Chope culture. A uniquely Singaporean culture where diners at open food centers place small items such as tissue packets, business cards or water bottles to reserve a table or seat.

I know many people are not in favour of this, and I personally used to hate it, but let me explain using the logic of parallelism that it is in fact more efficient. Everybody should chope their seats and split up and quickly order their meals, so that they can convene, eat, and leave ASAP – especially during this COVID-19 situation where half the seats have been crossed out for safe distancing. Quicker turnaround means more people get their seats, less community spread, etc.

… using the logic of parallelism that (chope culture) is in fact more efficient

The other reason to socially accept the “chope” culture is because those eating alone or carrying a child can find it very difficult to find a seat without a companion.

So why do people hate it? Because “chope” is not gracious? Rubbish lah. It’s exactly because we are ungracious – when we want a seat, we feel a sense of entitlement to a vacant seat. We see an inanimate object, and feel that it doesn’t deserve a “seat”. Seriously, what’s the difference between a tissue packet and a fully grown man waiting at the table?

… what’s the difference between a tissue packet and a fully grown man waiting at the table?

With that, I shall share a true story…

I went to ABC brickworks hawker this afternoon Tuesday 28 Jul 2020 at around 1PM to eat lunch with my colleague. We placed one tissue + Fisherman’s Friend on table to “chope” a 2 pax table, and quickly left to order our food.

Then this father (50+) and his son (20+) duo came, sat down, and moved our “chope” away. (I saw with my own eyes as my stall is nearby.)

Then when we returned, the son initially denied moving the tissue, then the father came and say our tissue never put in the center, cannot see properly, etc. etc. A big pack of lies.

So I said: “Please lah, it was in the middle. I saw you move it, so please admit it.”

OK, they left. Then we started eating.

Eat halfway, the uncle came back and started scolding us. Say this is neighbourhood hawker, no such thing as reservation, etc. etc.

I say, please lah, we “chope”, quickly order, quickly eat, quickly go. Isn’t it more efficient than one person sit, one person order and take turns?

Then he started lecturing us, “You listen carefully (你听好好), I tell you (我跟你讲), this place is not CBD, not restaurant, this is neighbourhood, etc. etc.”

A lot of hokkien arguments ensued (when I switch to hokkien, things are getting serious…)

I said, look, so what you want? Limpeh eating my lunch halfway. Say sorry? OK, “sorry”. Now, leave and let me eat my lunch. Then you still not happy, what you want? Call police?

Then after my meal, I turned around briefly looking for a stall to order drinks. Then I heard the uncle shouting from his seat: “Come lah, come come. Come!!” I didn’t even see them – they were sitting at another table. That’s when I realised they were behind, still wanting to pick a fight. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We went, ate, and left all under 20 minutes. Including the 3 minutes or so spent arguing with the uncle.

Please, “chope” is more efficient. Trust me, I’m an engineer.