“Some internet tabloids latched on to the ‘ang moh insists on his way‘ angle and their audience watched it with the gleeful intention to judge” chuckled Mr. Bubble.
But you, the learned reader of FiveStarsAndAMoon, are different. You want context. Here’s what happened before the camera’s “record” button was hit:
Mr. Bubble was making a few tiny bubbles…as he always does. Some station managers turn a blind eye, some leave him alone and many ask him to stop. Be it SMRT or SBS, no one knows for sure whether it is ok or not.
“…but I always stop when asked to stop” he assured me.
The incident at Harbour Front MRT was no different. The SBS Transit chap stormed over and in an unnecessarily harsh tone asked Mr. Bubble an unusual question: “Excuse me, what can I do for you”?
“Huh? I don’t know… is there something you can do for me?” was the reply. Mr. Bubble figured that this wasn’t going to be the usual ‘stop-blowing’ request, readied the camera…and put away the bubbles.
Bubble-man is the persona of 55 year old fitness coach and artist, Sandy Snakenberg. We invited several of Sandy’s internet critics to meet up with him, but everyone declined.
“I do this bubble blowing everywhere. And everywhere I go it draws crowds and brings delight to people. But there always is this two or three individuals who cannot accept that people are having fun and doing something different, so they lodge complaints”, explained Sandy.
In the video, the SBS Transit staff was heard saying “…you can do this anywhere outside the station, no one will stop you”. He’s wrong though. If we wanted to be legalistic about it, there is no where in this green Garden City that Sandy can blow his bubbles in peace. Without an authority denying him the pleasure.
He does it on the green at Raffles Place MRT; and that’s wrong because that’s NEA property. To do so would require a busking licence.
He cannot do it in the city; because public areas belong to the URA and he needs to be in designated zones and hold a licence for busking. Perhaps even an entertainment licence from the CID.
He cannot do it at commercial buildings; those are private property and the building owner can sue for private nuisance. Some have called in the police to remove him (although Sandy adds that there have been management who are warm and welcoming).
He’s been viewed with suspicion at HDBs. He’s been complained on at JTC commercial grounds where he sometimes coaches.
So many statutes have been pasted by the internet mob; public nuisance, harassment, assault under the Penal Code, the SMRT Act. Now, statutes don’t work that way…but people believe that they do!
“I know it’s just bubbles…but doesn’t it make you stop and think a little?” asked Sandy.
Are we really not empowered to do something without a fear of the “authorities”? Are we being disabled by an inexistent rule? Is legal paralysis the reason why great innovations such as Air BnB and Uber never saw the light of day in Singapore? Because we’re too afraid that “the authorities” wouldn’t like it?
“I was very upset in the video because I was approached in this sarcastic and condescending manner”, said Sandy.
In the video, he appeared to be mocked. “I’m so sorry, just now you were having so much fun and now you are so sad I’m so sorry…” said the train staff.
“Anyone would have went nuts!” laughed Sandy.
It looked like this bubble blowing was something that this SBS Transit staff didn’t like and he arbitrarily found every way he can to justify why it is not right.
“Perhaps we got off on the wrong foot. If I had the chance, I want to make it right with him and ask him out for coffee and to talk it through”
And then there are the prejudiced comments and the racial slurs leaping off Facebook. People have viewed the video with the intent to judge. What if it was a Singaporean who was blowing the bubbles? What if it was a child? Would the comments have been different?
The bubbles Sandy makes do not become slippery when it hits the floor. He specifically bought the mix from Toys’R’Us, precisely because they’re made to prevent soapy floors. It is good to know that the makers of the toy had children and the elderly in mind and worked out a solution.
…soap? more like snot me thinks…
Perhaps SMRT and SBS Transit would like to also think about how to solve the problem of slippery floors caused by umbrellas wet from the rain.