Click, the phone went dead. When Steve and I lived in Singapore the first time, long-distance calls were still made from one landline to another landline. Gramarie and I talked long distance via a landline.
Gramarie always has interesting stories to tell and relevant news to share. She is a wonderful conversationalist – her gift of gab is uplifting, enlightening, and inspiring. I usually learn something relevant during our conversations. We can literally talk for hours, solving all the problems of the world. Since she is an avid reader and consumer of local and international news, an endearing image I have is of her sitting at the kitchen table late in the evening, reading the daily newspaper, soaking up every page.
Steve and I lived in Singapore two separate times. The first time we lived there was when Philip was a baby. When we left Hong Kong after two years and moved back to California, we had a great time being together with our friends again and going to our old haunts. We still had Asia on our minds, though. We felt our time there had been cut short, so we resumed conversations with the international VP and asked to be moved to the Asia Pacific office in Singapore. When the right job opportunity became available, we jumped at it.
Singapore was easy to settle into since English is the language of business and spoken by all. Lee Kuan Yew, the father of modern Singapore, had been educated in England. He knew that if this tiny island ever wanted to be an economic and financial powerhouse, English would need to be the language of the land. Interestingly, Singapore was originally a part of Malaysia and the national language is actually Malay. However, all Singaporeans speak English; all education, commerce, transportation services, etc. are conducted in English.
Gramarie was excited we were moving to Singapore. Another place for her to see where we laid our heads! Before she came to visit, however, she was content talking to me on the phone. There was always a lot to talk about, from how we were settling in to what was going on at work to what we were up to with our new friends. These conversations could easily last for at least an hour.
I know for a fact that these conversations went over one hour. Singapore is highly regulated and the people are well taken care of by the government. The country is governed by a Parliamentary system. Government members are voted into power by the citizens, on a mandatory voting day. The government provides subsidized housing, education, and medical services, and everyone is required to pay into a retirement savings fund. As a result of its exemplary governance, Singapore became a first-world country in one generation and Singaporeans accept living with many benefits and – in some cases – limitations on personal freedoms, such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
So, what does this have to do with my landline phone conversations with Gramarie? They were longer than one hour, because at 59 minutes and 59 seconds, we’d hear a click and the phone would go dead. That was the duration of the tape – each phone conversation was recorded. The recording was set to stop at one hour, so when the hour was up, the phone line would automatically cut off. I would call back and hear her chuckle as she answered the phone. We’d laugh about what had just happened and then resume our conversation.
During the second time Steve and I lived in Singapore, the cell phone was invented. Gramarie and I no longer knew exactly when we passed the hour mark in our conversation. A part of me misses having the proof!