Many chance encounters: random or SG small?

Is Singapore really that small? After all, aren’t we already 5.3 million, pushing 6.9 million?

But I could swear that based on personal experience, recent and in the past, I might as well live in a small kampung, the way I keep running into people I know or people who know someone in my extended family or in my small circle of friends.

The latest random meet up happened only on Monday morning when I went to hand over a small unit I own to new tenants whom I don’t know from a bar of soap since they came via property agents.

Yet, one of my sisters in law who came along to give me moral support discovered that the male half of the two tenants is actually a long-time business associate of her late father and her brother! (They used to supply cooking gas but have switched to rice cookers for hawkers and restaurants!)

OK lah, this may not seem such a co-incidence given that SG is quite small. But note this. This SIL wasn’t supposed to be my moral support. My sister was — till I discovered in the middle of my nephew’s ordination on Saturday to be a minister of the BP Church that she had another appointment.

So I turned to one of my many SILs — who happened to be sitting next to me in the pew — and asked: “Can come with me instead?”

At first she demurred but I kind of pulled rank and she agreed.

Thus there were two chances she won’t have met up with her family’s old business associate: If my sister had been available or if she had ignored my rank “pulling”.

I can’t also dismiss this latest “encounter” as just one of those co-incidences when three other random meet ups similarly occured over the past 10 days.

One morning I was on my way to Ikea to buy curtains when i noticed some flyers in my car from Spotlight. After glancing thru them, I decided to head there instead, as it being in Plaza Singapura meant I could also check out if Hongkong’s famous dim sum shop Tim Ho Wan had opened yet!

After I picked up the curtains needed at Spotlight and was about to leave, a woman passing called my name!

She’s only an acquaintance but she’s a close friend of one of my best friends. And we ended up with her keeping me company over lunch and dessert — she had intended to see a film at PS but found what she wanted to see was showing at a cinema somewhere else. Was at a loose end and so obviously was glad to join me to “kill time”.

Now if I had gone to Ikea as planned, I won’t have run into her — tho who knows I might have had an even more meaningful encounter? Or perhaps none?

A couple of mornings later, I headed for the Long House in Upper Thomson Road, something I haven’t done for years, after we moved away from that district.

It was on a whim after reading a mouth-watering review of the popiah, rojak and otak sold there in an old copy of the Sunday Times.

Frankly, the popiah and rojak were nothing exceptional and the otak which i had intended to take home wasn’t available. 😦

What was available was the sudden appearance of another old acquaintance who lived behind Thomson Plaza and whose driveway I used on and off when TP’s carpark is full.

I ended up chatting to her and her husband while they ate their lunch. And believe it or not, I spied out of the corner of my eye an old colleague who was with a female companion also ambered into the Long House to eat!

Perrhaps that’s not too surprising — after all, my acquaintance does live in the neighbourhood. Also, I read the following day in the newspapers about the reopening of OCBC’s premier banking outlet right next to Long House. My ex-colleague was probably there for the event!

Still, what followed a couple of days later made me more certain that I seem to have entered a chance encounter groove .

Last Wednesday, I had intended to go with mum, my sister D and mum’s maid Picky Siti to eat at Itacho at ION, one of my fav good value Japanese eateries.

As usual, wheel chair-bound mum, D n Picky were dropped off to head for the eating venue while I wen to park the car.

On the way to rejoin them, i ran into an ex-colleague whom I haven’t seen for more than a decade, similarly with a woman companion who may or may not be his wife — like the other ex-colleague at the Long House. (Where I used to work didn’t have a reputation for being the Peyton Place of SG for nothing 😆 )

We exchanged pleasantries as people who are out-of-sight out-of-mind are won’t to do. We each declared the other to look soooooooo well 😆

When I got to Itacho, it was again a long queue which is par for the course. We went down to B3 to check out the eateries there and would have settled for Bali Thai if not for the fact we had eaten at its outlet at West Mall only a few days earlier.

Then I saw Imperial Treasure Noodle and Congee House on the other side of the atrium and rushed over while the rest of my family entourage took their time.

Too bad, at least 3 others were in front of me and, taking a queue number, I resigned ourselves to another late lunch.

The restaurant seemed to have more tables for those who came in pairs rather than in bigger groups.

It was then that I was joined by a pair of acquaintances — they are bosomy with the other acquaintance whom I encountered in Plaza Singapura and like her, I’ve not seen them for a couple of years at least!

Small chat; their upcoming holiday and mutual friends. Then they were given a table while we continued to wait.

The door girl, taking pity on us, whispered that a big group was leaving but because one of them needed a wheel chair, she thought mum and us should wait outisde till she cleared the narrow space between tables be4 sitting mum who was also in a wheel chair.

We were cheered by the news but I was even more cheered –and surprised — to see that the other lady needing a wheel chair was none other than NH, a good and long time friend of mine. Her “big” party comprised her helper and a number of her cell group members, all of whom I know very well too and haven’t met since last X’mas!

As a result we had loud and rather over-long exchanges and introductions much to the chagrin of other customers further down the queue. Probably that of the restaurant too, as we blocked their titchy entrance and to their business, time and turnover is money!

After the last of that day’s chance meetings, I continue to muse: what if we had continued to queue at Itacho? I would have missed running into those friends and acquaintances for sure, but who knows whom else I might or might not have seen or met?

It’s like the road not taken or crossed; turning right instead of turning left; leaving 5 minutes earlier instead of later. And vice versa!

Reminds me of a Chinese saying which went something like that: if fated to meet, will meet even if a 1,000 li separate us; if not fated, would miss each other even if seated face-to face! 😆

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