I went in search of slacks today. For reference, in real life I'm a big, doughy guy. Buying clothes that fit will is a challenge in the best of times; in Singapore, where many people are smaller than my left leg, it seemed impossible. At the Seiyu in Bugis Village I couldn't get close to fitting, but I did hear the amusing announcement, ``Attention, please. An item has been behind. Will the owner please claim it at the service counter on the third floor? Thank you.'' I think the intent was to inspire customers with a vague uncertainty about their possessions.
Ultimately I went to Takashimaya, a Japanese department store operating in Singapore (on Orchard Road), and found a pair of Dockers that very nearly fits. Someone prone to stereotypes might imagine a Japanese department store operating in Singapore would be filled with odd quasi-bureaucratic obstacles, and one would be right. The first to irritate me was the fitting rooms; they weren't easy to find, but when I did finally get to a row of five occupied rooms, a clerk watched me wait for a few minutes and then told me they were the Women's Fitting Rooms. Because, you know, no respectable woman would accept a one-square-meter cylinder of white plywood with a mirror if they knew a man had been in it.
She directed me through the maze (store aisles tend to be very narrow) to the Men's Fitting Room, which was a single room, not fitted against the wall like the Women's, just poked between a couple racks of clothes. And there was a line. I don't wish to be petty, but the person using the room when I got there was a woman, and the only person in line ahead of me who used it was also a woman. (Her husband, I imagine, was just there to hold stuff.)
With an acceptable pair in hand, I went to the cashier and ... was turned away; I had to go back to the clerk who directed me to the pants to start with. All right. He asked if I had what I wanted (my honest answer -- that I don't want them, but need some pair -- would confuse things), and when I gave grudging approval, he ripped the UPC tag off the pants and started writing out on a receipt. He took the pants and gave me the receipt and told me to go pay there, and then come back. Yes, they've made buying Dockers resemble as much as possible the process of buying a dining room table at Ikea.
It goes without saying I went to a register only to be told I was skipping the queue, which was a meandering thing five people long. And that every person had some complicated transaction involving vouchers and cards. I was ready to throw my receipt away when the people ahead of me were having a great fuss over a purchase of S$466.80 worth of merchandise; they wanted to pay for it with 470 in vouchers, and the clerk insisted if they did that they'd have to throw away the three dollars, twenty cents of change. If they'd keep one ten-dollar voucher and pay the remaining S$6.80 by cash, or credit card, or other method they'd save the full prince of the voucher ... a small issue, and a surprisingly hard one for the people to understand, or maybe care about.
At the cash register incidentally there was the person working the register and another person whose only job, so far as I could find, was to point out the basket holding the keypad people enter their Nets card number into. She didn't pick it up and put it in front of you, understand; that's the cashier's job. She just pointed to it, like it was the next item up for bids on The Price Is Right.
They kept one of the carbonless copies of the receipt at the register; I returned to the Dockers station and showed my other copies; they kept one there. Thus is double-entry bookkeeping applied to pants. The pants themselves were rolled up, put into a bag, and that bag itself put into a larger bag, which was taped over.
So it was all a bit baffling. The best part, to me, was exiting the store brought me right to the entrance of Kinokuniya, a Japanese book store chain which manages in its Orchard Road store to actually have infinitely large floor space, although its science fiction and humour selections are disappointing considering that. They also have a nasty habit of leaving books sealed in plastic, discouraging browsing. You can bring any book to a service desk and have it opened, no obligation to buy, but I hate doing that and bringing the book to be opened does make me feel obligated. But it is a great place to wander and find some browsable books.
The basement of Takashimaya also features a neat array of generally Japanese restaurants, offering some neat if relatively expensive treats. I don't go there often enough, but the number of stands with cheery cartoon octopuses (octopotes?) wearing aprons and apparently encouraging you to eat their severed tentacles provides an endless array of bizarre thoughts which distract one from wondering what's in the Most Popular Big Bowl of Meat.
Trivia: Edmond Halley received a temporary Royal Navy commission as captain in 1698, for his voyages mapping magnetic declination and determining longitude. Source: Maps and Civilization: Cartography in Culture and Society, Norman J.W. Thrower.
Currently Reading: Why Don't We Learn From History? Basil H. Liddell-Hart.