S M Ong: ERP, auto-lock jokes and a ‘hostage’ situation
To answer the question that everyone is asking - no, it's not because you're Chinese.
It's because everyone has been repeating the line from the Go-Jek "hostage" video since it went viral late last week. There are even dance remixes now.
The joke is getting played out. It's like saying "boomz" or "stunned like vegetable".
And "stunned like vegetable" was how some people reacted to the behaviour of the woman passenger in the video who accused the Go-Jek driver of trying to cheat her and then kidnapping her, culminating with the "Is it because I'm Chinese?" line.
On Saturday, the driver, Mr Kamaruzzaman Abdul Latiff, who posted the video, thanked "everyone for the moral support" on Facebook.
The passenger, on the other hand, has received, let's say, less support.
She has reportedly removed her Facebook account and left the country for a holiday.
Online commenters have described her as "crazy" and "mentally disturbed", which I think she is not and perpetuates the stigmatisation of mental illness.
Yes, she kinda over-reacted in the situation, but I can understand why she got so triggered.
Put yourself in her shoes and the backseat of the Go-Jek car.
Let's say you have taken a ride to this place "every morning" and drivers gave you the option of going the faster way with Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) charges or "the way where there are no additional charges".
Then one day, this driver says he doesn't know the non-ERP way. Having little faith in humanity because of the HIV Registry leak, errant postmen and The Bachelor TV show, you assume the driver is trying to cheat you.
The trouble is, as someone who doesn't drive, you also don't know the way, just as you don't know that car doors have an auto-lock system.
All you want is to get to Coleman Street (without paying for the ERP), but now you're being driven to a Toa Payoh police station against your wishes because you've just accused the driver of trying to cheat you. So you cry kidnap.
The video also shows Mr Kamaruzzaman speaking to an unseen male Certis Cisco officer in Malay, a language the woman may not have been able to understand, which exacerbated her distress, making her feel like the two men were ganging up on her, a vulnerable lone woman auto-locked in a car against her will.
Thus when the Certis Cisco officer appeared to take the side of the driver by mansplaining the auto-lock system to her, I can see how she may have felt like she was being persecuted due to her race being different from the two men's, resulting in her utterance of everyone's favourite line from the video: "Is it because I'm Chinese?"
Within a day of the seven-minute video going viral, memes and parody videos abound.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force jumped on the bandwagon with a post advising people not to call an ambulance for non-emergencies, adding: "Psst, our ambulance doors auto-lock for your own safety. So do not be unnecessarily alarmed. Please!"
Meanwhile, Caltex Singapore posted this seatbelt advisory: "Your cars may have auto-lock functions, but your seatbelts don't. Remember to put on your seatbelts!"
Zanzan Digital Lock posted: "Your cars may have auto-lock functions, but your homes don't. Starting from $299, you can have this auto-lock feature for your house door too."
And gaming computer company Asus Republic Of Gamers, of all things, promoted its laptop with the tagline: "When even laptop has auto-lock feature. #NotTakingYouHostage"
Even the Republic of Singapore Air Force posted something about "canopy auto-locks" yesterday.
Can we stop with the auto-lock already? It's enough to make me almost miss the "Is it because I'm Chinese?" jokes.
I'm surprised Scoot and Ikea, who are usually so quick to capitalise on the latest viral sensation, haven't posted their own spoof ads.
Have their social media managers gone on holiday too?
Is it because it's Chinese New Year?