Saturday, June 04, 2005

Hawker Politics

Six of us old friends met up for dinner on Saturday night. Instead of the usual SUNTEC or orchard road dinner, we decided to eat at Newton Hawker centre where we could order a spread of dishes and share them among ourselves.

It's not my first time there, nice place.. open air at some sections, complete with a hearty selection of local hawker fare. Such places are increasingly being replaced by sanitized-airconditioned foodcourts. My other favourite places are Chomp Chomp (at Serangoon Gardens - forever cannot find seat one) and the food centre at East Coast Park (recently renovated - I however prefer it's old spacious look).

Land of touts (photo taken from

So we were standing around looking for a seat, but it was still early and many tables were empty. One friendly uncle approached us and offered us a table (he was the owner of a seafood stall) but we hesitated, knowing that if we sat there, we would be obliged to buy from him. In fact he made this quite clear;

"how many of you? - five? six? here, just nice.. you can sit here, this table is big enough, if you have more people coming you can... take the long table over there, but..... you should give me priority la"

"er no thanks, we will.. walk around first"

"walk... around... ah?" gives me the if-i-let-them-go-they're-not-going-to-come-back look

We stand aside to discuss and also wait for our sixth friend to arrive. This time, we are IN BETWEEN two rows of shops that are facing each other. The uncle's shop on one side and another shop opposite.

We were in no man's land.

Suddenly this old auntie with a terrible hairdo closes in on us... getting pissed off already... more and more people corner us.. "Boss, we have tiger prawns, blah blah.. stingray.. lobster" Can't you see we DON'T WANT YOUR FUCKING SEAFOOD

I decided enough was enough and went to get a seat on my own, so I walked towards a round table for SIX. The auntie (this time a fat one), followed us and wanted to direct us to a table for FIVE which was nearer to her shop and she said... "I can get another chair for you" But i ignored her and headed for the table for SIX (which was supposedly in shop 1's territory), she said..

"no-no that one is different"
Different? of course it's different, it has enough seats!!!

I ignored her, there's a damn table here for SIX, why do I have to squeeze at "your" small table for FIVE? As we began sitting down, shop keepers from both stalls converged at our table.

We were in the middle of a confrontation that was happening over our heads.

Fat auntie started by accusing the uncle for being "guo fen" (going overboard) for stealing her customers, Uncle then said that we approached him first.. I just sat there and watched in a mixture of anger and disbelief as they were arguing in hokkien. It was an ugly scene which drew stares from other tables and turned heads. It was starting to make me sick and spoil the fucking mood.

The uncle lost the argument and backed off, I guess he was being a gentleman. Anyway how can anyone beat an angry fat auntie in an argument? Impossible. "Hell hath no fury like a woman's scorn"

Auntie left a menu on the table. So, just to please them, we ordered their sting ray for a lousy ten bucks and nothing else. haha

I've heard that touting was bad at Newton, but I've never been in the middle of it. Ironically, this place is one of the popular attractions for tourists. Where better to showcase our ugliness(competitive edge)?

Yet again, another display of all things Uniquely Singapore!..


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