Yesterday morning, I drew open the curtains and peered out the window. I cocked my head and blinked, turned around and shuffled out to the kitchen. My flatmate Saffy was already up, her head buried deep in the fridge as she snuffled around for something edible.
“Is it me,” she began without so much as a ‘good morning’, “is it me or are we living in the war? There is nothing in this fridge to eat! Just some mouldy cheese and half a carton of milk.”
“First of all, that cheese is meant to be mouldy!” I said. “And I can, from this angle see bread, kaya, eggs and some cereal.”
“Yuck, carbs, sugar, cholesterol and bleagh. In that order!” Saffy replied smoothly, straightening up and adjusting her nightgown.
“Is that the haze that’s hanging around outside the window?” I asked.
“I think so. It’s just foul! I’m surprised I’ve not dropped dead from a respiratory ailment!”
Just then, came a low roar from outside the window. It took a while to register what it was.
“Oh crap!” Saffy groaned as she schluffed out of the kitchen to shut the lounge room windows. “Is it Tuesday? They’re fogging again!”
As one, we hate Tuesday mornings and try to make it a point not to be in the flat. For an hour, the entire condominium is blanketed in a heavy, smelly, diesel-smelling fog. Sometimes, the stuff creeps in through cracks into the window and we need to take another shower to clean the stench off us.
Saffy peered out the window as she watched huge white clouds puff up through the bushes and trees. “I’m sorry, but someone needs to explain to me how it is that the stuff can kill mosquitos and yet apparently it’s completely safe for me to breathe in!”
“Write to the Prime Minister,” I suggested as I closed the kitchen windows. “They’re very encouraging about feedback these days.”
Saffy paused. “Who’s ‘they’?”
“They. The feedback people,” I said vaguely.
“I don’t want them to open a file on me,” Saffy said. “They might decide to fill it up with other things that I don’t necessarily want them to know about me.”
“Too late for that, Saf,” I said, as I imagined the contents of Saffy’s security file.
“I’m sure he doesn’t go around his home shutting his windows when they fog his home,” Saffy went on, by now thoroughly grouchy from the combined effects of hunger and fumigation.
“Anyway,” I said. “Just say that you hope that the Prime Minister isn’t being unduly inconvenienced by the Tuesday mosquito fogging. I’m sure they’ll like you for being such a concerned citizen. Maybe they might even reward you with free CPF for life!”
Saffy brightened. “You think?”
“You never know!” I said cheerfully, while wondering how Saffy ever managed to graduate from primary school. Later that day, I received an SMS from Saffy: “God. I am very itchy n my throat is hoarse. Do u tink I’m falling sick? N can we talk about how stinky dis taxi is?”
“I should go get a medical check-up,” she told Amanda that night. Our flatmate had just come back from an overseas trip and was looking impossibly glamorous for someone who’d just spent 20 hours on a plane.
“You two are just so ridiculous!” Amanda exclaimed. “Why don’t you just not be in the flat when they fog if you’re so worried? Do you honestly think the Feedback Unit is interested in this kind of rubbish?”
“Well, if you’re going to be so selective, what’s the point of asking for feedback then?” Saffy said stiffly.
“There are so many other things to talk about,” Amanda said, giving her glorious shampoo-ad hair a vigorous toss. “I’m going to write in and say how much I adore Changi! The plane touched down at 8pm, and here I am back home at 8.40pm. Which other airport in the world can do that? It’s fabulous! And I love all that greenery along the highway!” she gushed. “We passed through dodgy neighbourhoods and ugly concrete flyovers in New York to get to the airport. I had to lock all the taxi doors!”
Saffy complained that Amanda was being such a kill-joy. “What’s freaking New York’s concrete flyovers got to do with us being gassed?” she demanded. “I wish you would just concentrate on the topic at hand. Now, tell me, do you think the Prime Minister has been working out? He’s been looking quite buff lately on TV.”
The next day, Amanda said she sometimes wondered how Saffy had ever been allowed to graduate from kindergarten.