Lately, I’ve been reviving an old habit of mine. It’s actually quite a dorky and eccentric habit. In fact, I’m almost embarrassed to talk about it.
While waiting for the bus at the bus stop (any bus stop), I count the cars on the road. Specifically, I count the number of Mercedes Benzes on the road, and express that as a ratio of the total number of cars I see on the road.
I acquired the habit while a student at National Junior College about 10 years ago. Each morning, I would make my way to the bus stop at about six in the morning to take bus number 74. I live in the Dover area close to Anglo Chinese School (Independent), so I would see literally an endless stream of cars on Dover Road at that time in the morning. The morning school rush hour would see parents bringing their kids to the numerous schools in the area: Fairfield Primary and Secondary, Anglo Chinese Secondary and Junior College, and further on, New Town Secondary. [As an aside, there are even more schools in this area if you consider institutions of higher learning, like Singapore Polytechnic, the Institute of Technical Education (Dover), and the National University of Singapore.]
A large proportion of the cars on the road can be accounted for by students from ACS(I). Let’s just say I know this from … personal experience. For those not familiar with ACS(I), it’s a premier private (we say independent) school in Singapore with a cachet similar to that of Andover in Massachusetts, though nowhere as illustrious and certainly not with such exorbitant tuition. But it would be fair to say that many students attending ACS(I) come from very privileged family backgrounds. Again, I can attest to this from … personal experience.
Needless to say, many of the cars that the ACS(I) kids sit in are luxury European makes. I picked up the habit of counting the number of Mercedes Benzes on the road as a proxy indicator of the number of luxury cars on Dover Road at that time in the morning. Why the Mercedes Benz, and not the BMW, Lexus or any other luxury make? Two reasons, the first is that the Mercedes Benz is quite possibly the most popular luxury make of car in Singapore, which makes it a good proxy indicator for luxury cars in general. The second reason is more prosaic: at six in the morning when it’s still dark, the sticking up in the air, three point star-in-a-circle insignia of the Mercedes Benz is by far the easiest car insignia to spot.
Expressing the number of Mercedes Benzes as a proportion of the total number of passenger cars on the road (I exclude buses, taxis and goods vehicles) gives what I call the Merc Index. Personally, I like to think of the Merc Index as a yardstick for the concentration of wealth of the population that traverses a road at a given time and/or day.
So what was the Merc Index for Dover Road at six on a weekday morning about 10 years ago? If memory serves, an amazing one in every seven cars on average was a Mercedes Benz. I can assure you, the Merc Index on Dover Road is nowhere near that figure outside of the daily school morning rush hour. In fact, again if I recall correctly, surprisingly, Orchard Road 10 years ago (and probably now too) yielded a much lower Merc Index than one in seven. This can probably be ascribed to the sheer amount of traffic on Orchard Road at any one point in time.
I have no clue what the Merc Indices are on Dover Road and Orchard Road anymore. Mostly because I don’t commute often now that I walk to work. But since I’ve revived my little habit, perhaps it’s time to check out the Merc Index again on the roads where I still do wait for buses.