. Smiled again at me.

“Sir, I can’t…” I stammered.

“Have a good time my friend” he replied.

“Sir, I am indebted to you… I can’t begin to thank you…” here I gave a solemn wai, as if I was in Thailand. It was the only gesture in my repertoire to convey the thanks and honor I felt. He smiled.

“See you soon my friend” drifted into my ears as he turned to go.

“You will! I will come back! With the knife! So we can…”

He was walking away.

I smiled, hoping he was smiling. I looked around. I was in Singapore. Shit, it’s clean! I thought. I waited in line, silently. I got on the bus, the last seat. As we pulled off, I considered that not only did I just avoid paying Singapore a fine, but I convinced them to pay ME?


7 responses

  1. Hack

    Wow, Z! What a great adventure. I have never heard of any gaijin who get breaks in Sinapore. You had to be at your mostintensive best. This is truly a great episode in your memory book. Hack

    March 17, 2010 at 9:02 pm

  2. Joe


    March 18, 2010 at 6:30 am

  3. Mama

    your dad and i weren’t kidding when we suggested a life in the theatre…or sales! Congrats for thinking on your feet.

    March 18, 2010 at 4:09 pm

  4. Tony Z, the elder

    It’s in your blood, kid. Your grandmother reminded me of the true story when her mother was arrested for making hootch in the family bathtub. Angie rounded up all of her brothers and sisters and marched them downtown to the Leadville Police Department. The police didn’t know what to do with a dozen or so little rug rats holding hands while sitting peacefully on the front steps of the station, in front of the whole town. The official solution? Release your great grandmother to the custody of her pride.

    P.S. Bear Grylls now is promoting a some kind of contest for something called Accent, I think. The winner gets to go with him on an adventure. Bon chance.

    March 20, 2010 at 5:33 pm

  5. Tony Z, the elder

    It’s not accent. Pardonez moi.

    March 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm

  6. Dia

    Are you trying to get arrested?! Yikes

    March 22, 2010 at 7:22 am

  7. Hey guys, just come across your blog. You guys have a knack for writing travel stories! Have to say, the police/ security guys in Singapore are just doing their job… but I think your spontaneity unpacking probably caught the guys off-guard… don’t think you should try that unpacking thing again though…
    BTW, S$14 Guiness is normal in singapore… there are bars to go to where they have 2 for 1 offers. Try the Mint Toys Museum bar, its on the roof and overlooks Raffles Hotel with a nice sunset view.
    Betel Box Tony

    March 31, 2010 at 10:49 pm

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