Thursday, June 18, 2015

Something Fishy

One of the great things about Singapore is that it never does anything by halves. The same super obsessed dedication it applies to its education system shows up in just about every other aspect of life on this 50-year old island.
            The other day, as we were zooming down Bukit Timah Road in a taxi towards Violet Oon’s restaurant, my friend Sasha who is visiting from London said, “I love Singapore. I can’t remember the last time I took a taxi in London. It’s so expensive there!”
            “They’re building a string of MRT stations along this road,” I told her.
            “I know! In London, they’ve closed Bond Street Station for a year because they have to replace one escalator! Replace. An existing escalator,” Sasha was at pains to emphasise. “They’re not digging a new hole. It’s so sad that I’m not even joking!”
            “This whole line will all be done by lunchtime!”
            Sasah glowed with pride. “Did you know that I landed at Changi, went through immigration, collected my bags, got into a taxi and was sitting down to dinner at home in forty minutes? How amazing is that? In London, I’d still be in the immigration queue! I don’t know why my friends are always whingeing on Facebook about how bad Singapore is. I wish I could move back here!”
            “So why don’t you?” I asked.
            “Aiyoh, my stupid ang-moh husband and children, lah!” Sasha sighed.
            Later at Violet’s restaurant, Sharyn pointed a fork heavy with beef rendang at Sasha and said, “Who ask you to mare-ly ang-moh?”
            “That’s what happens when you fall in love, Sharyn! You marry!” Saffy said.
            “What love! I mare-ly my husband because we want to get a flat and get away from my siow mudder-in-law!”
            “Really?” Sasha asked.
            “Abuden? You think, what?”
            Later, after lunch, as we were waiting in line to get into the S.E.A Aquarium on Sentosa, Sasha said she loved how practical Sharyn was. “She’s a classic example of how this country has become what it has!”
            “I hope we stay ahead of that busload of Mainland Chinese tourists that just showed up!” Saffy murmured.
“You are such a drama queen!” Amanda said, applying a fresh coat of lipstick to her already impeccably defined lips.
Saffy’s chest puffed up to a dangerous volume. “Seriously, if I get shoved one more time like when we went to the Night Safari, there will be a major international incident in front of the shark tank! I’m not kidding!” Over the top of her sunglasses, she glared at the approaching gaggle of enthusiastic tourists following the tour leader who was holding up a ragged folded umbrella and urging them all, according to my rusty Mandarin, to stay close.
            Inside the comforting gloom of the aquarium, the spectacle of gloriously coloured fish unfolded in one sensational burst after another.
            “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen!” Sasha said, standing in front of a vitrine crowded with bobbing jellyfish that changed colour.
            “This is the world’s biggest aquarium!” I was quick to point out.
            “Why are there so many hot ang-mohs in here today?” Saffy said.
            “Don’t you just love Singapore?” Sasha sighed, though no one was quite sure whether she was referring to the multi-million dollar aqua complex or the tousled blonde hunk currently posing for a selfie in front of the coral reef exhibit.
            “Don’t push!” Saffy told a ten-year old boy who was trying to elbow his way in front of her to get to the clown fish display. “Wait your turn!”
            Out of the soft blaze of shifting colours, Amanda emerged like a vision. “Where are the dugongs?” she asked. “I thought there’d be dugongs here!”
            Saffy’s stare cut right through Amanda’s radiance. “Seriously?”
            Amanda blinked. “What?”
            “Dugongs aren’t fish!”
            “This is an aquarium!”
            Amanda paused. “Oh.” She regrouped quickly. “So where are the dugongs then?”
            “They’re at the River Safari!”
            “God, I knew we should have gotten the multi-venue pass!” Amanda sighed. She cast her eye around the water tanks and caught the attention of the blonde guy. Amanda turned on her best smize before drifting over towards him on an apparently random course to inspect the Alaskan King Crab.
            “If she comes back with his phone number, I am going to be violently ill!” Saffy threatened.
            “Don’t you have a boyfriend?” Sasha asked.
            “Yes, but I’m allowed to be petty!” Saffy said, her eyes still narrowed. By now, Amanda had started chatting to Blondie. “Honestly, where did he come from? I never see men like that in Toa Payoh! He looks like an Abercrombie model!”
            “I miss being single,” Sasha murmured.
            “Oh my God, are they exchanging phone numbers?”



Saturday, June 13, 2015

Coming Clean

A few weeks ago, Saffy discovered the joys of a white Japanese sponge. This might strike some of you as an odd statement to make, but it has literally changed our lives. It looks like a sponge. It feels like a sponge. But it doesn’t need any cleaning liquids. Just wet it and it cleans off the most caked in muck with just a single swipe.
A simple demonstration on a tea-stained cup we had scrubbed for years was all it took to convert Amanda and me. We’ve not stopped cleaning with what we now call the Miracle Sponge (the packet is in Japanese, so this is not our fault). It’s expensive as hell, but it’s totally worth every cent for the endorphin rush we get when the grey dirt comes right off the floor tile grouting and the stainless steel sink is so sparkling you can see the reflection of your satisfied smirk in it.
And according to Google, the sponge is anti-bacterial, though I’m not sure how. “If the dirt comes off like this, I don’t see how bacteria can stand a chance,” Amanda reasoned.
            “I guess,” I said as I worked on the remote control. After years of use, oil and dirt had settled in over the number pad and volume keys. A few vigorous swipes with the Miracle Sponge and the remote was good as new.
Our apartment now looks like an Ikea set. Well, it would if we had more Ikea furniture and we were a lot tidier. Still, we keep finding new things to clean. When we finished with the floors, we did the oven. Then we did the windows. Then the edges of cupboards. I attacked the washing machine while Saffy started on the home telephone. “There’s so much grime on the numbers and on the ear-piece!” she murmured. “And how do we get so much make-up on our ears? That makes no sense at all!”
Amanda brought a Miracle Sponge with her to the gym. The condo security guard called up and said that we needed to come down and collect Amanda. “She’s scrubbing the dumb-bells,” Murti whispered down the line. “She is seriously disturbing the other residents in the gym! Oh my goodness, now she is cleaning the light switches…” She paused and I could imagine her watching Amanda work on the grubby panels. “Wow! The dirt is coming right off!” You could feel the exclamation marks hanging in the air. “What is that white sponge she is using?”
“It’s the Miracle Sponge, Murti!” I told her. “Come up later and I’ll give you one to try. It will change your life!”
“Now, Miss Amanda is cleaning the floor. Gracious, is that the real colour of the floor? I always thought it was dark grey, not white!”
I clicked off the phone and told Saffy that we’d turned another person to the Clean Side of the Force.
Saffy stood up and flicked hair from her brow. She’d been cleaning the underside of our dining room table. “There’s no stopping us now,” she said with satisfaction.
Later that evening, she went down to the gym for an inspection. She called on her sparkling freshly cleaned phone. “The place looks brand new!” she reported with satisfaction.
She was so overcome by the sensation of clean sanitized equipment she actually stayed to do a few sets on the dumb-bells. She then did ten minutes on the treadmill, pausing every so often to admire how shiny the electronic screen was. She called me again. “I’m amazed that the sponge can clean glass without scratching it!” she puffed over the sound of whirring machinery.
“You’re actually using the gym?” I asked.
“I know, right? But I’m thinking that my gym aversion has really been a germ aversion the whole time!...Oh crap, now what’s happening? Why is this thing speeding up…I think I pressed a button by mistake and now…oh my God, the treadmill is going really fast! Help! Help! Jason, help!”
“Pull the emergency red cord!” I shouted into my phone. “Pull it!!”
Saffy later said the only consolation about the whole sorry Treadmill Incident, as she’d already dubbed it, was the fact that when she was thrown clean off the machine, at least she landed on a clean floor. “My body actually made a squeaking sound on contact!”
When we came back from the doctor, Murti popped her head out of the security guard post. “That sponge is mi-raculous!” she said, her gold bangles clanging with enthusiasm as she rotated her wrist.
Amanda says if we ever got fired, we could always get jobs as cleaning ladies.




Thursday, June 04, 2015

Clean Slate

The world is divided into two camps: those who are clean and those who are not.  
            Of course, there are degrees of clean. Some people think having a part-timer visit their home once every two months to vacuum and dust means they keep a clean house. By my tone, I’m sure you can tell where I stand on this. And yes, Phyllis Chan, I am talking about you.
            I once had lunch with someone who confided she washed her bed-sheets once a year. “I sleep on one side for six months and then on the other side for six months,” she told me. “It’s OK, what!”
            “No wonder she’s single!” Amanda said when I got home and recounted the story, to which Saffy, merrily adding fuel to fire, said, “In that case, why are we still single? We wash our sheets every week!”
            “We have other issues,” Amanda snapped before flouncing off to aqua-aerobics.
            “I wonder,” Barney Chen growled in his rumbling basso while he admired his bulging biceps in the mirror, “if she realizes that it doesn’t help her dating opportunities if she exercises with a bunch of old ladies in a pool in the middle of the day?”
            “She says she’ll stand out more if she surrounds herself with older, more wrinkled women,” Saffy said.
            “But all the ang-moh bankers will be at work!” replied Barney, the original male SPG.
            “Ugh, you just reminded me,” Saffy said as she trudged into the kitchen to open the cupboard where we store the cleaning products. “Ah Luan is about to show up. I better clean the toilets!”
            Barney paused in mid-flex and stared at Saffy’s reflection in the mirror. “Uhm,” he said eventually. “Why?”
            “Why what?” Saffy’s muffled voice asked, her head buried inside the cupboard. “Why am I cleaning before Ah Luan comes? You mean, you don’t?” Her head emerged. “We always clean up and tidy up first. We don’t want her to think we’re complete slobs, right? Even if we are really.”
            Barney turned around to give Saffy the full weight of his attention. “Wait a minute. Let me get this right. You clean up. Before the cleaning lady arrives?”
            Saffy’s fabulous bosom deflated. “I know. It’s so sad.”
            “What’s the point then of having a cleaning lady in the first place?”
            “I know,” Saffy repeated in the same resigned tone mothers everywhere use when confronted by undisputed evidence that their daughter is never going to marry some billionaire’s hot eligible son.
            Barney later told me I was living with a bunch of complete loonies. “I’ve never heard of such a thing!” he said.
            Loyally, I rose to the defence of my flatmates. “Well, it’s not as if we…” I trailed off, realizing that I’m just made a tactical error.
            “‘We’? You mean you do it too?”
            “Only a little bit! You know, I just clean the rim of the toilet bowl and…and…maybe give the sink a bit of a rinse…”
            “You are such a girl!” Barney announced. “And not in a good way!”
            A few days ago, Amanda was in the Japanese supermarket in the basement of Isetan hoping to bump into a hot Japanese banker when she fell into conversation with a Japanese tai-tai in the household cleaning aisle.
            She came back with a packet of white sponges. “Mariko said this stuff is amazing! It cleans everything, she said!”
Saffy opened the packet doubtfully. “It feels like those Tempur pillows!” she said, picking up a tea-stained cup. “Let’s see how it works with…oh my God!”
“Does it work?” Amanda said.
With bright shining eyes, Saffy held up the cup. “Look at this! Just one swipe and the tea stains came right off!”
“Huh!” Amanda said. “Mariko said it cleans anything!”
“I wonder if it will work on this filthy floor,” Saffy said, squatting down. She rubbed at a grey patch and instantly, a white patch appeared beneath.
“Oh my God!” Saffy and Amanda breathed.
“Our kitchen floor is white?” Saffy said.
“I always thought it was slate grey,” Amanda said. “That’s what I’ve been telling everyone. Rub some more!”
Which is how the girls spent the next hour on their hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. “How is this possible?” Saffy said at one stage. “It’s just a sponge!”
Amanda moved onto the cupboards which now revealed themselves to be the colour of light grey which surprised us all since we’d long assumed it was volcanic grey. “It’s a miracle!”
“That’s what it says on the package!” Saffy said. “I’m going to scrub our bathroom now!”
We’ve not stopped scrubbing for days. Tomorrow, Mariko is coming over for tea. The girls plan to ask her what other cleaning products she recommends.