Sunday 1 September 2013

Don’t lose your IC if you’re a long-haired male atheist

My world changed suddenly eight days ago at the Singapore Expo.

I was there to collect the race pack for this morning’s Safra Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon, having registered online for the 21km run two months earlier.

As I joined the queue in Singapore Expo Hall 3B that Saturday afternoon, I pulled my wallet out of my jeans back pocket to take out my identity card to prove I was who I was so that I could get my stuff.

Except... where was my IC?

I searched my wallet again.

Okay, I had my 10 million credit cards, my Passion card, my Kopitiam card, my Watsons card, my Spotlight card and the free Safra membership card I received for the 45th anniversary of national service - but no identity card.

I felt like I had been transported to an alternate universe where ICs randomly disappear from people’s wallets.

How was I going to get my stuff now? Do I leave the queue? But I had travelled all the way from my home in Choa Chu Kang to the Expo.

I decided I would beg for my race pack.

When it was my turn, I told the counter girl I didn’t have my IC with me. She asked if I had any other form of identification.

Since it was a Safra event, I showed her my Safra card. She accepted it without me having to beg. I got my run pack within minutes. Thank you, 45th anniversary of NS!

But I still had to find my missing IC.

Without it, I can’t prove that I’m not a foreigner and my fellow Singaporeans could protest against me ar Hong Lim Park by mistake. Oh, wait, I still have my passport. Except it’s expired.

And what if someone used my IC to borrow money from a loan shark? Well, my wife has been complaining that our door needs a new coat of paint.

Anyway, instead of looking for pictures, animated gifs and videos of City Harvest Church chiobu Serina Wee on the Internet like every other Singaporean man, straight or otherwise, did last week, I was looking for my IC.

Search parties were organised. Cabinets were ransacked. Pockets were turned out.

I went to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) website and learnt that the cost of replacing a lost IC was $100. So I had another one hundred reasons to find it.

But the search proved futile, although it turned up my long lost iPod Touch, a sticker for the McDonald’s Monopoly game and a special collector’s ez-link card with a picture of Elijah Wood as Frodo from The Lord Of The Rings movie trilogy.

I eventually threw in the towel after a shower and headed for the ICA building on Thursday to get a new IC.

It’s a common misconsception that you have to make a police report when you lose your IC. Actually, you only have to do so if you’re a victim of a crime.

I just needed to fill up a declaration form, which asked for the reason I lost my IC.

How was I supposed to answer? “Carelessness”? “A rupture in the space-time continuum”?

I wrote: “I opened my wallet and my IC wasn’t there.”

Next, I went to the fourth floor to get my IC photo taken for $5.

The woman looked at me and said, “Alamak. Women can have long hair. Men cannot.”

I was given a pink rubber band to tie my hair back. Is rubber band supposed to match the colour of my IC?I refused to wear the pink rubber band.

Are we still living in the 1970s? Males with long hair are not allowed to have their IC photo taken?

The woman grudgingly took my photo sans pink rubber band but warned that if the photo was rejected, she wasn’t going to give me a refund.

I paid the five bucks, collected my IC photo, returned the pink rubber band and said, “Thank you.”

Then came the moment of truth. I handed the photo and declaration form to the ICA officer to apply for my replacement IC.

She said nothing about the photo (not even “wah, so handsome”) but asked me to write “I dropped my IC” on the form.

I paid the 100 bucks with Nets and was asked to check that my information was correct.

Next to religion was “free thinker”. I asked if I could change it to “none”, which would be more accurate.

She said I could choose either “free thinker” or “others”, but “none” was not allowed. I couldn’t help feeling atheists were being discriminated against.

I stayed with “free thinker” because “others” could suggest I perform human sacrifices at Stonehenge and that was something I would rather keep a secret.

After everything was settled, I was given a collection slip to collect my replacement IC a month later. The ICA officer said that in the meantime, the collection slip could be used as my temporary IC.

Really? That little piece of paper?

So yesterday afternoon, I went to Novena Square to collect my race pack for next Sunday's Tanjong Pagar-Tiong Bahru Salomon Vertical City Trail run.

The counter girl asked for my IC. I said I lost it and showed her the ICA collection slip.

“Oh,” she said, “you really lost it.”

She thought I was kidding? She then asked for my IC number and gave me my race pack. Race pack collection counter girls are all so nice.

So the collection slip worked, though not the way I expected.

I just hope I don’t wake up one day to find red paint splashed on my front door. My wife prefers off-white.

- Published in The New Paper, 1 September 2013