more or less

same train, different page - click for larger view

On the train home this evening, I stood between a man with a unicycle, and a man in a wheelchair. Not once did they make any eye contact. In fact, they stood with their backs to each other throughout the whole journey.

Wheelchair-Man: [clearing his throat loudly] Interesting ah, your bicycle.
Unicycle-Man: Oh, yah. It's a unicycle. [looks away]
WM: Must be hard to balance.
UM: Not too bad. Must practise. After a while, it's quite easy.
WM: Can go fast?
UM: OK, quite fast. Still slower than a bicycle. Haha, one wheel less so also slower than you!
WM: Ha.

There is a long silence. The train stops. The Unicycle Man steps aside for a lady to get to the door, steps back, takes off his cap and runs his hand across his head of short grey hair before putting on his cap again. He adjusts the strap of his backpack - a gigantic bright blue mail bag - takes out a comic, its pages browned with age.

The Wheelchair Man closes his eyes and keeps one hand hooked around the pole in the train cabin. The back of his neck is all liver-spotted. Like the Unicycle Man, he is tanned. They both wear waist pouches and are in their 50s. But those are about the only similarities between them. And of course, there are the wheels.

WM: It must be very hard to cycle that thing. What's the most difficult part?
UM: [takes his cap off, smooths his hair, and puts it back on ] Er, no lah, really, it's easy, quite easy...Well, I guess the only part I think that is difficult is getting on up the unicycle.
WM: Ah, yes yes, I see...getting on that thing must be very difficult.

Of course this conversation did not take place...except in my 5minute daydream as the North-South train wormed its way to Toa Payoh on a slow Tuesday evening, wondering what will be the chance of getting on a train with a man with a unicycle and a man in a wheelchair again!


sUdkeOki said…
love ur 'conversations' in the air. be cool for 'em to one day be on reel.
tcn afen said…
HAHAHA jesus that is a great situation. what are the chances.tough enough to find a guy on a wheelchair in an MRT, what more a guy with a unicycle?
ampulets said…
it was a sad-funny (if at all funny) scene. mostly sad. the immense sense of freedom I imagine the unicycle provides though it appears difficult to ride, vs the mobility which a wheelchair both affords and takes away... though "sitting down" seems "easier" to do.
Anonymous said…
another great post.
i have had conversations a lot like the one you imagined, except without the wheelchair.

you may be interested to see that this has been the topic of an extensive discussion on a unicyclist forum:

i thought i knew most of the unicyclists in Singapore, but this doesn't sound like any of them. i wonder if it was my dad...?
he's recently started learning to unicycle. now wouldn't that be a fascinating coincidence? ....
ampulets said…
wah, maybe he IS your father. But he got on the train at Orchard, and was still on the train when I got off at ToaPayoh.

It's hard to say how old he is, cos he's very tanned and leathery. And though he was wearing a faded uncle batik shirt with worn out black jeans, he had on one of these streethip giant bright blue mailbag on his back. Oh, plus he had on these Camou high-cuts - looks like the new canvas nike. sounds like someone you know?

haha, i was staring.

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