There Are 10 Kinds of Singaporeans You See On the MRT. Which One Are You?
Top image: cegoh on Pixabay. All other images by Zachary Tang.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that commuters, enduring the worst part of their day, must be in want of entertainment.

If ‘read more’ has been on your last six New Years’ resolutions, but you’ve never picked up a physical book in all this time, we’d like to make a case for the humble audiobook.

Audiobooks, for the uninitiated, are recordings of books being read aloud—the aural equivalent of e-books. You can get everything from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying to The Haunting of Hill House and local titles like J.Y Yang’s Tensorate series and Sharlene Teo’s Ponti. Some are even read by the authors themselves, like Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey and Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming.

The benefits of these are manifold. No more scrolling yourself into despair. No more frying your eyeballs with blue light. No more struggling to focus past page 4. Instead, you get to close your eyes, be read to by Michelle Obama, arrest the feeling that you’re getting dumber with age, and glance smugly at your colleagues as you stroll into work, having already done something vaguely productive with your day. 

Here, we present our recommendations, carefully curated for the type of commuter you are.

1. Email-Addicted Corporate

You get separation anxiety when you have to spend more than 20 minutes away from your laptop. No matter the hour of the day, you can be spotted with bae on your lap, steadily typing your way into chronic carpal tunnel. Your family group chat is full of warnings from your aunts about keeping your devices near your privates.

For you, Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan.

This disquieting tale of two young people in a love triangle with a humanoid robot will leave you contemplating humanity while questioning your own.

2. Hollow-Eyed Sardine

Your mornings are spent getting up close and personal with your fellow creatures, who all wear identical expressions of defeat. In this moment, as a waft of B.O invades your nostrils and a drop of sweat runs down your lower back into your underwear, you are one with misery. Misery is one with you.

For you, Tinder Taxi: Sexy Erotica by Lea Lind. 

Nothing livens up a soul-crushing commute like someone murmuring in your ear about “ … moving to the middle of the back seat, allowing the brown eyes in the rear-view mirror to see more than just my face.”

3. Overwhelmed Octopus Mum

Between juggling your child, child’s pacifier, diaper bag, handbag, phone, wet tissues, and sanity, your sense of balance would put a tightrope walker to shame. You needed a holiday, like, five months ago, but realised that hauling your child around a packed beach while sleep-deprived would be more depressing than hauling your child around a packed MRT station while sleep-deprived. You have faked needing the toilet just to have five minutes to yourself.

For you, Astrophysics For People In A Hurry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Take a moment to centre yourself by contemplating the mysteries of space and time, condensed into succinct, highly digestible prose. 

Bonus: you’ll be able to answer questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” without bullshitting.

4. Fitness Fanatics

Every Saturday morning at 10:00 AM, you can be spotted driving up the Lululemon-per-square-foot ratio of Raffles Place MRT. You will go for coffee and açaí bowls afterwards, ostensibly to ‘chill’, except that you do not actually know what this means. Phrases like ‘the sweat life’ and ‘hustle for that muscle’ are staples of your Instagram stories, to the bewilderment of your less masochistic friends.

For you, In Praise of Wasting Time by Alan Lightman. 

You’ll never attend another F45 class again.

5. Mobile Legends Player

You come close to being killed by your fellow commuters several times a day when you stray into their paths, forcing them to stumble and curse your grandchildren as they swerve to avoid you. You are so lost in the four inches of screen in between your thumbs that you don’t even notice. Your neck and back could fund a chiropractor’s retirement. 

For you, They Walk Among Us by Benjamin and Rosanna Fitton.

This ‘unforgettably sinister’ compilation of true-crime podcasts—about seemingly ordinary individuals who committed horrifying crimes—will make sure you look twice at your surroundings.

6. Seat Vultures

The subject of Sir David Attenborough’s next documentary, you hover in between the rows of seats, pretending to look at your phone but actually keeping an eye on your prey. As the train chugs towards its next stop, your eyes flick up periodically, scanning the landscape for the slightest hint of opportunity, while keeping an eye on the competition lurking nearby.

The moment a passenger moves to alight, you strike. 

Bam. Straight for the jugular.

For you, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.

Get acquainted with the extraordinary evolution of the homo sapien, through the development of imagination, agriculture, organisation, and science, and question your role in the Circle of Life.

7. Person with NO INSIDE VOICE

Your primary school report card probably said you were a ‘confident’ and ‘expressive’ child. As such, you now feel no compunctions about TELLING EVERYONE IN A THREE METRE RADIUS HOW YOUR CB COLLEAGUE LEFT THEIR PART OF THE BRIEF FOR YOU TO HANDLE AND SENT YOU AN EMAIL ABOUT IT THE DAY BEFORE THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO GO ON LEAVE. Like the Mobile Legends Player, this places you in near-death situations several times a week.

For you, Silence: The Power of Quiet in A World Full of Noise, by the celebrated Buddhist monk and icon Thich Nhat Hanh. 

Quiet your internal chatter with this gentle guide to mindfulness, and let this manifest into your surroundings. Your karma will increase overnight.

8. Tourist with Gigantic Bag from Irvin’s Salted Egg

A people-pleaser by nature, you are beloved by your friend group. Unfortunately, you have no personality or opinions of your own.

For you, Normal People by Sally Rooney.

All your edgiest friends will have read it already, which means it’s time for you to get on this train.

9. Person Pretending to Be Asleep In Their Seat

People can’t decide if they are more annoyed by you or awed by your ability to not give a damn. You fake-snooze on, impervious to glares, dubious glances, Stand-Up Stacey, and the threat of being publicly shamed on STOMP.

For you, Grit by Angela Duckworth.

You, of all people, know the value of holding your ground.

10. Person Reading Actual Books

 You watch most of your films at The Projector, collect Moleskine notebooks, and have a Spotify playlist titled ‘4am’, containing a mix of late-2000s indie pop and Nordic bands with unpronounceable names. You subscribe to the New Yorker, but mainly for the free tote bag, and drink either fancy tea or cold brew at cafes. You are utterly insufferable and you know it. 

For you, Lullabies by Lang Leav.

Time for some real culture.

All the books featured are available as audiobooks on Storytel, a subscription-based audiobook platform. 

Rice readers get a 30-day free trial, so download their app to get started, and check out over 110,000 titles they have available for streaming or download. We won’t judge if you head straight for the erotica.

This story was sponsored by Storytel.

If you felt personally attacked by this piece, please let us know at Pan Jie will narrate you an apology.

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