Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Soap Opera

In my parents’ closet, there are about ten super plush bathrobes. All stolen from various five star hotels around the world, all with lovely embroidered monograms of the hotels on the left chest pocket
When I told my mother I was planning to write about her bathrobes, she begged me to stress that the collection was all from an era when taking a bathrobe home was like popping a box of matches or a notepad into the bag before you zipped it up and headed to the airport. Everyone did it, apparently. 
“This was back in the day before they had notes that said things like, ‘If you like this bathrobe, it can be purchased from our gift-shop’. I wouldn’t do it now, of course,” Mother said virtuously. A frown creased her forehead. “But really, why do you have to write about this at all? It’s going to cast me in such an unflattering light!”
I ignored her appeal to my better nature and pressed on with my investigative journalism. “Why did you take so many? You’ve never worn any of them!”
“Well, they’re so lovely and thick. Back then, hotels did proper bathrobes. Not like the paper towels they hang up in rooms these days.” Mother’s disapproval of the thread-count and quality of today’s hotel housekeeping was pungent.
Amanda says she’s seen a few hotel bathrobes she wouldn’t mind stealing. “The trouble is, they’re so bulky you’d need a whole extra suitcase to jam them into, and I’m always nervous the hotel will call me up one day and say they’re missing a bathrobe from their inventory.”
            “No one would bother calling you,” Saffy told Amanda. “They’ve got your credit card details, they’d just charge you for it. And anyway, why would you have a thick bathrobe in this weather? You might as well wear five sweaters and die immediately from heat stroke!”
“Wah, Jason, your parent so cheem!” said Sharyn, her voice moist with class envy. “Go hotel, steal bathrobe! I, hor, go to hotel and only take soap!”
Amanda paused. “Really? Soap?”
Sharyn’s eyes enlarged behind her Coke-bottle-thick spectacles. “Yah, I really like the hotel soap. At home, I have a whole box full of Loh-si-tane, lah, got Bool-gah-li, lah, got…got what else, ah…wait, let me tink!”
“What do you do with all that soap?” Saffy asked. “How do I not know about this part of your life?”
“Hai-yah…I like soap, mah. Every week, I use a new bar of soap in the bathroom and kitchen! Wah, first time use to wash hands or bath, so damn shiok, ah, I tell you! Now, hor, I cannot stand using old soap. So slimy and no more smell!”
Saffy turned to Amanda. “No really, just when you think you know someone, she turns right around and surprises you like this!”
Sharyn turned pink and waved her hands like an agitated octopus. “Aiyah, don’t liddat, lah!”
“I used to steal the hotel’s notepads and stationery,” Amanda said, “but I’ve stopped now. I have so much paper in my cupboard, I could open my own Popular outlet!”
“I don’t see why it’s considered stealing,” Saffy said in the tone of voice of someone who’s been giving the matter considerable thought. “We pay a tonne of money for that room and I’m sure it’s all factored into the room rate already!”
“Yes, that’s true,” Amanda said, grateful for the legal lifeline. “It’s like going to a restaurant and using the salt and pepper. How is that stealing?”
Saffy frowned. “Uhm…,” she began.
“Oh, I oh-so have a whole stack of laundry bag!” Sharyn piped up. Clearly, she was emboldened by our frank and honest group confessional of petty thievery.
“Seriously! Who are you?” Saffy said.
“I ever use them to sew back-pack for my chil-ren!”
We tried to imagine Sharyn’s kids going to school carrying back-packs made out of Sheraton laundry bags, though Amanda later said she could certainly imagine using one from the Four Seasons. “They’re actually quite nice,” she said with approval. “Thick cloth. Very sturdy. And quite attractive. I have a few myself that I use to store my shoes, but I’ve never thought of using them for backpacks!”
Meanwhile, Saffy remains troubled by Sharyn’s unexpected revelations. “I’m supposed to be her best friend and yet I find out, completely unexpectedly, that the woman is obsessed by hotel soaps and laundry bags! I mean, what else don’t I know about her?”
“It could be worse,” Amanda said. “You might suddenly discover she’s a big fan of Sun Ho!”
“Sun, who?”
“Not Hu! Ho!”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Down Time

If you ask me, the reason the world is filled with so much angst and drama is because people don’t take enough naps. As any child will tell you, there is simply no problem that can’t be solved after a good snooze in the afternoon. Temper tantrums that seemed so important just before lunch will have been forgotten. Grudges caused by a mother’s insistence that vegetables are meant to be eaten and not hurled at a distant wall no longer seem so important on waking up. 
Saffy, a fanatic believer in the power of the nap, recently proposed to management that one of the meeting rooms be converted into a mood-lit, nap room. Her detailed five-page proposal even included colour swatches for the wall, and a playlist of soothing background music to be played. Enya’s greatest hits featured prominently in her musical choices.  
“It makes complete sense!” she said to the doubtful managing director. “I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve had to pinch myself to stay awake during our 3pm budget meetings! Yesterday, I practically had to stab my leg with a pen to get an adrenaline rush!” 
“What did he say to that?” we asked her that night. 
Saffy sighed, her bosom deflating at the disappointment of the memory. “He said he didn’t think the shareholders would take too kindly to the idea that an expensive piece of Raffles Place real estate was being used by staff to nap in.” 
“But he makes it sound as if naps are a frivolous waste of time!” Amanda said. “And they’re not. They’re essential to office productivity!” 
“You don’t need to tell me,” Saffy said. “I find that even a 20-minute nap is enough to keep me going till knock-off time. Though,” here she paused and shifted a little in her seat, “I have to confess I do like an hour nap.” 
Amanda’s spoonful of nasi goreng paused halfway to her mouth. She looked up and put her spoon down. “You nap for an hour in the office?” 
Saffy radiated innocence. “Yes, I do. But not that often. Usually, it’s just about half an hour.” 
Amanda paused, obviously weighing up the potential impact to her psyche that might be created by the answer to her next question. She evidently thought the emotional trauma was worth it. “Where?” 
Saffy blinked. “Where what?” 
“Where do you nap?” 
“Oh. In the ladies loo.” 
Amanda turned to look at me.  
Saffy’s bosom swelled in self-defence. “Well, I don’t sleep on the floor, if that’s what you’re thinking!” She turned pink. “I put the lid down, put a stack of office files over it, and then I sit down.” 
I leaned in. “You sleep in an upright position? Like a meditating monk?” 
“No! I get a wad of clean toilet paper and tape it to the wall next to me, and then I lean my head against it.” 
Amanda was astonished. “And that doesn’t gross you out?” 
“The toilets are cleaned every hour!” You could tell from Saffy’s tone that, as the human resources manager in her company, she took great pride in the professionalism of the sanitation team. 
Amanda pursed her lips. “I dunno, Saf, I’ve heard some strange stuff, especially from you, but this…And how have we not heard about this before?” 
“People judge,” Saffy said in the sepulchral tones of someone who does a lot of judging herself.  
“I’m not surprised,” Amanda told her. “Sleeping in a toilet!” 
“Look,” Saffy said, “I don’t want to oversell the charms of the sleeping conditions, but really, where else can you go for a bit of alone time? And generally, it’s not too bad. One of my office initiatives was to put scented candles in the bathrooms, even though that probably contravenes about a dozen fire and office safety regulations, so it’s all quite pleasant. And if you nap at 2pm, most people would already have come back from lunch and tidied up in the loo before settling into their desks, so it’s all very quiet in there for about an hour!” 
Amanda tried to imagine the scene. 
“Though there was that one time,” Saffy went on, “when Sharyn ate a dodgy rojak for lunch and she dashed into the cubicle next to me and boy, did I wake up and get out of there in a hurry!” 
Amanda says she’s seriously disturbed by the idea that the lawyers in Saffy’s firms are working on files that have been used to line toilet seats. 
“Don’t forget she also sits on them!” I told her. 
We shut our eyes and shuddered.