Thursday, December 14, 2017

Working Class

Sometimes when I’m bored, I fantasize about what it’s like to have a billion dollars. Like…what does a billion dollars even look like? How many rooms would it fill? More to the point, what does a billion dollars smell like?
            “Haven’t we already had this conversation?” Amanda asked the other day.
            “Many times,” I told her. “But it never gets old. I mean, seriously, if you had a billion dollars in your bank account, what would you do?”
            Amanda cocked her head and gave the matter some thought. Eventually, she asked, “Is that US dollars or can we have it in pound sterling? Because the pound is worth so much more.”
            In the real world, I’d cross the road for a twenty-cent discount, but in my fantasy world where I have a billion dollars, I’m nothing if not generous. “Oh, take the pound sterling!” I said generously.
            Amanda sighed as she contemplated her life as a billionaire. “I wonder if I’d still be working. What would be the motivation? What would be the point?” she asked the world at large. “Maybe I’d just get on a mega-ass yacht and sail away for a year or until I get bored, whichever happens first.”
            “I’d set up that old auntie who clears dishes down at the hawker centre with a nice little flat in Orchard Road,” I mused.
            Amanda blinked. “Oh…you’re going to do the whole good deeds thing?”
            “Well, I wouldn’t be doing it personally,” I said. “All that paperwork would just kill me. No. I’d set up an office, give them some money and get them to do it. I could even hire Sharyn on some ridiculous CEO salary and put her in charge. She loves organizing people and bossing them around.”
            When we told Sharyn about her new fantasy job, she was immediately on-board. “Yah, yah! I very good at dis sort of ting. But you must oh-so give me CPF, hor! And company car!” she added with a desperate flourish.
            “Whatever you need, Shazz!” I said. “And I’ll send your kids to Oxford, too!”
            Sharyn glowed at her good fortune.
            Unfortunately, word of my generosity got back to Saffy and she was immensely put out. “Excuse me, but can you please find someone else to be generous to? She’s my best friend!”
            I shrugged. “Fine, I’ll put someone else on my huge payroll then. And while I’m at it, I might build a whole bunch of super fancy retirement homes for old people around Singapore. I’ll get Frank Gehry to design them, and Nate Berkus to do the furnishings! And maybe I’ll have Nobu do the catering!”
            Sharyn sighed. “Wah, liddat I oh-so want to get old, ah!”
            Saffy screwed up her nose and went back to her list of things she’d do if she had a billion dollars. After a week, she only had one thing on her list: Quit job.
            “I can’t think of anything else!” she moaned to her friend Ching. “I’m having such a mental block!”
            “I so know what you mean!” Ching said, putting down her cup of tea. The overhead light sparked off her twenty-carat Tiffany’s diamond ring. “I’ve just left my job at Ernst and I have no idea what I’m going to do next!”
            Saffy paused and stared. “Wait, what? You worked at Ernst?”
            Ching blinked.
            “Since when?” Saffy pressed.
            “Saffy, I’ve been with Ernst for the past 15 years!”
            “Wait. All this time I’ve known you, you’ve been working? As what?”
            Ching frowned. “Um, an auditor?”
            Saffy leaned in. “Seriously? How has this never come up?”
Now it was Ching’s turn to think. “Huh. I guess you’re right. We’ve never talked about my job. We’re usually moaning about men!”
“But you’re rich!” Saffy said. “Your father owns two banks in Indonesia and your mother owns three islands! I’ve seen your holiday home in Switzerland on Instagram! And all this time you’ve been an accountant?”
“Auditor.”
“Same thing,” Saffy said flatly. “Honestly, I am in shock.”
            That evening, it was all Saffy could talk about. “I mean, she is literally a billionaire and every day she went to the office to work as an accountant! How much could she have been earning for all that stress?”
            “I oh so say,” said Sharyn.
            Amanda rolled her eyes. “I think the bigger question is how you can be such good friends with someone for 15 years and not know what she does for a living?”
            Saffy turned to Sharyn. “Wait, are you a secret billionairess?”
            “Yah, so secret I live in a five room HDB! Siow, lah!”

           

            

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Decent Proposal

Sometimes, in the still of the night, when nothing is stirring, I lie in bed and think about things. Not serious things like what does Donald Trump look like naked? Or do people really spit out bones straight onto their dining table when they eat at home, like they do at the hawker centre?
            No, at that hour of the night, I think about existential questions. Like: what would my life have been like if I’d never met Saffy and Amanda?
            Regular readers of this column will know the most obvious answer to this question would be a resounding “Well, duh!”
            If you’ve ever read Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” or watched “It’s a Wonderful Life”, you’ll know that if I’d not met Saffy and Amanda, the Law of Cinematic Drama would have required that I ended up a drug addict and an alcoholic or, worse, a rock star.
            “I highly doubt that,” Saffy said the other day when I raised the subject. “You’d probably still be the same boring fart who leaves a party early, and eats dinner at 6.30pm.”
            “My doctor said it’s no good for my digestive system to eat late,” I told her urgently. “I’m not of Indian or Spanish stock! They could eat at midnight and still function perfectly well the next morning! I come from weaker stock!”
            “As I was saying,” Saffy went on, her bosom trembling with barely suppressed disdain, “it wouldn’t have made any difference. You’d still be dull! If anything, having you in our lives has probably been the reason why we’re still not married!”
            “Yes, that is true,” Amanda said, nodding. She blinked. “Wait, what? Why?”
            Pleased at the unexpected attention, Saffy puffed up. “Well, it’s true. I’ve lost track of the number of times men have not asked me out because they think he’s my boyfriend!”
            “How do you know men think that?” Amanda asked. Clearly, the thought had never occurred to her.
            “Because that’s what Bradley told me shortly after we started dating. He said he never asked me out even though he was instantly attracted to me the minute he laid eyes on me because he thought Jason was my boyfriend!” Saffy enunciated my name in much the same tone Taylor Swift must use whenever she speaks of Kim Kardashian.
            I could feel my face turning red. “Even if that were true,” I began hotly, “and P.S., you’d have been lucky to have been my girlfriend!, what’s stopping you from getting married now?”
            Amanda swiveled her head from me to Saffy. “Yes, that’s a very good question. What’s stopping you now?”
            It was Saffy’s turn to turn red. “Well, Bradley has asked me…Oh, really, Amanda, please stop screaming! Stop! Stop! Please! Calm down!”
            It took a while, but we got there eventually. Amanda’s colour returned to normal, but she was so excited, she reached over and clutched Saffy’s hand. “Why didn’t you tell me? Oh. My. God! He asked you? What did you say?”
            With her free hand, Saffy adjusted her tight tee-shirt. “Well, clearly, I didn’t say yes, but I haven’t said no, either.”
            “But why? What’s the problem? I thought you wanted to get married!”
            “Well, yes….” Saffy hesitated. “Since I was a child, but when Bradley asked me, I just felt like…like…is that it?”
            Amanda paused. “Is what it?”
            “The marriage proposal and what I felt. I didn’t really feel anything. It felt…I’ll tell you what it felt like: an out of body experience. That’s what it felt like. Like this was happening to someone else. It didn’t feel like it was happening to me.”
            I let out my breath. “Poor Bradley!” I sighed.
            “I know, right?” Saffy said. “He even bought me a ring from Tiffany’s!”
            Amanda clutched her hands to her heart. She literally moaned.
            Saffy plucked at the hem of her tee-shirt. “It’s all cool. I told Bradley that he is only one man in the world I would ever get married to, but he’s just going to have to give me some time to think about it a bit more.”
            Amanda looked worried. “Well, I hope you know what you’re doing…” she trailed off, her eyebrows wrinkling.
            When Sharyn heard about the news, she rolled her eyes so far back I thought she might snap her ocular tendons. “Aiyoh! Must think about what?” she drawled. “Got people ask you mare-ly, enough, lah!”
            She says if Saffy still hasn’t accepted Bradley’s marriage proposal by Christmas, she will marry Bradley. “He so han-some, confirm our chil-ren will be beautiful, one!”
           

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Missed Opportunities

Sometimes, in the still of the night, when nothing is stirring, I lie in bed and think about things. Not serious things like what does Donald Trump look like naked? Or do people really spit out bones straight onto their dining table when they eat at home, like they do at the hawker centre?
            No, at that hour of the night, I think about existential questions. Like: what would my life have been like if I’d never met Saffy and Amanda?
            Regular readers of this column will know the most obvious answer to this question would be a resounding “Well, duh!”
            If you’ve ever read Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” or watched “It’s a Wonderful Life”, you’ll know that if I’d not met Saffy and Amanda, the Law of Cinematic Drama would have required that I ended up a drug addict and an alcoholic or, worse, a rock star.
            “I highly doubt that,” Saffy said the other day when I raised the subject. “You’d probably still be the same boring fart who leaves a party early, and eats dinner at 6.30pm.”
            “My doctor said it’s no good for my digestive system to eat late,” I told her urgently. “I’m not of Indian or Spanish stock! They could eat at midnight and still function perfectly well the next morning! I come from weaker stock!”
            “As I was saying,” Saffy went on, her bosom trembling with barely suppressed disdain, “it wouldn’t have made any difference. You’d still be dull! If anything, having you in our lives has probably been the reason why we’re still not married!”
            “Yes, that is true,” Amanda said, nodding. She blinked. “Wait, what? Why?”
            Pleased at the unexpected attention, Saffy puffed up. “Well, it’s true. I’ve lost track of the number of times men have not asked me out because they think he’s my boyfriend!”
            “How do you know men think that?” Amanda asked. Clearly, the thought had never occurred to her.
            “Because that’s what Bradley told me shortly after we started dating. He said he never asked me out even though he was instantly attracted to me the minute he laid eyes on me because he thought Jason was my boyfriend!” Saffy enunciated my name in much the same tone Taylor Swift must use whenever she speaks of Kim Kardashian.
            I could feel my face turning red. “Even if that were true,” I began hotly, “and P.S., you’d have been lucky to have been my girlfriend!, what’s stopping you from getting married now?”
            Amanda swiveled her head from me to Saffy. “Yes, that’s a very good question. What’s stopping you now?”
            It was Saffy’s turn to turn red. “Well, Bradley has asked me…Oh, really, Amanda, please stop screaming! Stop! Stop! Please! Calm down!”
            It took a while, but we got there eventually. Amanda’s colour returned to normal, but she was so excited, she reached over and clutched Saffy’s hand. “Why didn’t you tell me? Oh. My. God! He asked you? What did you say?”
            With her free hand, Saffy adjusted her tight tee-shirt. “Well, clearly, I didn’t say yes, but I haven’t said no, either.”
            “But why? What’s the problem? I thought you wanted to get married!”
            “Well, yes….” Saffy hesitated. “Since I was a child, but when Bradley asked me, I just felt like…like…is that it?”
            Amanda paused. “Is what it?”
            “The marriage proposal and what I felt. I didn’t really feel anything. It felt…I’ll tell you what it felt like: an out of body experience. That’s what it felt like. Like this was happening to someone else. It didn’t feel like it was happening to me.”
            I let out my breath. “Poor Bradley!” I sighed.
            “I know, right?” Saffy said. “He even bought me a ring from Tiffany’s!”
            Amanda clutched her hands to her heart. She literally moaned.
            Saffy plucked at the hem of her tee-shirt. “It’s all cool. I told Bradley that he is only one man in the world I would ever get married to, but he’s just going to have to give me some time to think about it a bit more.”
            Amanda looked worried. “Well, I hope you know what you’re doing…” she trailed off, her eyebrows wrinkling.
            When Sharyn heard about the news, she rolled her eyes so far back I thought she might snap her ocular tendons. “Aiyoh! Must think about what?” she drawled. “Got people ask you mare-ly, enough, lah!”
            She says if Saffy still hasn’t accepted Bradley’s marriage proposal by Christmas, she will marry Bradley. “He so han-some, confirm our chil-ren will be beautiful, one!”