This just in: the world’s most expensive cities, 2010 version. Places you would not want to go to if you weren’t required to, or else if you were intent on making a vacation dollar (or peso or euro) stretch.
Just my luck: four of the top seven (Tokyo=#1, Nagoya=#3, Yokohama=#4, and Kobe=#7) are in the country in which I live; so to make my yen elongate rather than eviscerate, I took off for . . . Singapore?
Well, it was in the neighborhood.
About the first thing I noted when I got off the $9 airport shuttle (about six dollars, fifty US) was that that was considerably better than Tokyo (where the train from the airport into town will cost you over thirty-one hundred yen [or in excess of thirty-two US bucks], without the connecting local train and/or cab to your final destination) and (to pick a city at random) LA (where a Super Shuttle costs $31), or Paris (where it’s 27 Euro [$32 U.S.]), so maybe I hadn’t gone to the wrong place, after all.
Until the concierge presented my travel-benumbed brain with the nightly rate. Even after a couple of fast blinks and a quick succession of sideways wags of my head, the numbers on her calculator still read “two-eleven” Singapore dollars. This for a mid-level business hotel (with the conference discount) and it was about then that I found myself wishing that I’d been a little more discerning those few months back when I rushed through this decision (just to be done with it). Because, according to my impromptu calculations, this was going to result in a setback of something in excess of a hundred fifty two US per nightly snooze . . .
I found myself beginning to wonder where else in my Asian neighborhood I might better have visited, because suddenly Singapore obviously belonged amidst that Business Week top hundred.
Until that is, the concierge told me about FOC.
“Yes sir. Use of the pool and sports club. Eff-oh-see, of course.”
Sure. Of course.
“As will be your breakfast buffet.” She offered in her distinctive Singlish accent. Precise, clipped, almost dotted eight-notes pushed through her throat with a hint of Cantonese attached.
“The breakfast buffet?”
“Yes. Right across the way, from seven to ten-thirty. All eff-oh-see.”
“I see.” Although I didn’t. Not one bit. But since I don’t prefer to dwell on my intellectual deficits, I changed the subject.
“Will my room have Internet access?” I asked.
“Oh yes, sir. Eff-oh-see on that as well.”
Okay. Whatever eff-oh-see was, I could see that I was plum in the midst of it. And, I realized with growing dread, this was an unfathomable conditional that I would have to concern myself with, because it didn’t offer any hint of going away. And what if it involved the expenditure of even more dollars or maybe even the bequeathing of future harvests or even rights to the fruits of, say, this blog—then I was really going to regret not knowing. But first I needed to know more practical things that would influence the quality of my present. So I asked: “what about the Internet connection? Is it wireless or will I need a cable?”
“No sir. Not wireless. But we have LAN line. Right here in this pack,” which she extracted from her desk. Handing it to me she said: “Eff-oh-see, of course.”
Which was about it in the way of my limits of tolerance. Peripatetics not liking to be kept completely in the dark. So, I asked: “excuse me, but you keep saying ‘eff-oh-see’.”
“And I was just wondering . . .”
“Well, what’s ‘eff-oh-see’ exactly?”
“Oh,” she looked surprised (if not disappointed in my lack of worldly acumen). “Why . . . ‘free of charge’. Eff-oh-see means ‘no charge’.”
Which is when I realized that I might just really get to like being in Singapore. At least in this hotel, for the next few days. Especially if we could find a way to make all the runs on the mini-bar FOC. That and throw in the stops at the local 7-Eleven for bottled water and candy bars, and the bus rides in town and the museum visits and the dinners out in Little India and Chinatown. If we could transform all that into FOC then this might turn out to be one magical space.
On that, though, we’d just have to double-you-aa-ess.
You know . . . Wait and see.