Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Going Public

The other day, Saffy, fully reclined on the lounge like a lizard in the sun, looked up from her iPad and asked, “Did you hear about Goldman Sachs?”
            As out of the blue questions go, especially from Saffy, this one took the cake. Even Amanda looked up from her latest issue of Vogue to stare hard at Saffy.
            “Where did you learn that name?” she asked.
            “You are so rude!” Saffy puffed. You could tell she was trying to look and sound offended, but her heart wasn’t really into it. “I bring it up because I am just reading here that they are paying the New York Attorney General a five billion dollar fine!”
            A silence settled over our lounge room. A number of unspoken thoughts struggled to be the first to be uttered.
            Finally, Amanda coughed. “Who are you and what have you done with my flatmate?”
            Saffy struggled to sit up. “Haha,” she said flatly. “No, really. Listen. How can people like Goldman Sachs be giving away five billion dollars like that? And more to the point, where is all that money going to?”
            “You just said they’re paying the New York Attorney General,” Amanda pointed out.
            “Yes, I know, but the New York Attorney General can’t keep five billion dollars for himself. So where is it all going?”
            It was Amanda’s turn to pause. I looked with interest from one flatmate to the other. It’s not often that you get to see a Harvard law graduate stumped.
            “Well…I think it goes to the…to the…uhm…banking regulators. Or something.”
            Saffy pursed her lips. “OK, so what do they do with all that money? And haven’t all those banks been paying up tonnes and tonnes of fines? How is all that money being used? Are they building new roads?”
            As Amanda later said to me privately, just when you thought that Saffy had the intellectual depth of a shallow puddle, she turns right around and surprises you with questions like the disbursement allocation of a legal authority.
            “I have no idea what you just said,” I told her.
            Amanda ignored my ignorance and pushed on. “And this morning, she asked me what five billion dollars looks like! What kind of a question is that?”
            A very good one, I thought. I mean, it’s not as if everyone has five billion dollars just lying around in a savings account that they can just GIRO out to pay a fine.
            “I’d love to be in a room that’s filled with five billion dollars,” Saffy said. She was having lunch with Sharyn at Golden Shoe Carpark. “How big would the room need to be? More to the point, I wonder what it would smell like.”
            “Like wok-hei!” Sharyn said.
            Saffy looked intrigued, “You think?”
            “Yah! Confirm. Dat’s why, hor, I love Chinese New Year. I go to the bank, withdraw two tau-sand dollar, put in plastic bag, and I smell. So shiok! Like very atas hor fun. They should make perfume and call it Oh der Money!”
            “Eau de Money!” Saffy breathed out. “Honestly, that’s genius!”
            Sharyn turned pink.
            Meanwhile, Amanda says all this talk of money is making her nervous. “The markets are going down the toilet!” she announced this morning. “We could all be out of a job by Christmas!”
“Choy!” Saffy said.
Amanda lifted an eyebrow. “I think it’s time for an austerity drive! We have to put in some cost cutting measures.”
“Don’t look at me,” Saffy said. “I’m already living by the skin of my teeth. Every single one of my meals this week has been less than four bucks! Any cheaper and I’ll be eating toast and kaya for dinner!”
“I don’t know where else we can cut down expenses. We already don’t turn on the air-con at night, and it’s been so hot lately,” I pointed out.
“And don’t forget,” Saffy said to Amanda, “your idea of austerity is to take Uber!”
Amanda blinked. “What? That is public transportation!”
“That’s probably what Marie Antoinette said just before they chopped off her head!” Saffy said.
Of course, Sharyn thinks the whole idea of us being on an austerity drive is the most hysterical thing she’s ever heard.
“Aiyoh, you don’t have chil-ren, how you know how to save? You have chil-ren, you always poor, ah, I tell you! School fee, tuition fee, lunch money, school book, holiday, new clothes, school camp, new shoe, dentist, haircut…wah!”
Amanda says that Sharyn’s constant one-upmanship is getting really boring. “She’s always rubbing our noses into her children!”
Saffy says Amanda really needs to work on her metaphors.



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