This is a common sight at lunchtime in Singapore: tissue packs, often several next to each other, seemingly left behind on the table.


One might, upon first encountering this phenomenon, assume this is the generous act of kind strangers. But it is not. You must not take the tissues. For they have an important message, and that message is this: Go away. Take your food and sit elsewhere, because this seat is taken. I have reserved it with my tissue pack.

It might seem unsporting to use a tissue pack like this. Rude, even. I used to think like that. However, I have come to understand the necessity, and now I too have embraced the tissue-pack culture. If you do not, you will not get a seat. Or you will have a seat, but no food. A regrettable situation.

If you don’t have a tissue pack, don’t worry; there are alternatives. Simply use a similarly unimportant item, such as your work pass, wallet or umbrella. The latter is especially useful for reserving multiple seats or whole tables, depending on the size of the umbrella.