Those of you born in a year starting with ‘20’ probably won’t remember this, but there was a time when Singaporeans were meant to be obsessed with the 5C’s – condominium, cash, credit card, car and country club membership. If you had all five, it kind of meant you had made it. You were someone targeted by mothers of single girls. You were someone your mother could freely boast about at her weekly mah-jong sessions.
Amanda recently said that she had no idea why anyone would want a country club membership.
“The cash and the condo and the credit card, I get,” she said as she inspected the latest season’s handbags at Gucci. Like resentful kids brought to a fancy restaurant, Saffy and I trailed behind.
“I really want to go to Muji,” Saffy mumbled to me. “Why are we even here? I can’t afford a button!”
“I’m hungry,” I told her. “When’s lunch?”
Meanwhile, Amanda was just warming up to her theme. “And besides, who goes to a country club these days? Excuse me, miss,” she turned to the sales assistant who was also trailing behind her next to us – only she was much better dressed in Gucci’s finest shop assistant’s wear. “Do you have this in brown leather?”
Saffy later said that going shopping with Amanda is like being a diabetic touring a cupcake kitchen. “It’s just cruel!” she announced. “You want everything, but you know you can’t afford a thing. So what’s the point?”
“Wah!” Sharyn said, her enormously thick spectacles fogging up. “That Amanda, she so rich, I oh-so wan! Dat’s why, hor, I tell my eldest son he must become lawyer, make lots of money, and make mummy happy!”
I emerged from our kitchen carrying a plate of chwee kway that Sharyn had brought for lunch.
“Thank you so much for this, Shaz!” I said earnestly, gratitude oozing from every hungry pore.
“No ploh-blem! I buy from Tiong Bahru market! Must queue up long time, but so good, right?”
Just then, Amanda barged in the front door. “Oh my God! Oh my God!”
On cue, Saffy, whose instinct for drama is never offline, not even when she’s in the middle of a particularly good fried carrot cake, gasped dramatically. “Oh my God! What? What’s happened?!”
Amanda dropped her Anya Hindmarch on the table, fished a piece of paper out of it, and waved it at us.
“Disaster!” she said in much the same tone the captain of the Titanic must have used when he saw the iceberg approach. “I’m about to lose my PPS status!”
As announcements of doom go, I guess I’ve heard better ones. As it was, a rather embarrassed silence descended on the dining table as three sets of eyes stared at Amanda who waited expectantly for screams of panic and fear.
Eventually, Saffy’s bosom lifted slightly. “Uhm…oh no?”
Amanda threw her hands up in the air. “Seriously, do you guys not understand what a disaster this is? I’m about to lose my P…P…S status!” she repeated slowly as if speaking to Helen Keller. “I can’t lose all my privileges!”
“I can’t remember the last time I flew SQ,” Saffy said, demonstrating, once again, her ninja skills at derailing any conversation. “It’s so expensive!”
Sharyn nodded. “Yah lor, me too! I ever fly Eva Air. Quite good, what! What for pay so much for SQ!”
Amanda collapsed on a chair and pushed some plates of chwee kway aside so she could set down SQ’s Bad News Letter.
“How are you losing the status?” I asked.
“I’ve not been flying much long haul Business Class this past year,” Amanda said. “I only went to Europe twice and America once.”
Sharyn’s eyes were magnified. “Wah lau, dat’s like my four month salary!”
“I know what I’ll do!” Amanda said, perking up. “I’ll just fly to Sydney this weekend!”
Sharyn blinked rapidly. “Hah?”
“Do you have business in Sydney?” I asked.
“No, but it’ll keep my PPS status!”
Saffy’s bosom inflated to dangerous volumes. “Just so I’m clear. You’re flying to Sydney. On Satay Class. Just so you can earn points. And keep your PPS status?”
Every word was like a bullet of condemnation. Even Amanda hesitated.
“Yes,” she said cautiously. “You make it sound like it’s a bad thing!”
Saffy turned to Sharyn for support and found her best friend staring at Amanda with admiration.
“Excuse me!” Saffy said, icicles forming on every syllable.
Sharyn ignored the look. “Wah, Amanda! You cham-pion! Now must add PPS to the figh see!”
Saffy was furious. “Sharyn!”
“But hor,” Sharyn went on, completely Teflon-proof to Saffy’s outrage, “PPS not spell with C, leh. So how?”
“Why? Cannot meh?”