Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Party Favours

I wrote this during the last general elections and it's taken me this long to post it. JH

So, the election results have just come in, bringing to an end a very eventful couple of weeks. Friendships have broken up, unexpected alliances formed. And in some cases, inspiration has flowered.
            The day after the results, Saffy came home looking thoroughly disgruntled.
            “Oh. My. God!” she sighed. Her dejected bosom deflated on cue as she collapsed onto the couch.
            Amanda looked up from her latest issue of Vogue. “What happened?” she asked cautiously.
            Saffy spoke to the ceiling. “I was in two cabs today, and in each one, the taxi driver insisted on talking to me about the elections!”
            Apparently, the one taking Saffy to Takashimaya spent the entire trip along the CTE running through all the things that were wrong with Singapore, while the one that took Saffy home did nothing but complain about the people complaining about Singapore.
            “And all I wanted to do was to listen to my new Taylor Swift music on my iPhone!” Saffy complained. “But they just kept on talking!”
            “It’s a First World problem,” Amanda observed.
            “Well, not if you listened to the first taxi driver. One of the things he was complaining about was how the roads in Singapore are in such terrible shape they’re practically Third World!”
            Amanda arched an eyebrow. “Isn’t it amazing what some people complain about?”
            “God, it’s all given me a headache!”
            Later that night, over dinner at Adam Road, Saffy recounted the story to Sharyn.
            “Aiyah, politics, hor, cannot win, one,” Sharyn said, her enormously magnified eyes rolling in despair. “My mudder and fadder all vote PAP, but my mudder-in-law always say if she can vote, she vote Worker Party! One time at my house at Chinese New Year, they all fight, fight, fight, so suay, my whole year got bad luck!”
            “People should never talk about politics,” Amanda said as she delicately speared a piece of apple from the rojak. “It never ends well for anyone.”
            “Yah, same with Kardashian!” Sharyn said.
            Three sets of eyes swiveled up from their char kway teow to stare at her. Sharyn noticed the sudden spotlight. “Yah what!” she said defensively. “You talk about Kim Kardashian and some people think you siow! But I don’t care. I like to watch. What I watch is my own business. Right or not?” she asked, jabbing me in the ribs.
            “I just have no idea why anyone in the right minds would ever enter politics,” Amanda said. “I mean, it’s such a thankless job. You get criticized for every single mistake you make!”
            “Welcome to my world,” Saffy said. “It’s just like being in HR. Everyone hates you!”
            “Ay, I like you, what!” Sharyn told Saffy.
            “Yes, but you work in HR too, so that doesn’t count!”
            “What would I stand for if I ever went into politics?” Amanda wondered.
            “More to the point, which party would you be in?” Saffy asked.
            “I’m not sure I like all that white,” Amanda thought, her lovely limpid eyes staring off into an alternative universe in which she was Singapore’s first female prime minister. “I have such fair skin as it is, I would just fade away into the background! What would I wear on the campaign trail?”
            “What are the Workers Party colours?” Saffy asked as she whipped out her phone to Google the question. “Red, yellow and blue from the looks of the website.”
            “Hmm,” Amanda hummed. “I’ve got some lovely Missoni outfits that have those colours.”
            “Hah?” Sharyn said. “That is your party platform? Your outfit?”
            “Well, you can’t run a country looking like a slob, Sharyn!” Saffy told Sharyn. “It’s all about your outfits! Would you go to a Taylor Swift concert if she just wore the same thing all night?”
            Sharyn pursed her lips and gave the matter some thought. “Yah, I suppose so, lah,” she said after a while. “Like a wedding. Must have different nice outfit!”
            “There you go,” Saffy said encouragingly.
            “But what would you campaign about?” I asked Amanda.
            “I’ll tell you what she can campaign about!” Saffy interrupted. “She can make it illegal for taxi drivers to talk about politics to their passengers! Actually, she should make it illegal for taxi drivers to talk to their passengers at all!”
            “That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?” I asked.
            Saffy’s bosom inflated. “No, it’s not! I’m always so angry by the end of the trip! Hey, maybe I should run for office, too! You can make me minister for manpower or something, Amanda. I’m so qualified for the job!”
            “I can make coffee in the Istana!” Sharyn said.
            Amanda said at this rate, she might as well run on a platform of cronyism.


Volume Control

When it comes to living in a high-density apartment complex like I do, most days, I can’t say there’s too much to complain about. The gardens are always nicely manicured. The public areas are mopped clean each morning. Every Tuesday, we get fumigated. The mail is always delivered promptly.
            Sure, sometimes we complain about little things. Like that the security guards who let just about anyone through. Like the time Saffy found herself trapped with her frenemy Jeanette who dropped by unannounced to talk about her boyfriend whom Saffy had once dated.
            “Why did you let her in?” Saffy demanded of Lashmi who sits in the guardhouse. “I’ve been trying to avoid her for days!”
            Poor Lashmi shook her head with regret. “I’m so sorry, Miss Saffy,” she said, twisting her wrists in a chime of gold bangles, “but she said she knew you and she even knew the block and apartment number. There was no reason not to let her in!”
            “Well, please don't do it again because I had to talk her for two hours about her new boyfriend who was my ex-boyfriend. Can you believe her bad manners? And I missed Masterchef! Do you know how annoying that is?” Saffy asked, her impressive bosom rising on cue to emphasize her displeasure.
            Of course, Lashmi learnt her lesson so well, she has since denied access to anyone and everyone. Including the FedEx guy who was delivering Amanda’s purchase of a pair of very slinky silk underwear that she was going to wear on her second date with Paolo, the hot Italian banker she met at a conference.
            “What were you thinking?” Amanda sighed to Lashmi the next day. “Do you know I had to wear some old pair of lingerie? I was so embarrassed. ”
            “Oh, but what am I to do, Miss Amanda?” Lashmi moaned. “I let someone in, I get scolded. I don’t let someone in, I also get scolded! Both sides, kena!”
            Amanda paused, giving Lashmi’s dilemma some thought. “OK, tell you what: you don’t let in anyone who’s asking for Saffy, but for me and Jason, you let them all in, OK?”
            A few weekends ago, Sharyn rang Saffy’s handphone.
            “Ay!” Sharyn said, by way of greeting, “why your secure-lity guard say I cannot come up? I got so many ting for you and very hot, you know! Let me up, lah! Aiyoh! I hand you to Lashmi. Nah, you talk to her.”
            By the time Sharyn had puffed up to our apartment, she was in a state of extreme irritation. “Wah, you too much, you know! Ask people to da bao your nasi lemak and rojak and den you don’t let them in. How can like dat?”
            Saffy puffed up. “Well, she let Jeanette in the last time and I didn’t want to take any more chances!”
            “Aiyoh, den say next time dohn let Jeanette in, lah! Why must ban everyone? Ay, what are you doing?” Sharyn asked finally noticing that Saffy was pressed up against the side of the lounge room, her ear stuck to an inverted glass on the wall.
            “I’m trying to listen to what’s going on next door!” Saffy hissed.
            Sharyn carefully put her plastic bags on the dining table. She sidled up next to Saffy and pressed her ear against the wall. “Why, what happen?” she whispered.
            “We have new neighbours!” Saffy murmured. “Two very hot Australian guys. I think they may be gay, but I can’t be sure!”
            “Why, ah?” Sharyn asked as she pressed her ear to the wall.
            Saffy frowned. “Why I can’t be sure? Because there’s just so much noise, I can’t hear properly. It’s very echo-ey. They mustn’t have had all their furniture in yet!”
            “Ay, got girl voice, leh! Cannot be gay, lah!”
            Saffy’s eyes dropped down from the ceiling to focus to Sharyn. “What does that have to do with any…Oooh wait, they’re coming this side…I still can’t hear very…”
Sharyn concentrated. “She say she study at Harvard…”
“God, how can you hear so clearly? Harvard?...Harvard!” Saffy straightened up. “Oh my God, tell me that’s not Amanda next door!”
            Sharyn picked up her handphone and dialed. Very distantly, from a direction that was possibly next door, a phone rang.
            “Yah, hallo, Amanda, ah? You next door, issit?” Sharyn said cheerfully. “Yah, Saffy, is Amanda!”
            For days, it’s been all Amanda can talk about. “Can you imagine, she actually had a glass up against the wall!” she told Barney Chen.
            “Uh huh. You poor thing,” he growled. “So listen, are they gay? Your new neighbours, I mean.”
            Meanwhile, Saffy says it’s extremely irritating our apartment’s common walls are so thin. “What kind of Neighbourhood Watch is this?”