The Audacity of Chope

7 Feb

If President Obama is in Singapore, he might be inspired to author another book called the “Audacity of Chope”. Unless you are Singaporean, you might not know what I mean. According to Wikipedia, “Chope” is defined as “Slang for reserving a seat.Derived from chop; to leave a mark. Singaporeans have a habit of leaving objects on seats/tables to reserve places.” Another online site, Wiktionary, states, “to reserve a seat, usually by placing a packet of tissue paper on it.”.

They’re not wrong. But they’re not spot on either. I don’t know the root of this word. Someone said it was a corruption of the word “chop”- such as leaving a stamp. But I never had that idea. First of all, I agree that it is Singlish. When I was in primary school, we used to play “dok kah” (literally mean “single leg”) or “police and thief”. In both instances, the “pasang” one (the one who played the monkey) had to chase after the other players. And when the “pasang” guy touched one of the other players, he held up a “V” sign and says “Chope”. And so that the new monkey can’t touch him immediately. The “V’ sign and the “Chope” gets him immunity. That was like a long time ago.

Fast forward a few decades. “Chope” has been used interchangeably with the English equivalent of “Reserve”. So if I say, “I chope this cup ah”, that basically means, “This cup has been reserved by me”. Now, in Singapore we’ve somehow evolved to highly efficient ways of reserving seats in food centres. While we still practice dumping a hapless child or colleague at a table so that he can ‘chope’ seats for the rest who are ordering food; time-conscious office workers have graduated to a higher form of ‘choping’ – that of leaving packets of tissue papers on seats and tables to reserve seats. And so, others who didn’t chope had to wander around, scouting for seats in a packed food centre; while the ‘choped’ and EMPTY seats were made unavailable to these ones with food. How selfish can we get?

Why others even bother to respect this form of behaviour is anybody’s guess. Perhaps the victims were themselves perpetrators too. And invariably, the ones who ‘chope’ seats with packets of tissue papers were young, and presumably, educated women. Honestly, I hope this practice will stop. It is neither fair nor meaningful to leave seats empty so that the selfish individuals can take her own sweet time to order her food. This is a blatantly selfish act. Let others have their seats and enjoy their meal first lah.

I have never seen such choping practices anywhere else in the world. Not even in Malaysia. Why can’t Singaporeans practice some social graces and not be so selfish? And when you do get a seat, finish your food quickly if the food centre is busy and move on. Let others have their chance too to have a seat. I’ve seen people seated around, purposely ignoring the other patrons who are obviously looking for a table – just to spite them. If we could only be more conscious of other people’s needs, I’m sure we can wean ourselves from such childish and selfish behaviour in no time.

I can only hope.


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