Monday, August 22, 2016

Smoke Detector

I’ve been having some trouble lately with my Sony phone. For some reason, people who should in my address book, don’t show up when I type in their name and then when I try to create a new contact for them, the phone says they already exist and shows me the very number that I can’t find. It’s completely aggravating.
            “Did you sync to the iCloud?” Sharyn asked. Say what you will about the woman. She looks like she just rolled out of bed, but she has a brain that makes Spock look like a hung-over underachiever.
            I stared at Sharyn. “I can do that? Even if it’s a Sony phone?”
            “Oh. Soh-neee.” The way she said it made it sound like I was using a brick to make phone calls. “Why you not use Apple? So much easier to sync all your contact!”
            “I don’t even know what that means, Sharyn,” I told her earnestly.
            “Aiyah, so easy!” she said and started talking at me about system preferences and syncing and uploading and stuff. After a while, it was like being in a Star Trek movie and listening to someone speak Klingon.
            “How do you know all this?” I said eventually.
            “Aiyah, where have you been?”
            I hate it when people ask me that. “Where have you been?” It’s like I’m so stupid that I don’t even know anything, that I’ve been hiding under a rock my entire life. Which I guess is the whole point of the question.
            I once confessed that I had no idea who Gigi Hadid was, to which Saffy puffed, “Oh. My. God. She’s just about the hottest model around and she recently debuted on this year’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Honestly, where have you been?”
            “I wish people would stop asking me that!” I mumbled and buried my face deeper behind the current issue of 8DAYS where I’d been trying to ignore the fact that I had been reading a long article about Ian Fang but I had no idea who he was but didn’t dare admit that fact out loud just in case it turned out he was Singapore’s biggest pop star.
            A few Tuesdays ago, Amanda came down with the flu and had to call in sick. Predictably, she blamed the office auntie who serves afternoon tea. “She is always coughing this wet phlegmy cough all over the biscuits! It’s a miracle the whole office hasn’t died of the plague!”
            “Uh huh!” Saffy said soothingly from behind her Air+ face-mask. “Please turn your head to the other side when you talk to me?” She plugged in our new Tefal air-purifier next to Amanda’s bed, turned it on full blast, adding the ozone function for good measure, and beat a hasty retreat.
            “Right, you’re all set. You have a jug of water by the bed. A stack of Vogue, Elle and Men’s Health. Your phone is fully charged. There’s congee in the hotpot in the kitchen. OK. Bye.”
            “You’re leaving me?” Amanda coughed. Silence. Saffy had already left. I didn’t have the heart to say that she had practically run out the front door.
            Amanda turned her attention to me. “What about you? Are you leaving me alone too?”
             “I’m afraid so. I have meetings all day. I’ve opened all the windows just so you have fresh air circulating. OK. Bye!”
            A few hours later, Amanda called in a spectacular coughing fit. “Oh God! What’s going on?! The whole flat is filled with this foul chemical smoke! I can’t see a thing! And it’s so noisy! Help!”
            It took a while for the various pieces to click together.
            “Oh dear,” I said. “I forgot! It’s Tuesday and that’s the day they fog for mosquitoes!”
            “I’m being gassed to death!” Amanda shrieked over the phone. Later, I remarked to Saffy that for someone who had practically lost her voice that morning, Amanda was demonstrating an amazing vocal range.
            We came home that evening to find Amanda sprawled on the sofa looking like death warmed up.
            “God. First the drilling upstairs and now this!” she moaned. “I couldn’t close the windows because all that smoke was already in the flat, but I couldn’t leave them open either as more smoke was coming in! I ended up squatting in the bathroom for hours with wet towels jammed against the base of the door!”
            I wrung my hands. “I’m so sorry! I forgot they were fogging!”
            “This happens every Tuesday?” Amanda whispered painfully.
            “Since time began!” Saffy said.
            I nodded helpfully. “All over Singapore. But some estates do it on Wednesday.”

            Saffy’s bosom inflated. “Honestly, how do you not know this?”

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