Sunday 5 April 2015

Qing Ming: Queueing not the Fast & Furious way to pay tribute to the dead

I queued for more than three hours to pay respects to Mr Lee Kuan Yew at the Parliament House two Thursdays ago.

Sure, some reportedly queued up to 11 hours, but this is not a competition, okay?

It was long enough that I had to pee and figure out how use a Porta-Pumper.

But I couldn’t find any instructions inside the portable toilet. What to do?

There were other queuers needing to relieve themselves and I didn’t want to keep them waiting.

Yet I also didn’t want to leave the toilet for the next person to find my urine unflushed.

I blamed myself getting into this dilemma. Who asked me to drink so much water on that hot Thursday afternoon?

Wait, what are these black round things on the floor?

I stepped on a round thing and my pee was magically replaced by a sweet-smelling blue liquid. The round thing was a foot pump of some kind.

I also discovered that if I stepped on the other pump, I could turn on the tap to wash my hand.

So that’s why it’s called a Porta-Pumper!

Wow, first the Internet and now this. Technology is so amazing.

And thus I survived my three-hour queue.

Who knew I would be queueing again to pay respects to another dead guy just eight days later?

And he wasn’t even the founding father of a nation. He was my actual father.

On Friday morning, I found myself in my sister’s car with her and our 70-something mother stuck in a traffic jam, waiting to get into the Choa Chu Kang Columbarium where my dad’s remains lay.

It’s Qing Ming again, that time of the year when my family and — judging by the clog of vehicles around us — many other Chinese families brave the traffic to make the pilgrimage to the columbarium and/or cemetery and burn stuff for our departed ancestors.

It also happened to be Good Friday, which, because of the traffic jam, was turning out to be a bad Friday for us.

My mother, my sister and I started blaming each other.

The day before, I had proposed heading out earlier specifically to avoid the holiday traffic, but my mother said no because my sister was unable to wake up so early in the morning.

My sister said my mother never asked her and she could’ve risen earlier if we had wanted her to.

And so the petty recriminations continued.

And it was all because of my father, dead for over 20 years and is still giving us grief.

There must be better ways to pay tribute to the deceased.

And certainly creating a BreadTalk bun is not one of them.

Neither is starting an online petition to declare the day the person died a public holiday as it may be accused of being a scam to collect people’s personal information.

As my sister’s Kia inched ever so slowly towards the columbarium gates, I realised I had just seen the ultimate tribute to a dead guy the day before.

It was called Fast & Furious 7.

One of the founding fathers of the fabulously profitable Fast & Furious film franchise, Paul Walker, died in a 2013 car accident before completing the latest sequel.

The movie was eventually finished with Walker’s brothers and another guy as stand-ins for the dead actor and some computer-generated necromancy. Talk about a resurrection.


A little.


Well, despite star Vin Diesel mentioning Walker every chance he gets while promoting the movie, the producers at least had enough self-restraint not to call the sequel Fast & Furious 7: Watch How We Deal With A Major Cast Member’s Death.

I know that was why I wanted to see the movie.

That and the insane trailer where Diesel flies a car out of a high-storey window of a building into a high-storey window of another building.

In between ridiculously unsurvivable car crashes that our heroes manage to survive and too many leering close-ups of women’s bottoms in the movie, every line Walker’s character utters and other characters say about him seem to foreshadow his demise.

Oh no, his wife is pregnant again.

Oh no, this will be his last job before he retires.

Oh no, he’s going to fight Tony Jaa, the guy from the Ong-Bak movies.

Oh no...

But Walker’s final send-off in the movie is not what I expected. It’s surprisingly uplifting, almost to the point of being in denial.

The movie’s last shot is a bird’s eye view of two cars racing side by side and then one car splitting off to another road.

It’s like the drag race equivalent of the Singapore Air Force’s “missing man formation” aerial tribute planned for Mr Lee last Sunday but cancelled due to bad weather.

But Walker got his tribute — and what a blockbusting tribute it’s turning out to be over this Easter weekend.

If only all our tributes could be massive box-office hits.

What’s next for the Fast & Furious franchise after Walker? Will a close family member take his place? At least Amos Yee didn’t make a YouTube video about him.

Meanwhile, sitting in the passenger’s seat of my sister’s second-hand 1,000cc Picanto, all I could do was fantasise about parachuting out of a cargo plane with my muscle car like the Fast & Furious gang into the Choa Chu Kang Columbarium.

Anything to get out of the Good Friday/Qing Ming traffic jam.

My mother said she needed to pee.

- Published in The New Paper, 5 April 2015