Monday 23 December 2019

Why I wasn't among first five guys in line for opening of Five Guys: I blame Khaw Boon Wan

Dear Mr Khaw Boon Wan,

You like burgers?

Five Guys opened its first Singapore outlet in Plaza Singapura last Monday at 11am.

I wanted to be there. No, I had to be there.

I had missed the opening of Shake Shack at Jewel in April, and the queues were still too long even weeks later when I finally made my way there. So I have yet to try the burger at Shake Shack.

Five Guys was supposed to be the next Shake Shack. This time I would not be left out.

Expecting a long queue for the Five Guys opening, I set out from my Yew Tee home at 8.30am.

I might not be the first in line because I wasn’t going to start queueing at 4am, but my hope was that I could be at least among the first five guys. Get it?

Unfortunately, at that exact moment, there was no train service between Kranji and Bukit Gombak “due to a signalling fault”.

After so many months with no major delays, why did SMRT have to break its streak on the most important day of my burger-eating life?

Most other commuters were just going to work. But I was on a once-in-an-eternity mission.

At first, I thought I must be the unluckiest man in the world.

I mean, the disruption could have been on the East-West Line. It could have been on the North-East Line. It could have been on the Circle Line. It could have been on the Downtown Line.

If the Thomson-East Coast Line were operating, it could have been on the Thomson-East Coast Line.

But no, it had to be on the North-South Line. Why? Because Yew Tee is on the North-South Line, and that is where I live.

It had to be more than just bad luck. It seemed like someone had it out for me. Who could it be?

But I persevered. I will not be foiled by our world-class transport system.

I decided to take a bus to Bukit Panjang, where I could take the Downtown Line to Little India and then take the North-East Line to Dhoby Ghaut.

But when I reached the bus stop, it was overcrowded because of the train breakdown.

Two buses went by without stopping. It was as if all of us waiting at the bus stop were invisible.

So I walked to another bus stop farther away that was less crowded to become visible again.

After I finally managed to get on a bus, I read on Twitter that SMRT had announced that the signalling fault had been rectified and train service was “progressively returning to normal”.

No wonder the bus was emptier than I had expected.

Now I really felt like someone was toying with me.

Was this payback for all my past columns making fun of previous MRT disruptions?

Was it karma?

By the time I reached Plaza Singapura around 10am, a queue had formed outside Five Guys. About 20 people were ahead of me.

If not for the signalling fault and the two buses that wouldn’t stop, I could have been among the first five guys.

I blame you, Transport Minister.

You recently said our MRT is more reliable now, even comparing it with the Hong Kong MTR and Taiwan Metro. And that to maintain that reliability, we should expect to pay higher fares.

Where was that reliability when I needed it most?

Will there be a train delay on the day I want to queue for the opening of In-N-Out Burger if it comes to Singapore?

There better not be.

By the way, I took a selfie with the guy who was first in line at Five Guys.

His name is Ryan and he is a 14-year-old American student from United World College.

He started queueing at 4am. So it was too early for him take the train there. Lucky him.

I asked Ryan when the second person in the line showed up. He said 7am. We both laughed.

The kid queued for seven hours when it could have been just four. That made me feel less sorry for myself.

Was the food worth it? Ryan said yes.

I thought the burger was okay, but I really enjoyed the milkshake with bacon.

Hey, Transport Minister, if you make sure the MRT doesn’t break down again, I’ll even buy you one.

- Published in The New Paper, 23 December 2019

EARLIER: I queued up for opening of Five Guys and got the milkshake with bacon (and a free T-shirt!)