Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Money Talks

A few days before our friend Rhonda’s birthday, her husband Ron sent us all an email asking if we wanted to go to dinner to celebrate the occasion at this fancy French restaurant in Tiong Bahru.
            “Ooh,” Amanda said, “I’ve always wanted to try that place. We should go!”
            Saffy pursed her lip with great dissatisfaction, much the same way she did after watching Deadpool (“Why was Ryan Reynolds all covered up? Why was there no nudity?”).
            “French food?” she said, her bosom trembling with disapproval. “I don’t even eat French food when I’m in Paris, why would I start now?”
            “You’ve never been to Paris,” I pointed out.
            Saffy sighed. “Which is exactly what I’m saying! Please keep up! Has it had good reviews?”
            “We can’t be eating chai tao kway all the time!” Amanda said. “It would be nice to sink the teeth into some foie gras and a cassoulet!”
            Saffy looked at me. I shrugged.
            Which is how we all ended up in a French restaurant on a Saturday night, forsaking our usual cruising ground of Old Airport Road.
            After looking critically at the menu, Saffy announced that she wasn’t feeling too hungry and that she wanted a Salade Nicoise.
            “Hah?” Sharyn said. She peered at the small print. “Simmi dai zhee?”
            “It’s a salad with green beans, hard boiled egg and anchovies.”
            “Oh, issit? Wah, so cheem! And hor,” her voice dropped to a penetrating whisper, “every ting so ex!”
            “Ron is paying,” Saffy told her.
            “Oh, issit?” Sharyn repeated. She looked over at the other end of the table where Ron was ordering a Veuve Cliquot Brut.
            “Well, it is his wife’s birthday!” Saffy said.
            There were two other couples at the table – one set was Australian, and the other British. Which basically meant that by the end of the evening, they and Ron had steadily worked their way through eight cocktails, a bottle of champagne, two reds and one white. According to Amanda, who knows this kind of thing, they were very impressive vintages.
At one point in the dinner, as I tackled my filet mignon, Amanda leaned over and whispered, “This Cloudy Bay is delicious!”
I looked at my completely untouched glass. I turned to Saffy who was struggling with her escargots. “Amanda says the Cloudy Bay is delicious!”
“These stupid snails are so slippery! It’s so hard to get a grip!” she replied. “I guess it would help if I wasn’t allergic to alcohol!”
Across from her, Elaine, the Australian wife had turned a bright red on account of having had a Negroni, a gin and tonic, and was onto her fifth glass of wine. She leaned forward. “What’s the connection between your allergy and the snails?”
Saffy paused in her wrestling match and looked up, surprised. “Nothing! Is there a connection?”
Elaine smiled and took another swig of her glass.
By the time dinner was over, everyone except Saffy, Sharyn, Rhonda and me was drunk, though to be fair, Amanda was just marginally flustered having nursed that single pour of Cloudy Bay all night.
At the other end of the table, Ron was looking at the bill and tapping on his iPhone. Eventually, he looked up and announced, “OK, that’s $250 each! They can split the bill!”
You know that original Alien movie poster that said: ‘In space, no one can hear you scream’? That’s kind of what happened. It was like the air had been sucked out of our end of the table. Saffy’s mouth was moving, but there was no sound. Sharyn, who has never met an English sentence she’s not been able to destroy, but who is a certified maths genius, frowned as she mentally added up the cost of her French Onion soup, her tap water, and her quarter roast chicken.
“Umm…” Saffy had found her voice and you could tell the scream she’d been suppressing was working its way up out of her lungs.
Amanda dived in. “I’ll pay for Sharyn, Jason and Saffy!” she said hurriedly.
Saffy tried again. Her bosom inflated to a dangerous volume. “Excuse....”
            “It’s my treat! I just got a bonus!” Amanda said in soothing tones, as if she was hypnotising an irritated cobra.
It’s all we’ve been able to talk about for days.
“Can die!” Sharyn concluded. “Your wife birthday. You invite people. You ask them to pay. How liddat?”
“Please let it go!” Amanda pleaded.
“Notice how Rhonda just sat there? I am so angry!” Saffy fumed. “I had a salad with green beans, olives and a hard boiled egg!”
“I drank tap water!” I told her.
“Yah, lor! Split bill properly, lah! So kiam siap! He banker some more!”


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Party Favours

In a world filled with so much bad news, Amanda thinks Singaporeans would have less to complain about.
            “I mean, this country is paradise compared to what’s going on in Brazil!” she said the other day after a particularly gruelling taxi ride home during which the driver ranted about everything from the ERP to the quality of day time soap operas on Channel 8.
            Saffy looked up from the latest YouTube installment of Dr Sandra Lee – aka Dr Pimple Popper, aka the woman we would all love to have as our best friend. “Why, what’s happening in Brazil?”
            Amanda paused. You could tell she was mentally adjusting her political commentry to suit Saffy’s notoriously short attention span. “Zika and Dilma Rousseff,” she said finally.
            Saffy frowned. “Are those herbal tea blends?” she asked.
            Amanda turned to me. I stared hard at something on the ceiling. She decided the best course of action was to pretend she hadn’t been interrupted.
            “The world is falling apart around us and all my friends on Facebook can do is complain about how boring Singapore is. Lemme tell ya,” Amanda said, putting the full force of an expensive Harvard education into her voice, “it’s a hell of a lot better than dying of a mosquito-borne virus or being Andy Murray’s new coach!”
            Saffy’s bosom perked up with interest. She has long harboured an unrequited lust for the Scotsman’s bad boy routine. “Andy Murray has a new coach?”
            “Who cares?” Amanda snapped. “My point is, there are more important things to be worked up about. And besides, if peope are really so unhappy about Singapore, why don’t they do something about it? Like…like…start their own political party and fight for the change that they want!”
            “I think people are already doing that…” I began.
            “Yes, but they wear such boring uniforms!” Amanda said. “I mean, just look at the last elections. What were some people wearing! It was like they made a last minute stop at their constituency on their way to a tze char dinner!”
            In the world according to Amanda, political parties of every persuasion would get a lot more traction if they would only dress better. Here, she invariably trots out Hillary Clinton as an example of lost electoral opportunities. “If she would only wear a lovely Chanel pant-suit, she would look so incredibly chic and votable!” she said. “I mean, look at Carla Bruni!”
            “Her husband lost the election!” I pointed out.
            “Isn’t Carla Bruni a model?” Saffy asked. She was rewarded with the kind of look that Noah’s friends must have given him when he announced God had told him to build a very big boat.
            “She was the First Lady of France,” Amanda said witheringly.
            “Really? When did this happen?” It was just the kind of comment guaranteed to send Amanda into a rage about the state of Singapore’s education system. And when it’s pointed out that Saffy went to school in Sydney, it only confirms her point.
            “Maybe you should stand for election!” Sharyn told Amanda recently over lunch. “Confirm I vote for you, one!”
            “Me, too!” Barney Chen rumbled, loyally.
            “You don’t even know where her platform is, Shazz!” Saffy said.
            Neh-ber mind! She look good, she wear nice clothes, she pretty, and some more she so cheem when she talk. Even if she say she want to increase ERP, all the cheeko-pek and auntie ah-so sure vote for her, one!”
            Amanda preened slightly, thoroughly encouraged by her massive electoral following of two. “All my candidates would be required to wear Chanel and Bottega!” she said, her eyes losing focus as she peered into her political future. “And when we’re in government, I will have a full-on dress code in parliament. If you’re not wearing a tie, you don’t get in!”
            Barney said he’d make a perfect parliamentary bouncer. “How fab would that be?” he growled as he flexed his impeccably honed pecs. “And in between debating sessions, we can play Madonna on the soundtrack!”
            “I want to be in charge of the treasury!” Saffy said.
            “I can be Speaker of the House! So shiok, right?” Sharyn said. “But, hor, I oh-so do not know what the Speaker of the House do. Saffy, you know or not?”
            “Who cares?” Saffy told her. “As long as we’re all in positions of power, it’ll be fine!”
            I told Amanda that, with such rampant cronyism this early in her campaign, she’d be impeached within two months of her taking office.
            “Not if I make you the Attorney-General!” she said.
            Sharyn says this could be the start of an exciting new chapter in Singaporean politics. If that’s not good news worth spreading, what is?


Friday, January 06, 2017

Toilet Humour

My mother has always been of the opinion that people go crazy over the strangest things.
            “Like Madonna!” she once said to Barney Chen over afternoon tea at the Shangri-la.
            Barney literally dropped the spoon he was using to stir his tea and gaped. He flushed all the way down to this neck. “What?” he finally chocked out.
Mother tried to be helpful. Clearly, she was speaking to someone who was not as worldly and well-versed in modern pop music as she was. “Madonna, you know, that singer who wears those conned bras,” she said kindly, as if speaking to someone with the IQ of a two-year old who has just turned up to dinner wearing his underwear outside his pants. “She simply cannot sing! I just don’t know what the fuss is all about!”
Barney turned to me. “What…why is she saying these things to me?”
I carefully avoided his eyes and helped myself to more cake.
“I…I need to…please excuse me for a second…,” poor Barney said as he got up. He disappeared in the direction of the toilet, passing Saffy on the way. She later reported he seemed to be sobbing a little.
“I just don’t understand why people always seem to run off to the loo whenever they’re upset,” she added. “It’s the most filthy place ever!”
“Not if there’s a Toto toilet in there,” Amanda told her. She’d just returned from her first trip to Japan. Now, most first-timers usually fall in love with the Shinto shrines, or the wonderful Ise udon, or even the Shu Uemura counter at Mitsukoshi. Amanda fell in love with a toilet bowl.
“Well, of course it sounds terrible when you say it like that,” Amanda sniffed. “That’s just like saying Madonna is just a singer!”
“Well…” Saffy began.
“My point is,” Amanda went on hurriedly, anxious not to have the attention hijacked from her, “the Toto toilet is the most amazing thing! It’s a bidet and…”
“And it blow-dries your va-jay-jay! Yes, yes, we know!” Saffy interupted.  “If you give me a hair-dryer and a tip, I’ll do the same thing for you!”
The image of Saffy kneeling down in front of a peeing Amanda while aiming a Braun Satin Hair 5 on full blast kept us in hysterics for days.
A few weeks ago, Saffy found herself in Tokyo on a work trip. It turned out that every toilet she visited had a Toto bowl. The first time she encountered one, she FaceTimed me. “It’s so creepy! The lid just opens by itself when you approach!” she told me, turning the camera onto the offending bathroom accessory.
“Why are you showing me this?” I murmured, half distracted by a particularly graphic YouTube clip I was watching of Dr Pimple Popper excising a huge lipoma.
“Gawwwd!” Saffy said urgently, “What do I do? Look at this panel with all the buttons! I don’t know what anything does! And which one flushes?”
“Call Amanda, she’s the Toto Queen!”
“She’s in a meeting and I…”
I disconnected the call. I generally consider myself a very helpful kind of guy, but there are limits.
Undaunted, Saffy called housekeeping. Apparently, she and Hisayo-san spent a particularly absorbing ten-minutes graphically miming the various urinary and excretionary permutations to match the Toto’s comprehensive menu of cleaning functions.
“Oh my God!” she reported that evening on FaceTime. “I totally get what Amanda has been going on about all this time! You really don’t have to do anything! The lid lifts by itself and the seat is heated, so there’s never any shock. Then, you just sit there and press buttons. It even washes you with either oscillating or pulsating water!”
            “Seriously, I’m eating!” I pleaded.
And it pumps the air with ozone deodoriser!” Saffy went on. “So you can’t smell a thing, not that this is such a big deal for me since, as you know, my number twos are only lightly scented! And the best bit is the blow-dry! Oh. My. God! Who knew that warm puffs of air on your va-jay-jay could be so relaxing and…”
I turned off FaceTime.
Amanda is triumphant. “I told you all how fabulous Toto is, and none of you listened to me! We should get one for the apartment! There’s one model that actually plays music!”
Saffy says if she could, she would exchange her office chair for a Toto toilet bowl. “I swear I would sit there all day! Imagine the spike in my productivity!”
“Aiyoh,” Sharyn moaned. “Where got such thing, one?”
“The blow-dry is the best bit!” Saffy told her.