June 5, 2012
The first time I was at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel was last year when I went with my son and his classmates to Ku De Ta, a dance club on the 57th floor. Seen from the ground up, the hotel is actually three buildings set apart from each other but sharing one rooftop in the shape of a mother-effing ship, I kid you not. If you don't believe me, click on my photo somewhere around here and the link to its website.
I will let its website describe the hotel for you as everything I experienced in the hotel lives up to its hype - especially the infinity pool at the Skypark that was right next to club. The first time I saw it, I was reminded of the IPod, an object so simple, so clean, even though at first I didn't know what it was for, I wanted to own it simply because it existed. It had the proverbial look of beauty as its own excuse for being. The swimming pool overlooks the city, and the side that directly faces the city has no high walls to keep the water in; the water simply overflows, as if there's pool water cascading over the side all 57 floors down below; it is designed to make you think that if you swim too far over on that side, you'd surely fall over the edge and die. So I swore to myself last year that if I ever came back, I would swim in this pool no matter what. But it was prohibitive. You had to be a guest in the hotel, and it was something like $US 400 dollars a night. This time around, though, I was ready. I looked for a personal connection, someone who was a friend of a friend of a friend who could give me a discount. I found one. I got me an overnight stay for cheap. Unfortunately my son couldn't come as he was working.
So into this scene of breath-taking beauty go I, Ms Social Security-Medicare candidate, well-known among close friends as an accident waiting to happen.
The first day was great, the swimming flawless, the pool exactly the way I imagined it. The next day was something else entirely.
I walk down the wooden steps in the pool, find the water a bit cold, and hesitate, preparing myself for the eventual plunge. I see couples, honeymooners. Pangs of sadness and regret hit me. Terence would have loved this. It has not been an easy year; widowhood is hell. You can't hold grief at bay forever; sometimes your arms get tired, and you just have to let go. For a brief moment, I feel sorry for them, afraid for them. I want to warn them. Marriage is hard, because marriage is life and life is sad. Loved ones go away, then you get old and then you die, so who needs it? I know it's been said many times and more succinctly besides, life's a bitch and then you die, but I like words, so I say it my way. I think the universe heard me. As in - so there's Ms Linda in Singapore, the whole resplendent world literally at her feet, yet thinking such dark thoughts. Ungrateful girl! And that's how holding on to a deck chair, I slip and fall into the pool instead, taking the deck chair with me which promptly falls on top of my head. I've indeed taken a plunge into four and a half feet of water, albeit against my will, and after a series of frantic attempts, I find my bearings and the tiled floor underneath. I stand up quickly, trying to look nonchalant, salvaging whatever dignity I've lost. Oh good, I say to myself, relieved that the newly-weds are still blindly peering into each other's eyes, and no one seems to have witnessed my unceremonious dip. I then try to pull the deck chair out of the water but I can't. The damn chair seems to weigh a ton. As someone tells me later, those chairs have to be solid so the winds don't blow them away. Oh, yeah? Tell me about it.
Feeling nothing, I stay in the pool for an hour, determined to think positive thoughts this time, saying a prayer of thanks for this grace and that blessing. I'm a quick study, see. I know when the universe is asking me to be right here right now. And I see that it is good. In fact, it's gorgeous. And very safe. There's a small gulley built around the pool, so no, you won't fall over the edge and yes, Singapore is a stunningly beautiful city; it's like New York and L.A., but without the dirt, the grit and the hype, all laid out, it seems, for the sole purpose of making its 5 million citizens comfortable and safe. Add to it, thousands of food courts that have the best of Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Thai, Malay and Indian cuisine, not to mention French, American, Italian - you get the picture, and you have a kind of perfect place where the streets are spotless, your stomach is always full and taxi drivers return half of your tip because it's too much. (It happened to me.)
A lifeguard appears from nowhere and pulls the deck chair out of the water. I keep to my side of the pool and stay there. No need to tell him I was the sorry fool that put it there.
Then it's time to go, have lunch and gossip with the Filipino staff later, who are everywhere. When they ask and find out where I'm from, they tell me how they all wish they were in New York. I tell them how the recession is hitting the US, but they say they'd rather be there than here. I think they're being foolish, but the American promise has been so successfully sold, it has woven itself into the fabric of everyone's dreams. Also they think Americans are friendlier to immigrants. They have two-year periodic work evaluations here, and if they don't pass, they have to pack up and leave.
As I walk towards the exit, I notice my left foot is painful and find myself limping. I pay it no mind, as I can still walk. I ask for a bag of ice with the intention of nursing my foot in my room, just in case. A hotel maid promptly gives it to me. No problem.
Just then, a security guard with the ubiquitous cellphone appears. He says, "I think you should go to the clinic, Ma'am. It's right around here, at the mall. We'll take you there."
"Who, me? Why?" I'm like so trying hard to be cool.
Just then, a hotel representative appears from nowhere with a wheelchair. He's also on his cellphone. I tell him it's not a problem. They look like they don't agree. So I finally sit on the chair, and the hotel rep wheels me out, into the elevator, through the mall, and we're in the clinic where I'm met by another hotel rep whom we will call Wangeline, a very friendly smiling woman who immediately makes me feel at home. I am embarrassed by so much attention and mildly surprised, as I find Singaporeans to be generally formal and reserved. The wheelchair guy says goodbye after making sure it's fine with me he can go. The nurse, who I find out later is Cebuano, solicitously takes my info; she asks for my passport; I look through my bag and can't find it; I tell her it's in the safe in my hotel room. I also mention perhaps they should call my son to get my things and check me out. Wangeline asks for his cell phone number and leaves. A few minutes later, a medical technician, who tells me she's from Bohol, takes 5 x-ray shots of my foot. Then I sit and wait. After a few minutes, the doctor calls me in, and right there are the x-ray photos of my foot on a screen. Pointing to a specific spot, he calls it's an old hair-line fracture on one of my toes, but it's healed. He says I must have slipped on that same toe. He writes two prescriptions for the pain and the inflammation. After another wait, Justin arrives with Wangeline, both of them already carrying my things from the hotel; I've been checked out, my bill paid, and given back some $S50 in change. (I don't ask).
I am about to tell Justin what happened when he says, "I know. You fell into the pool around noon, but only asked for an icepack an hour later. That means you were swimming for that long. And you have a hairline fracture in your toe, but it is old and has since healed, but you slipped on that toe."
I look at him weird. "And how do you know this?"
"Wangeline told me."
"She did? How? When?"
"She offered to show me the film. They know everything."
Are you kidding me? The film? They know everything? I didn't see any cameras at all, but that explains all kinds of people going and coming from out of nowhere.
Then I remember. "So did you bring my passport?"
"Wangeline says you have it. It's in your bag."
"No, I looked. I don't have it."
"She says it's in your bag. Look again, Mom."
And so I look again, this time, more thoroughly. And sure enough, it is in the orange pocketbook where it's supposed to be, underneath all the junk I have in my bag. I look at Justin. He looks at me. He knows what I'm thinking. I'm thinking deep dark thoughts about friendly, smiling, efficient Big Brother who saw everything that took place in the pool, in cyber contact with hotel staff every step of the way, hotel protocol, I'm sure, and also in case I, an American citizen, would sue. It's highly likely CCTV's would be installed all over the place, probably standard practice in international hotels of this size anyway. But how to explain the passport? How indeed to explain the passport even I thought was in the hotel safe? Oh, Wangeline, what have we here? What dark mystery is this? Was there a camera in my hotel room or did you look through my things without my permission? Just then the nurse comes out with a folder complete with the doctor's medical diagnosis, the two medications, and a CD with all the information for the insurance company back at the US.
Wangeline has a meeting, but she will send someone else to wheel me out to the taxi stand. Justin says he'll do it. She insists. She calls someone in her cell phone. She hugs me warmly. She leaves. Her replacement arrives in 15 minutes. She apologizes for taking so long.
I'm back at Justin's apartment at around 6 that evening. The whole experience from the moment I was wheeled out of the pool until I was back in our apartment took about four hours. There wasn't a single glitch.
Run like heaven, all right. But my god, it sure is creepy.