Tuesday, May 24, 2005


When you get on the train here in KL, it’s common to see signs that prohibit food and drink and pets. And public displays of affection. The icon for that last one is a silhouetted couple facing each other but not touching. The label under the sign roughly translates to “No disrespect.”

The authorities have a special duty to make sure people (in fact, only one ethnic group) behave themselves in public. Under the right (wrong?) conditions, such displays could be a jail-able offence. It’s something that everyone knows and is conscious of on some level, but it’s hardly news.

Late one night, a female colleague gave me a lift to my car park and we were finishing a conversation about work. Out of nowhere, two law enforcement types on a motorbike started circling the car. They gave us a wide berth, but they didn’t bother to hide themselves. We immediately – abruptly, actually – ended our conversation and I walked to my car. They stopped their bike from a distance and rode off about half a minute later.

Thinking back, I’m surprised at how automatic our actions were. My friend drove off without a ward or a wave, as did I. There was no nervousness, no fear, just an instinctive response. Pavlovian even. And maybe it isn’t so surprising. Like I said, everyone knows the situation. We just don’t give it much thought.

What I’d like to know is where the guys on the bike came from. I mean, this wasn’t some make-out park or anything. I’m talking tarmac parking bays in every direction. Under floodlights.
Are they always lurking around and we just don’t see them?
And what a job that must be.
Waiting for people to stop their cars and what, face each other?

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