Sunday 25 September 2016

Rio Ferdinand's nasi goreng, Circle Line signal interference & MRT customer satisfaction: Where did it come from?

I wonder, will some mysteries ever be solved?

Like the Loch Ness Monster.

Alien crop circles.

Singapore nasi goreng.

Are they real?

Or are they just figments of an ex-England footballer’s imagination?

In Singapore for the Grand Prix race last weekend, former Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand tweeted a photo of himself and a plate of fried rice with the words: “Nasi goreng lunch. Keeping it local in #Singapore.”

Faster than a monitor lizard scurrying across the F1 track in the middle of a race, someone replied to Ferdinand’s tweet: “Actually, that’s Indonesian local food.”

To which someone else replied: “No, it’s not. The only local Indonesian food is haze.”

That was accompanied by an animated gif that says: “Oooooh… burn!”

Boy, that escalated quickly.

One headline read: “Rio Ferdinand sparks nasi goreng war.

War? Over fried rice?

So now if the Indonesians launch rockets at Marina Bay from Batam, we know why.

It’s the ex-Red Devil’s fault.

But my fellow columnist KF Seetoh would have none of it.

The Makansutra founder posted on Facebook: “Media… pse stop asking me abt that Rio Ferdinand comment abt nasi goreng hor..u r tempting sarcasm liao.. yr questions oso sibeh buay tahan wan.”

Translation: “Reporters, please stop asking me about Rio Ferdinand’s comment about nasi goreng or you may get a sarcastic reply. Your questions are intolerable.”

His conscientious objection is likely a consequence of the post-traumatic stress disorder he suffered from fighting the Chicken Rice War of 2009 with Malaysia.

That food fight started when Malaysia’s tourism minister said: “We cannot continue to let other countries hijack our food. Chilli crab is Malaysian. Hainanese chicken rice is Malaysian.”

Next time I order any food, remind me to check its passport.

But I suspect it’s impossible to definitively solve the mystery of where every dish originated from.

Just like we may never know the origin of the signal interference that caused train delays on the Circle Line for five consecutive days from Aug 29 and Sept 2.

As The Straits Times reported on Sept 6: “The unknown signal interference which bedevilled the Circle Line last week has ceased as mysteriously and suddenly as it has started.”

Oooooh… “mysterious”… cue the X-Files theme.

Last week, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and SMRT released a joint statement, saying they “have been undertaking investigations into the cause of the intermittent loss of signalling communications between the trains and tracks on the Circle Line, leading to the automatic activation of the trains’ emergency brakes”.

But “as the incidents had ceased by the afternoon of Sept 2, they were unable to determine the source”.

Which means the problem solved itself before they could solve the problem.

That was good for commuters, but not so good for LTA and SMRT because they couldn’t solve the problem, which, in turn, may turn out to not be good for commuters after all.

No wonder the LTA CEO Chew Men Leong quit last month.

Somehow, despite the many train delays, the latest Customer Satisfaction Index shows that the MRT had a higher customer satisfaction score from April to July than for the same period last year.

Published last week by the Institute of Service Excellence at Singapore Management University, the index also says that overall, consumers were more satisfied with the land transport sector, compared to last year.

For many people, the response to this is probably “In what universe?”

It’s the same reaction to such reality-bending headlines as “Bus fares will be affordable if raised” and “Rise in major breakdowns but MRT gets more reliable”.

Hey, wait a minute. I just thought of something.

Maybe that was where the mysterious Circle Line signal interference came from!

This alternate parallel universe where consumers are more satisfied with land transport, bus fares are more affordable if raised and the MRT gets more reliable with more major breakdowns.

It’s like The Upside Down universe in the Netflix series, Stranger Things.

Somehow, all the cognitive dissonance generated by our public transport system ruptured the fabric of space-time and created a portal between the two parallel universes, allowing the signal from The Upside Down to interfere with the Circle Line.

And that was why LTA and SMRT couldn’t find the source.

Because it came from another universe.

Through a portal unwittingly created by themselves.

Oh, the irony.

Mystery solved.

Watch out, Nessie. I’m coming for you next.

But first, I shall reward myself with nasi goreng of undetermined origin.

- Published in The New Paper, 25 September 2016

UPDATE: I received this great tweet from Netflix: