Saturday, September 27, 2014

Classified Information

Regular readers will know that I’m an incurable snoop. My idea of heaven is to excuse myself in the middle of a dinner party and go into my host’s bathroom and open cabinets to see what secrets they’re hiding. I like to know what medical ailments they’re suffering from. What moisturisers they use. Whether the bottles and tubes are nicely lined up by colour, size or even function, or if it’s all just a complete mess.
And on my way back from the bathroom, I might poke my head into a bedroom. Is it dusty? Is it tidy? Is the bed made? Are the clothes neatly stored away in a washing basket or strewn across the floor? Is there a smell of unwashed linen?
While eating, my eyes might stray around the room, carefully noting any layers of dust on light fixtures, or stains on the walls around electric switches. I will examine the children, noting if they’re cleanly washed, the condition of their clothes and their general demeanour around their parents. I will carefully note the behaviour of the domestic helper, wondering if she has a happy relationship with my friends. Do they give her Sundays off, I think as I help myself to another serving of the beef rendang.
And much later, when the party is over, and I’m safely tucked up in bed, like Sherlock Holmes, I’ll replay all the evidence in my head, in slo-mo, and piece together a brand new assessment of a friend that I thought I knew well.
There’s a serious side to all this snooping, of course. In my line of work, it’s the details that add colour to the stories. This is important because people – and by people, I mean Saffy – are always accusing me of making things up. I wish I was that talented. I find that it’s hardly ever necessary because just when you think you’ve heard and seen it all, someone comes along to show you that things can always get just a little bit weirder.
How could you, for instance, make up the conversation I overheard on the 111 bus the other day? As it turned out, when the two Australian women sat down behind me, I was making notes in my diary, which is how I managed to record the entire conversation.

Woman 1: So who’s your accupunturist? Is she expensive? I didn’t sleep last night again! I think it’s worse than usual at the moment.
Woman 2: She’s over at Choa Chu Kang. It’s only $15 per session, so it’s quite cheap. She has a really comfortable bedside manner.
W1: Hmm, I’ll have a think. Maybe I should try some meditation first.
W2: Can’t you do both? I don’t think they need to be mutually exclusive remedies. In fact, I think they complement each other rather nicely. 
W1: True, true. She might also be able to help my Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
W2: Oh, totally. Hey, speaking of…do you wipe your dog’s bottom after she’s done a number two?
W1: Ew, gross! No! Why?
W2: I do with George. I always carry Wet Wipes with me.
W1: But dogs have a certain kind of anus that doesn’t need wiping down. There's nothing stuck there after Molly has done her business!
W2:  You’d be surprised. I never thought about it until Tanya – even more of a germ freak than I am – asked if I wasn’t worried that George was leaving skid marks all over my floor. 
W1: Well, the other day, I saw Molly dragging her bum across the floor which totally grossed me out. So I took her to the vet to make sure she didn't have worms or something and the vet said that dogs have anal sacks that can sometimes fill up! Apparently, most dogs release theirs when they poo, but sometimes it doesn't happen which means that it can get really uncomfortable, hence the bum dragging. So the vet stuck his fingers into her butt and squeezed and released them! The smell! He said I could just do it at home from now on. I'd rather pay $50 to visit the vet, thanks.
W2: Same with the bum wiping. Humans wipe down their bums for the same reason.
W1: Ugh, so gross! OK, I will give it a go. Although, Colin will think I'm ridiculous.
W2: Yeah, but do you want to have dog poo residue all over your clean floors and sofas?
W1: God, nobody would believe what we're talking about. I mean, dog anal sacks? Really?
W2: I’m sure the NSA are listening.
W1: They’re so dangerous.
As I got off the bus, I couldn’t help but think I was probably more dangerous than the NSA. Just ask my friends.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Thank you for the music

A few days ago, I came home to find the little apartment I share with Saffy and Amanda positively vibrating. The minute the lift door opened, you could feel the floor shuddering to a muffled beat.
At first, I thought the music was coming from our new neighbours, a pair of doped out advertising executives from Australia who spent all weekend either lying by the pool or standing next to a blazing barbeque.
Amanda thought one of them looked a lot like Hugh Jackman (“Have you seen him in his Speedos? Oh my God. Here, Saffy, give me back my binoculars!”) and decided that all her dating problems had been solved. Imagine her disappointment when after lying in wait all Sunday and then accidentally on purpose bumping into Matthew on his way home from the barbeque, the first thing he said was, “Oh, hi, pleased to meet you, Amanda. This is my boyfriend, Peter!”
“Seriously?” she asked. According to Peter, who turned out to be Barney Chen’s ex, Amanda spun around smartly on her heels and walked back into our apartment, slamming the door shut.
Anyway, the loud music. My first thought was to call the condo’s management office to complain, but then it occurred to me that the noise was actually coming from our flat.
I opened the door and was smacked by a solid wall of sound. The volume on our cheap-assed stereo was turned up so high, the pictures on the walls were literally shaking.
In the middle of lounge room, Saffy was gyrating, her eyes closed and her arms waving in the air, and her screaming somehow managing to rise over the ear-drum busting acoustics.
“Baby, every time I love you, in and out my life, in and out baby! Tell me!” she screeched.
In spite of the fact that I felt as if my heart was being pile driven right into the floor, there was something immediately uplifting about the song, its joyous mood overriding the complete certainty that we were probably breaking some law about public disturbance. There was something so incredibly happy about this song that without my even being aware of it, my toes started tapping and the body began moving. By the time Saffy noticed that there was someone else in the room, I had already joined her in the middle of the room dancing.
We played Michael Jackson’s ‘Love Never Felt So Good’ at least another six times, dancing like there was no tomorrow, before we collapsed in sweaty piles on the sofa.
“Isn’t this just the best song ever?” Saffy sighed, her skin glowing with an unaccustomed flush. “Amazing that he never released it. So much better than some of his later ones about healing the world and saving the children because they are our future and stuff. Those songs were so depressing, lemme tell ya!”
“Nobody writes songs like this anymore,” I said.
“I wonder what else he had hidden away in Wonderland!”
“Neverland,” I said.
“You’re being annoying now,” Saffy said.
Of course, you can imagine what happened when we discovered there was an extended version of the song featuring Justin Timberlake. Saffy ran the music video on our TV, cranked up the volume and we spent the rest of the afternoon trying to recreate the dance moves in our living room.
“My God, that Justin Timberlake can really move!” Saffy reported to Amanda later that night.
Amanda looked doubtful. “Michael Jackson? Really? I just started losing interest in him when he started singing about angels and saving the planet…”
Saffy waved her hand. “This song is from before he went all Greenpeace on us. Here, lemme play it for you!”
Which is how half an hour later, we were still dancing and singing at the top of our voices.
“Oh my God, this song is so fun!” Amanda yelled.
“Gotta fly, gotta sing, can’t believe I can’t take it, cause baby, every time I love you!” Saffy shouted as she stood in front of a fan, the wind whipping her shirt around, while her hair did a remarkable impersonation of Michael Jackson’s.
The next morning, Barney Chen rang to say that Peter had asked him to ask us if we could lower the volume on our music. “He says it’s like living right next to a nightclub!” he growled. “What’s going on over there?”
“It’s Michael Jackson’s ‘Love Never Felt So Good’!”
Barney’s judgmental tone changed immediately. “Oh my God, I love that song! Are you doing one of those looping dance-a-thons? Is that what you guys were doing? I am so coming over tonight!”
Sharyn says single people just have the best fun. For once, no one is contradicting her.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Child Friendly

When expecting parents get all dewy and glowing about the impending arrival of their miracle baby, I bet no one gives a second thought to what will happen if they need to take a break and do something normal that doesn’t involve nappy changes. There’s always the vague notion of grandparents on babysitting duties, but I’m certain no one thinks about what happens if they suddenly decide to go on a week-long boat cruise to Penang.
            “What, both sets of grandparents are going on this cruise?” Saffy asked last week.
            Sharyn moaned into her bowl of ice-kachang. “Yah, lor! My parents and my husband’s parents are best friends! Alamak, how like that?” she sobbed as she shoveled a big spoon of luridly coloured ice and radioactive yellow corn into her mouth.
            “So who’s going to look after your kids?”
            “Why you think I am so upset?” Sharyn sniffled. Saffy suddenly detected an underlying tone to the question.
            “Oh, no!” she said instantly. “No, no, no! I am not babysitting your kids!”
            “Pleee-ase!” Sharyn begged. “Just for one day!”
            “Absolutely, not!” Saffy said firmly. “I don't like children!”
            “Choy! Don’t talk like that, ok? Anyway, how you know you doan like children?
            “Because if I did, I would have had my own by now, wouldn’t I?”
            “Not if nobody ask you to ma-lly them!” Sharyn pointed out owlishly.
            “Keep it up, Sharyn!” Saffy threatened. “You’re already on very thin ice!”
            “Yah, this ice kachang not very good, leh! Next time, doan come back!”
            Saffy sighed.
            Later that evening, over dinner at Chomp Chomp, Amanda said it was a good thing Saffy hadn’t crumbled under the pressure.
            “Can you imagine it?” she said, shuddering delicately as she pulled apart a grilled chicken wing. “The whole apartment would be messed up and the walls grubby with chocolate stained hand marks. They’ll be running around screaming and breaking things!”
            I pointed out that Sharyn’s children were almost teenagers.
            Amanda switched gears smoothly. “Well, in that case, they’ll be sitting around, all sullen and moody, playing loud music, and eating pizzas and stealing stuff!”
            “You’d think, wouldn’t you,” said Saffy, “that someone would have invented a professional babysitting service by now.”
            There was a brief moment of silence as our brains ticked and heads were cocked.
            Eventually, Amanda broke the silence. “What, you mean like…like a pet hotel, or something?”
            “Yeah, exactly like that!” Saffy said, slurping up a spoonful of bah kut teh. “If you’re going away, you just bring your kids to this centre and leave them there. They get fed, bathed and are kept entertained. Brought to school every day and collected and brought back to the centre. And when the parents come back, hand them right back, all safe and sound!”
            Amanda looked doubtful. “I’m not sure I would send my kid to that.”
            “Why not?” Saffy reached for a satay stick. “It would be a totally niche market! Imagine how much time and stress you’d save parents who want to go out for a dinner or a movie. Just call us whenever you need us. And there’s an app to show you how far away the nanny is! Discounts if you book ahead, and premiums for last minute babysitting jobs. Like a taxi!
“I am pretty sure people with kids would not just hand them over to some complete stranger for a week.”
Saffy sighed. “God, we trust our money, laundry, luggage and our lives to third parties, so why not our kids? Ooh, right there is my company tagline!”
            “But…” Amanda began. 
“Look,” Saffy went on, obliviously. “We trust a complete stranger to hurtle us up 30,000 ft into the air. We trust our hard earned cash to nameless people in a bank. Our expensive clothes to dodgy dry cleaners. We let whoever claims to be the plumber into the house and never do background security checks. We feed ourselves food grown in suspicious circumstances by people we don’t know, much less met. We trust our health in hotels to housekeeping staff whom we’ve not vetted. What’s a child minding service?”
“I’m telling you, this is a gold mine idea. But I’m too lazy to do anything about it! Can one of you set it up and just pay me a 50% dividend?”
“You’re crazy!”
By now, Saffy had put down her half-eaten satay stick and was staring into space. “Internet Sharing Economy Whizz Kid and Childcare Revolutionary,” she murmured. “That’s what they’re going to call me! When I make it to the Forbes 50 Richest, I’ll take you all on a round the world holiday!”
Sharyn says she wants to be a shareholder.