Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Almighty Singapore Tissue

There is no such word as 'chope'. Well, not unless you are in Singapore.

The 'chope' culture here is a very unique one. At one time or another, you must have had a love or hate feeling towards this 'made in Singapore' trait.

You will hate it if someone has used it successfully to 'mark' his territory, which happens to be your initial target. The 'territory' here usually refers to a seat in foodcourt. However, if you are the beneficiaries of the 'choping' culture, you will silently scream 'Oh! I just love this 'choping' thingy!'

If you look up any 'Singlish' Dictionary (Yes, there is such a thing!), you will get a better idea. Grammatically, it is a verb and it means 'to reserve' or 'to hold something for someone'.

Example of usage.

"I chope a seat at the the foodcourt before heading off to get my food. When I return with my favorite chicken rice, I would expect my seat to remain vacant because I've choped it. That is the 'choping' power of my tissue pack."

The origin of the word is unclear. Some believe it is a bastardisation of the word 'chop' which means a 'seal' or a 'stamp'. When you put a seal or a stamp on a document, you indicate some sort of ownership.

For once, the government does not have to intervene and set any 'choping' rules. Over time, the local people have drawn up a set of unspoken rules, not any less respected than our 'fine' written law. The locals are aware of the rules and obey it. The newcomers soon learn that they will be ostracised if they disrespect the rules.

It is that powerful and it is self-enforcing.

So, how does it work? Quite simple, actually.

All you have ever needed is an object. It must not be any random object but a recognisable one, so that your intention is clear. If you place a 'wrong' or 'unfamiliar' object, you risk losing your territory or your object or both.

Acceptable objects include tissue packs (most preferred) and daily newspapers. Sometimes, umbrellas (don't open it, duh!) or water bottles are also used. The general rule is that, the 'chope' object must not be valuable. I have seen very trusting (or gullible?) people using a handphone as their 'collateral' to 'chope' a seat. I suspect they have left their brains at home.

Bewildered tourists have often mistaken the loosely laid tissue packs for local gestures of generosity. Some have found them useful on a sweltering day for mopping away drippy perspiration - only to be embarrassed upon the return of the amused 'rightful owners'.

Important tip: Every one object represents one 'chope'. You are not allowed to 'chope' the whole table with just one pack of tissue.

Even more important tip to newcomers: Beware! Usurp the 'choped' seats and you will be faced with some rattled local people.

The 'choping' stunt can also be performed at seminars. To do so, the early birds would need a more prominent object than the usual tissue pack. The seminar files usually come in handy. Otherwise, you may consider draping your jacket or cardigan over the chair. Quite effective.

The advertisement companies are well aware of the potential of the 'choping' tissue. Special tissue packs with advertisement messages are given out free to customers at the Wisma Atria Food Republic. Each of these packs are also printed with a bold 'CHOPE' so as to make 'choping' more convenient. How thoughtful :)

If you are still gritting your teeth whenever you see a pack of 'chope' tissue, learn to accept it. The almighty Singapore tissue is Uniquely Singapore :)

Have fun 'choping' !

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KC said...

Hey hey! That's my tissue isn't it! You didn't credit me!

-Rich (using my class's account)

yg said...

hi vanilla,
thanks for visiting my blog. when i met up with my melbourne friend recently he again mentioned the issue of the tissue. he had mistakenly thought that the packs of tissue were compliments of the stallholders. imagine his shock and surprise when this irate woman scolded them (my friend and his wife) for stealing her place/tissue. his wife, not wanting to create a bigger scene, was ready to give up the seat but my friend refused to bulge.