Monday, August 31, 2015

Watch and Wear

I have never been a big one for following fads.
When, for instance, everyone was getting all hot and bothered for donuts and cupcakes, I was happily munching on an Old Chang Kee curry puff. “I love this crust and there’s no silly queue! Go bother Saffy,” I remember telling Amanda who was trying to bribe me to get in line on her behalf.
And when that Michelin-starred dim-sum joint from Hong Kong opened here and lines started forming around the block, I calmly strolled into a Crystal Jade and within five minutes, I was inhaling some very good xiaolongbao.
That whole single origin coffee craze? I barely noticed it as I sipped a frothy teh tarik at my neighbourhood coffee shop.
Mad Men? I could barely lift my arm to click the button on the remote control to change channels. I’m still watching, with great contentment, Grey’s Anatomy. And if I were left to my own devices, I’d probably still be watching old reruns of Friends. 
Speaking of grey, 50 Shades of Grey? I’m still making my way through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
But there’s something about the impending arrival of the new Apple Watch that has me all itchy and twitchy.
Never mind the fact that I’ve not worn an actual watch in, like, years. I don’t know exactly when that happened. One day, someone said we were going to be late for our meeting and I glanced at my phone and realized that I’d not actually looked at my watch to tell the time in a very long time. And the next thing I knew, I was no longer wearing a watch.
Which makes my current growing obsession with the Apple Watch just so odd, though Amanda says it’s not odd because the Apple Watch is not a watch.
“But they’re calling it a watch,” I said the other day.
“But it’s not a watch,” replied the Harvard graduate. “They could just as easily have called it a microwave oven and that wouldn’t have made it any more false.”
“You wear it on your wrist,” I pointed out.
“I wear lots of things on my wrist, but that doesn’t make them watches any more than an iPhone is a watch!” Amanda told me. “Actually, now that I think about it, the Apple Watch is just an iPod Touch that’s in a small square format!”
At this point, Saffy piped up. “Uhm, why is this an interesting conversation?”
“I’m just saying that it’s not odd that Jason should be obsessed by the Apple Watch when he no longer wears a watch simply because the Apple Watch is not a watch. It’s a small computer you wear on your wrist.”
Saffy remained unconvinced and, as she always does, took over the wheel and steered the conversation smoothly into her parallel universe.
“My birthday is coming up soon, so I think I should give you my birthday present wish-list now,” she said, handing over a piece of paper.
Amanda paused. “Your birthday’s not till October.”
Saffy’s bosom inflated. “That’s pretty soon. Top of my list, as you can see, is the Apple Watch…”
“Hey!” I began.
“I want the gold version, please,” Saffy continued smoothly.
Ice crystals formed in the air as Amanda’s eyes narrowed. “I am not buying you a ten-thousand dollar birthday present,” she said.
“No one is asking you to,” Saffy replied smoothly as she handed over another sheet of paper. “Here’s a list of 40 friends. If they each contributed $250, we’d have my birthday present all sorted out.”
Amanda actually burst out laughing. “You want us to crowd-fund your birthday present?”
Saffy looked put out. “You make that sound like it’s a weird thing to do.”
“Saf, people only crowd-fund for worthy causes like a start-up, or…or…”
“War-torn Syrian refugees!” I said helpfully and was rewarded with a glare from Saffy.
“And who’s Jacinta Veeraswamy, anyway?” Amanda said, looking down Saffy’s list.
“She’s my yoga teacher! She’s very nice!”
“Hello! You’ve been going to her for two weeks! Why would someone you’ve only seen in a class for an hour for two weeks want to drop $250 on your birthday present?”
Saffy’s bosom inflated. “Seriously, is this what you think? That people can’t become dear lifelong friends?”
“They can if it’s over a long life. I don’t think two weeks count!”

And that was when I wondered if maybe the new Apple Watch would have an app that blocks out sound. Like noise-cancelling headphones. How useful would that be, I thought as Saffy and Amanda continued bickering. Except then, it really won’t be a watch. Even if it did tell the time perfectly.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Employment Benefits

Speaking from bitter experience, Saffy says there are very few perks to working in a company’s HR department.
“No one likes you!” she once said. “The minute people see you walking towards them, they get all nervous because they’re scared you’re coming to fire them. Or tell them they’re getting a pay-cut! It’s so stressful!”
“For udder people more stressful than you, ok?” I remember Sharyn chiming in. “When I see that Mare-ly from HR, I walk the other way. Even if I have to go to toilet, I hide in my office and wait till she walk pass!”
“And if she walks into your office?” I asked.
Sharyn shrugged. “Then kena, lor! Your time is up!”
The flip side, of course, is that if you’re in HR, you’re also the first to hear all the bad news a long time before the rest of the staff do. This gives you time to prepare.
A few days ago, Saffy rang me in a state of panic. “Oh. My. God!” she said by way of greeting. “I just saw a memo on my boss’s desk.” She paused to suck in her breath. “They’re retrenching a whole bunch of people after Easter!”
On the other end of the line, I stopped typing. “Who’s on the list?”
“That’s just it! It was a two-page memo, so I only saw the intro page, which was upside down anyway so I couldn’t really read properly, before Jonathan walked back into the office! Oh my God, what if I’m on that list?”
Needless to say, productivity in Saffy’s office, never very high at the best of times, fell to a record low that afternoon. Like a hyena waiting for a wounded elephant to drop dead, Saffy watched Jonathan’s office. Her hands flew busily over her keyboard, looking for all the world like she was hammering out a very detailed breakdown of the year’s budget, but she was really just typing nonsense and waiting for Jonathan to step out. And when he did, he snatched the memo from the top of his in-tray and went up to the 35th floor.
“How do you know he went to the 35th floor?” I asked when she rang to give me an update.
“I called Rina who sits by the lift to tell me!” Saffy reported breathlessly. “And when he came back down to the 30th floor, his hands were empty.”
            “What’s on the 35th floor?”
“Legal counsel! You know what this means, don’t you? They’re working out the severance package!” For the first time, Saffy sounded hopeful.
“Or they’re just scared they might get sued for unlawful dismissal and want legal counsel’s opinion!” I offered brightly.
The silence from the other end of the phone was deafening.
Apparently, Saffy immediately called Amanda and demanded legal representation.
“But Saf, you don’t even know who’s on that list!” Amanda said.
“I need to be prepared. I can’t afford to lose this job! And anyway, why are they targeting us? They should get rid of all the ex-pats in the company! I was here first!”
It’s all Saffy’s been able to talk about since.
“I am not ready to be unemployed!” she sniffled into her bak kut teh the other night.
Amanda looked at me, her immaculate kohl-lined eyes swiveling back to Saffy. “Do you have a Plan B?” she asked solicitously.
Saffy looked up from her soup. “You are my Plan B! You’re going to have to support me if I lose my job!”
Amanda blinked. “What?”
“Hello, you earn, like, five times what Jason and I earn combined!”
“Yes, but…”
Saffy’s bosom inflated as she warmed to her theme. “Well, you’re not going to have to support me indefinitely! Just till I get another job!”
“Which in this market environment could be a while,” I murmured.
Saffy fixed me with a beady eye. “Listen, what is your problem?”
            “I'm just keeping it real,” I told her.
“Yeah well, if she doesn’t support me, I’m going to have to reduce my rent, sub-let my room, and share your room!”
            I blinked. Saffy looked triumphant. “How’s that for keeping it real?”
As it turned out, the retrenchment memo was directed at the Sydney subsidiary of Saffy’s company, not the Singapore HQ.
Saffy called me immediately after Jonathan had left her office. “Oh my God, I literally had an out of body experience when he told me! I swear I need learn to read upside-down properly!”

Amanda says she’s not taking any chances. She’s currently working on her own Plan B and it involves buying her own apartment. I said I was moving in with her. “You cannot leave me with Saffy,” I told her.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bowled Over

When I first started hanging out with Saffy years ago, one of the things I immediately noticed was that whenever we were out, she seemed to take an unusually long time in the toilet. Nothing could hurry her up – not the final boarding call at the airport, not the imminent start of a blockbuster movie that we’d been dying to see, nothing.
            “Why do you take so long?” I once asked, frustrated that I’d literally just spent fifteen very uncomfortable minutes loitering outside the women’s toilet at Takashimaya. “I could have raised a child and sent him off to university by now!”
            Saffy was serenely unruffled as we walked towards Crystal Jade for lunch. “You are such a drama queen. These things take time! We’re women. We can’t just go up to a wall, and whip it out and pee, you know!”
            Saffy sighed, her impressive bosom deflating a few millimetres. “Look, first of all, I have to find a clean cubicle. That’s not as easy as it sounds. If the other cubicles are all occupied except for one and that one is not clean, I have to wait for someone to come out.”
            “Define clean!” I challenged.
            “No puddles on the ground. No shoe marks on the toilet seat!”
            I stopped walking. “Shoe marks? Why would there be shoe marks on the toilet seat?”
            Saffy looked around to make sure she wasn’t overheard. She stood up on her tip-toes and pulled me down closer. “Some women,” she whispered, “step onto the toilet seat!” She lowered herself and resumed in normal conversational tones. “So, if the floor has puddles in the first place, their shoes will get wet and they’ll leave shoe marks on the seat!”
            Which, apparently, brought us to the next stage – lining the seats with toilet paper. Assuming the cubicle in question, Saffy said, in a penetrating tone, hadn’t actually run out of toilet paper.
            “And if the toilet paper is the dinky square sheet kind, that’s going to take extra time, as you can imagine,” she said as we settled down at the table where Amanda was waiting.
            “What takes time?”
            “Lining the toilet seat,” Saffy said.
            “Oh, are you explaining why we take so long in the toilet? We’re women, Jason. We can’t just whip it out, you know!”
            Saffy’s bosom inflated. “That’s exactly what I said! Oh, and don’t forget, if the woman before me has just done a number two in there, you cannot expect me to go in straight after, right? I have to wait for the air to clear a bit!”
            “Do you still line the toilet seat?” Amanda asked as she took a menu from the waitress.
            Saffy looked astonished. “You mean, you don’t?”
            “I can’t be bothered anymore. The toilets I’ve been to lately have been so gross, I just need to pee and get out as quickly as I can!”
            Saffy leaned forward. “So what do…”
            “I just hover!”
            Saffy sighed. “Oh.”
            I was completely lost. “What? What happens?”
            Saffy turned to me. “Hovering is when you lower yourself over a toilet seat till you’re almost in the sitting position, but you’re not actually sitting and touching the seat!”
            I raised an eyebrow. “That’s an actual thing? Hovering?”
            “Only if you have strong thigh muscles and good core!” said Amanda. “Which I have.”
            “And I don’t,” Saffy said morosely. “Plus I have a very lazy bladder which means it takes me about a minute to really get going and there’s no way I can hover beyond five seconds before I have to sit!”
            Of course, when I next caught up with my best friend Karl, it was all I could talk about.
            “Did you know that it was such a major production for women to pee in a public toilet?” I asked.
            Karl frowned into his mug of beer. “Listen, mate, every thing a woman does is a major production! Whenever we go out, I dread it when Marsha goes to the toilet. We timed her once. It took her fifteen minutes to pee and another ten to touch up her make-up.” He sighed. “I wish I was single again.”
            Recently, I found myself in a core exercise class with Sharyn.
            “You know, ah!” she shouted over the loud music. “Amanda say I need to do more squats, so that I can get strong ties because, ah, I always take so long in the toilet, she fed up waiting. She say if I have strong ties, I can just hor-ver! Wah, I wish I was a man! Can just unzip and take out, no ploh-blem!”
            Karl says this is why he dreams of a men’s only gym.

Friday, August 14, 2015

High Five

If you ever need clear evidence that we live in a world gone completely crazy, you just come and sit by me any time you want, because I have a whole lot of crazy to tell you, my friend. 
            It all started a few weeks ago when I was having lunch with my friend Leong at Alexandra Village.
            Well, when I say I was having lunch with him, it’s probably more accurate to say that I was eating, and he was sipping water while watching me eat.
            “You know,” I said, between mouthfuls of a delicious claypot laksa, “I could just as easily have eaten by myself. This is just so pointless!”
            “Sorry, lah,” Leong said. “I forgot this was my non-eating day!”
            It turns out the latest craze to hit Crazy World is the 5-2 diet which, apparently, is not the score for a tennis match. Instead, you are meant to eat normally for five days of the week and then fast for two days.
            “You just pick any two days of the week and skip two meals for each of those two days,” Leong explained like it was the most natural thing in the world to do.
            “Any two meals?” I asked, as I scooped up a salty cockle from my thick, creamy laksa broth.
            “I usually skip breakfast and lunch. I find that if I don’t have dinner, I can’t sleep.”
            “I can’t sleep if I miss any meal!” I told him. “In fact, I honestly don’t think I’ve missed a single meal in my life. Unless I’m really sick.”
            “We don’t need to eat so many meals,” Leong said. “This whole three-meals a day thing only happened in the early part of the last century. Before that, people only had a light breakfast and a big supper.”
            Of course, when I went home and reported this to Saffy, she said, “And how does he know this? Was he around in 1910?”
            “He got a first in history in Cambridge,” I said. “He knows this sort of thing.”
            “I don’t trust anyone from Cambridge,” Amanda said, secure in the superiority of her Harvard degree.
            “But what’s the point of this diet?” Saffy wanted to know.
            “The fasting is meant to help cleanse the body and kick-start its immune system and keep it working in tip-top condition. Leong says he’s lost five kilos!”
            “Five kilos!” Saffy said. “But he’s always been skinny! How could he afford to lose five kilos? More to the point, where did those five kilos come from?”
            “Probably his brain,” Amanda said, pleased that here was proof that Cambridge graduates possessed defective reasoning powers.
            Leave it Sharyn to put the whole thing in perspective.
            “Ay, you know, ah, we Chinese people suffer all those years of star-vation, you know or not?” she said, her eyes alarmingly magnified by her Coke bottle thick spectacles. “Our ancestors got no food to eat and they all die and now we want to starve ourselves? Where got such thing, one? Siow lang, ah!”
            “Well, to be fair, Sharyn, it’s called fasting, not starv…” Saffy began.
            Sharyn waved her hand, impatience etched into the thin disapproving lines on each side of her mouth. “If you don’t eat, is call star-vation! Aiyah, have you notice or not, all these die-ets are invented by siow ang moh! In the history of the universe, no Chinese has eh-ver invented a die-et! Not one! You go and find?”
            Even Amanda paused at this. She turned her lovely limpid eyes up towards the ceiling and thought. Saffy sat quietly, frowning.
            Sharyn glowed with satisfaction. After a triumphant silence, she said, “Don’t have, right?”
            Amanda suddenly sat up. “What about confinement diets?”
            Sharyn looked at her. “You give birth, is it? You got no baby, what for you want confinement diet? And also, hor, confinement diet not mean you don’t eat, ok? You still eat like normal, but eat different thing! Not die-et, lah!”
            Still, Saffy and Amanda have never met a diet they’ve not failed at least once and they’re not about to let the 5-2 Diet slip by them.
            “I wouldn’t mind losing a kilo or two,” Amanda said as she looked at her diary to work out the two days of the week she could skip her two meals.
            “What if we do a six one diet?” Saffy asked. “And on that one day, we skip one meal rather than two?”
            “Why would you even bother if that’s the case?” Amanda said.
            Saffy shifted. “Well, just to ease my way in! Skipping four meals a week sounds really traumatic!”
            Amanda says that if there was ever a famine, Saffy would be the first one to die.