I have decided, on the Fifty Good Deeds front, that Thursday will be "report card day". I hope that's Bridget-Jones-esque enough for the genre. This, then, is report card number one, on the subject of tissue selling.

Now, if you're hoping to find, within this post, sordid tales of international black-market organ trading, I might as well disappoint you up front. We're not going to be talking about that kind of tissue. No, we're going to be talking about the kind of thing you blow your nose on, you know, the papery stuff. Oh, alright then - there'll be a short but highly shocking story about international black-market organ trading at the end.

Back to the paper. Tissue sellers are found in many corners of the globe. It is, let's be frank, one step up from begging, but it's not begging, because as we all know, that would be illegal in Singapore along with many other things (such as failing to flush the toilet, chewing gum, and being naked in the privacy of your own home if the neighbours can see you but not, since 2004, oral sex between consenting, heterosexual adults and thank goodness for that).

Besides, those little packets of tissues are a useful, nay essential, part of Singapore life. Sooner or later you're going to learn about hawker centres and food courts. Think shopping mall food court. Ok, now pretend the food is actually really good and prepared on a short-order basis. Right, now lower the price. Lower - that's more like it. You can get a full and delicious meal for around S$3.00. That's about $1.90 in the US, or $2.50 in Australian, or $2.20 in Canadian, or 1.5 euros, or a quid, or for gosh sakes where are you from then well why don't you just go ahead and perform your own currency conversion. The fact is you can't cook a meal in your own home for that little.

However - and here's the catch, plus the place where I get back to tissues - when you rock up to one of these places, it will be crowded, and busy, and you're going to have to find a place to sit down. And little packets of tissues are the locally-acknowledged placeholders. Pop one down on the table in front of where you intend to sit, then wander off at your leisure to survey your food options.

You might think, from this, that not-technically-begging sellers of tissues do a roaring trade in Singapore. Really, I haven't a clue. And there's a debate to be had about whether one should encourage this type of behaviour at all or outrightly refuse to participate, instead favouring the middle-class beggars with official badges and little receipt books which line the most popular shopping streets of this city, shaking their tins and ringing their little bells. But that's a complex debate and we can have it later, or indeed not at all.

Because the woman who came towards me through the crowd as we stood under the shelter of a shopfront, waiting for the usual afternoon deluge to pass; the woman who offered those little packets to one person, then another, gracefully accepting each refusal and moving on - well shit, she was selling tissues you know? And I realised my first Good Deed didn't have to be a big one. So I gave her some money, and she offered me a fist full of packets, but I only needed two. And then she moved on, and it was done.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, a nineteen-year-old girl was waking up in a bathtub full of ice. She vaguely remembered the previous night's clubbing, and the mysterious but charming man who had bought her a drink. As her eyes started to focus, they fell on a telephone sitting on a chair by the tub, and a piece of card containing a set of printed instructions. She shook her head slightly, to dispel the fog, and squinted at the words. "Important!" the card began. "You need to dial emergency and ask for an ambulance..."

I feel a bit funny about the report card thing, like I'm crowing to the world about how great I am, especially when I've started with something so small. But I had this intention of, sort of, making it part travelogue, part report card, part validation of the little things that lots of people - probably you! - do from day to day that go towards making this world a better place.

Grand gestures are grand, but they take organisation and there's a lot of good intentions that fall shy of that initial hurdle. Sometimes I think you should just do something, however small, or reach into your pocket rather than tie yourself up analysing where the money could or should end up.

Besides, it's my first week - you expected world peace? If I can achieve that I will be crowing.

Lastly, a timely reminder to be careful with your drinks if you're out partying this holiday season. Those organ traffickers are everywhere. So I've been told by a friend of a friend of mine.


Vee said...

Well done ,you are right every little bit helps. Funny little concept though the whole tissue thing.

I gave money to a 15 year old busker on the weekend, after I put the money in his guitar case I thought to myself I hope that money goes to music tuition or something like that and he doesn't go off and buy booze and ciggies. But my intention was good, right ?

Funny a friend of a friend of a friend of mine told me that same organ trafficker story ;)

Josie said...

i am *new* here but i see you name on blogs I read so I thought I'd visit.

I am intrigued by the tissues. Do you think they could help me hold my parking space because I HATE it when people take my good spot on the end by the pillar in no door ding land.

Anyway - I will stop back later and catch myself up with you life - it sure sounds fun and exciting.

Bea said...

Hey, Josie. I think I've seen some of those tissues being used to reserve parking spaces along the sides of roads, but I don't know - they looked kind of... squashed... to me.


Meri-ann said...

You are so right, the small gestures are truly the ones that matter.

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