Cultural Cringe?

He’s an angmoh, kwai loh, Mat Salleh — as the white man is known among some non-whites in this part of the world.

He was driving a large SUV. He entered the Shell station somewhere along Bukit Timah Road this morning, right after I had done so.

As I was the first to pull up to the pumps, I naturally assumed that the smiling Chinese/China/Vietnamese/Myanmar (who knows which) pump attendant hurrying out from the kiosk would be headed for my car.

But no!

She headed to where the SUV was, leaving my car to be served by a plump, panting middle-aged attendant of sub-continent origin whom I assumed — wrongly — would look after the SUV, since like the SUV, she was second out of the kiosk.

I don’t usually get all worked up when white people are given more prompt and perceived better service, like what one gets to hear and read about from certain passengers who fly Singapore Airlines.

In fact, I have always got good to excellent service when I fly: perhaps because I don’t travel that often, so don’t have the chance to run into flight attendants with cultural or colonial cringe problems!

Anyway, back to the Shell station incident.

I don’t think the Chinese/China/Vietnamese/Myanmar (who knows which) pump attendant is old enough to suffer from colonial cringe. But then, cultural cringe, like chong yang, could be in the DNA of some people.

To be more charitable, perhaps he’s a regular customer, unlike me. Or he’s a good tipper. Or he’s a big spender, which he certainly was, as I found out. He was right behind me to pay and he must have bought a full tank’s worth as I heard the cashier telling him “$158”, just after I had signed my credit card slip for $50 worth of petrol, be4 discount.

I always tip the pump attendant with a token $1. And did so today. I must say I felt a bitchy “yeh” going thru my brain when the SUV driver came out, waved a cheery goodbye at his pump attendant and then was off.

Perhaps he had given her a tip be4 he paid his petrol bill?

Certainly hope so for her sake!


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