Remember the company cohesion that I had some time back?
While yesterday's platoon cohesion programme had nothing to do with it, I was constantly reminded about the bad experience at Sentosa, and that led me to keep my fingers crossed all throughout the whole of Monday.
In the morning, in the stead of the usual 5 km runs, or other assorted demanding physical training done at 8 am in the morning, we were very pleasantly surprised when word came up that we were allowed to play games. Yes, finally we get to join the other platoons in the company in their usual games. We went happily to the basketball court cum street soccer court -- to find it occupied by the other platoons.
After a few minutes of harried co-ordination, the whole company decided to take turns playing. Not wanting to disturb everyone's fun with my bumbling novice play, I decided to occupy myself with a spare ball that happened to lie around the shed in that area. It was curious how that ball (I assumed that it was a soccer ball, because it looked like one) was able to bounce like a basketball. Come to think of it, now it looks like a volleyball. I augmented my own confusion by idly alternating between dribbling, bouncing, and otherwise playing with the ball. Then a few guys came along and wanted to join in the fun.
And it so happens that they were light years my senior in terms of ball handling skills. They managed to manipulate the ball like a professional, while I was stuck looking like a total raw greenhorn with my clumsy dribbling. I took comfort in the fact that I was chasing after the ball most of the time.
It was slightly later that we were scheduled to leave camp - provided there were not any major stuff scheduled for that period. Then came the bomb-shell (and a rather big one). 10 minutes to get all the sweat out of the body, change into uniform, and get ourselves into the hall for a lecture. (In case you want to know, it was about our pending duty guarding the various key installations in the country).
The lecturers were nice and all, but I was terribly impatient throughout the two and a half hours that they were talking: the cohesion programme was in the evening, and we had planned a few other more exciting activities than listening to lectures! I couldn't say for the rest of the battalion present, but the last I looked, heads were drooping, and I swear that I could see some chains of semi-saliva dripping slowly out of some of their mouths...
I was slightly disappointed over dinner. With myself. I watched everyone else in pure envy while they managed to wolf down plate after plate of steamboat stuff, while I struggled to finish half of the delicious lumps of food that I still had on my plate. After that over-bloated dinner, we split up to do our stuff, with a stern warning to get back to camp before 11:59 pm. The threat mentioned vaguely about burnt Chinese New Year holidays, but we were extremely confident that it wouldn't happen.
Guess what, it almost did.
The small group I was with was too engrossed in our LAN game that we forgot about time. We rushed out, ear to phones connected to taxi booking hotlines. With an hour and twenty minutes to spare, we waited to be connected to an operator. All the way until the only bus in that secluded area arrived in front of us 25 minutes later. By then I was knotted up in worry. That the driver drove like a tour bus did not help matters. The bus made a loop around the area (to our despair), before reaching the nearest train station. We dashed out, and ran into the next train out. Getting off at the nearest city area station, we ran to the front of the taxi queue (T-time minus 30 minutes), and cooked up a hot story about how we had to rush back to camp because we were activated, and that it was a national emergency...
The couple at the head of the queue took our story whole (I guess that was because of our frantic looks), and we hopped onto the taxi, pleading with the soft-spoken man to floor the accelerator. To be fair to him, he did, but with not enough urgency I almost started biting my nails (an action I am always tempted to try whenever I got stressed). Tearing down the expressway at 110 km/h, we managed to get into camp with less than 10 minutes to spare. Safe? NO!
The final 500 metres to the company line and real safety took almost that 10 minutes, because one of us hurt his leg during the mad rush for the taxi earlier.
So that was it. A close shave. Considering how valuable the Chinese New Year break is, I would say my life was saved. Even now, I still think back in amazement at how we managed to escape from that secluded area... 4 cell phones, 4 different cab companies, no takers. Maybe next time I should neglect to tell the operator that I am going to an area known for its cemeteries?