Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pillow Talk

The biggest question I have these days isn’t ‘How did a reality TV star get elected the leader of the Free World?’, but ‘Why do people let their lipomas grow so huge that they’re practically visible from space?’
            And by lipomas, I mean, of course, those huge fatty growths that Dr Sandra Lee aka Dr Pimple Popper is forever extracting on her fabulous YouTube channel and www.drpimplepopper.com.
            “Did you see that ginormous lipoma she extracted from that guy’s butt?” Amanda asked the other morning.
            “Four times,” I replied. “How was he even sitting down? Though I guess it wouldn’t have hurt since it’s really just benign fat cells. Look at us,” I said brightly. “It’s like we’re board-certified dermatologists!”
            “Imagine being his girlfriend!” Amanda said. She shuddered in what I felt was an incredibly unprofessional and judgmental manner. “I just don’t understand how he let it grow to such a size? Plus it was herniated! I mean, remember how I rushed down to see Dr Tan when I had that tiny ingrown hair on my arm? Oh, hi, Saf! We’re just talking about lipomas!”
Saffy yawned. “I’m so depressed,” she said, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she schluffed to the kitchen for coffee. Amanda and I exchanged a look.
Saffy came back with a steaming cup and sat down at the dining table. “You would think, would you not, that I would be well and truly passed the stage of acne, but I just keep getting pimples all over the sides my face! It’s just awful! Why are my hormones so out of balance?”
            Amanda bent in close to look. “Well…it doesn’t look too…”
            “Seriously, stop sugar-coating it. I look like a leper!” Saffy sighed, her bosom deflating with low self-esteem. “Thank God, I’ve got a boyfriend now. Can you imagine trying to date with all these zits? Bradley is so sweet. He told me I’m just as beautiful as the day we first met! He’s a keeper, that one. I wonder when he’s going to pop the question and ask me to marry him.”
            “I’m going to Dr Tan this morning about this epidermoid cyst on my forearm,” I said. “Why don’t you come along and get him to look at your acne?”
            “I guess. Oh, I’m so depressed!” Saffy moaned.
            Later that afternoon, after Dr Tan had agreed with my self-diagnosis, he scheduled an excision for the following week and told me that I really needed to stop watching Dr Pimple Popper. “Stick to writing your column!” he said as he pushed me out the door, even as I was trying to show him the milia on my forehead that I needed him to remove.
            Saffy went in next. Occasionally, I heard gasps and excited low murmurs. When she finally emerged from the examination room, she was practically vibrating on maximum frequency.
            “Oh my God!” Saffy’s voice reverberated through the small waiting room. “It’s not my hormones! It’s my pillows!”
            Apparently, Dr Tan had spent a long time chatting to Saffy about how she slept in bed, to the point that, at one stage, she seriously thought he was turning into a crazy stalker. “I just couldn’t figure out why he kept asking me how I slept, like on my side or on my back. At one stage, he even asked me how often I changed my sheets!”
            “That’s kinky,” I observed.
            “I mean, right?” Saffy said. “But then, it all became clear why he was asking all those questions. Apparently, our pillow cases are Ground Zero for bacteria and dirt and if we sleep on our sides, like I do, then all that stuff gets onto our skins at night and that’s what might be causing my acne! He says I should change my pillow slips every other day and see what happens!”
            “Gosh, he’s good!”
            “Oh, and he also asked me if I put hand cream on at night and I said of course I did and then he asked me if when I slept on my side, I put my face on my hands and I said yes, I did, and he said that the cream probably gets onto my face and contributes to the acne especially on the sides of my face because hand cream contains heavy emollients that aren’t meant for the face!” Saffy sucked in breath. “I mean, isn’t that just amazing?”
            Amanda says Dr Tan should start up his own YouTube channel. Sharyn says we’re the reason Singapore’s productivity levels are dropping.



Viral Sensation

There are days when you realise you really should have just stayed in bed and binge-watched an entire season of ‘Orphan Black’. These are the days when nothing seems to work, when everything goes wrong, and when everyone comes bearing bad news.
            For Amanda, it was a Thursday that had ben Fed-Ex’d straight from Hell. The day before, she’d been having her monthly meeting with her stockbroker, Peter.  Expressing concern that she was holding quite a bit of cash, he’d suggested a diversification of her portfolio.
            “Buy the pound sterling. It’s very low now,” he counseled with the kind of confidence that can only come with an expensive degree in Economics from Yale. “I think it will go down a bit, but when the Brexit thing calms down, the value will rebound.”
            Amanda later said that she should have left Peter’s office at “the Brexit thing”, on the grounds that anyone who talks about an epochal political, social and economic event as “thing” can’t be all that good. “And he’s from Yale!”
            “I think he’s hot!” said Saffy who’d once gone on a couple of dates with Peter. “And he’s a great kisser!”
            “He’s just kissed goodbye to a lot of my money!” Amanda sighed. Because the very next day, the pound sterling crashed, basically wiping out 6% off the value of her holdings.
            When Sharyn heard about it, she rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Aiyoh, why you buy pound sterling? Siow, ah! Now, so unstable. Some more, hor, that Theresa May or-redi say she want hard Blex-it, and you go and buy her money. Confirm go down some more! You want to diversify, must buy gold, mah!”
            Saffy coughed, causing her bosom to tremble like firm jelly. “Who’s Theresa May?”
            Sharyn moaned. “How am I friends wirh you, hah? The UK prime minister, lah!”
            Saffy turned pink. “Oh. I honestly thought you were talking about a Hong Kong pop star!”
            “Aiyoh, that is Teresa Teng! But that one die long time ago!”
            Completely despondent, Amanda dragged herself to the office. On the way, she stopped by her favourite dao zhui stall in Golden Shoe. Standing in line in her immaculate new Prada blouse, her mind returned to obsessing about how much money she’d lost, and how many bonuses she needed to get it all back.
            Just as she had begun mulling the pros and cons of the gold index, someone behind her coughed and sneezed in phlegmy succession.
Amanda later described the moistness that settled over her exposed arm as the same coolness you get with the mist fans at some outdoor caf├ęs. “Except with this one, you knew there was every chance you could catch the bubonic plague and your face starts to melt and you die a horrible, painful death!”
            Saffy pulled a face at the graphic description. She put down her spoon and pushed away her chicken congee. “Seriously. You’ve just made me lose my appetite! So, what happened?”
            Apparently, Amanda turned right around and looked the bespectacled auntie in the eye. “Excuse me, but you just coughed and sneezed all over me!”
            The woman coughed up a wet glob. Amanda said you could tell she was considering whether to spit it out onto the floor right there in Golden Shoe. She reconsidered, and put a tissue delicately to her mouth. “Where got?” Auntie Phlegm rasped, finally. “I neh-ber sneet on you! You siow, issit?”
            Realising she was having her own personal Donald Trump moment, Amanda silently weighed her options. What tipped the scales in favour of taking the high road and shutting up was that out of the corner of her eye, she spotted someone whipping out his iPhone and pointing it in her direction.
            “Can you imagine it?” she later said. “Screaming at an Auntie and being caught on camera? I could have been the latest YouTube viral sensation!”
            “Why do these things keep happening?” Saffy wondered. “Didn’t this happen to you years ago, Jason?”
            I nodded. “At the Toa Payoh wet markets! Two days later, I came down with a flu! Maybe it’s the same woman?”
            Of course, just to prove that all bad things happen in threes, as Amanda headed back to the office with her plastic bag of dao zhui, the string broke and the bag splashed its white liquid all over her new Prada pumps. With no tissues, she squelched to the office, arriving just as her secretary put down the phone and told her she’d just lost her case in the high courts.
             Amanda turned right on her heels and went home. What was the point, she thought. Two days later, she woke up with the flu.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Flight Time

I have a few friends on Facebook who are always complaining about how bad Singapore is. The list is endless: “The government is horrible. The education system is terrible. The MRT is always breaking down. There’s nothing to do here except shop and eat. Their neighbours kept them up all night with karaoke. Someone peed in the lift and it was so smelly. The traffic jams are Third World. Their Uber cost them $25 when they should have taken the bus for 95 cents, but that would have taken them an hour and peak ERP rates. Working life is so stressful.”
Honestly, it’s like being at a taxi drivers convention.
Saffy just plonked herself down next to me and read the first few lines.
“Ugh, if I hear another person complain about Singapore, I’m going to grab them by the neck of their Bossino tee-shirt and drag them here! Then, we can talk about how bad Singapore is!” Her formidable bosom inflated to a dangerous volume.
‘Here’ is Luton airport in London. Amanda had a meeting in town, which apparently is a valid excuse for three of her best friends to tag along.
“I very scared go to London by myself,” Sharyn had said in Singapore. “When people tork to me, their England so powderful, I always say ‘Hah?’. But if you all go, I come also!”
I want to say it’s been a fun trip, but it’s pretty much rained the entire time. And I’ve forgotten how cold London can be. And damp. Refusing to spend £15 to get the hotel to wash a tee-shirt, Sharyn has spent most of her free time doing laundry and hanging them up in the bathroom. Which, owing to the dampness, takes forever to dry, and leaves that fusty, vinegary smell.
“Aiyoh, my clothes so sook!” Sharyn moaned during our tour of Buckingham Palace.
“I told you to just get the hotel to do it!” Amanda murmured. “And please keep your voice down!”
“Is fifteen pound per tee-shirt, you know! Siow, ah! At today exchange rate, I can buy three new shirt from Giordano!” Sharyn’s voice, honed by years of screaming at her children, carried all the way to the other end of the long gold corridor. From the heads that snapped around, you could tell which of the palace visitors were Singaporean – instantly drawn by the musical and comforting sound of home.
Last night, Amanda suggested that since we were in the neighbourhood, we should pop by Florence for a few days. “I want to busy some shoes from Ferragamo!”
“Yah, I want to go! I want to go!” Sharyn said.
“How is Florence in the neighbourhood of London?” I wanted to know.
“Excuse me, Mr Wet Blanket, but do you mind?” Saffy said stiffly.
Which is how we’ve ended up at Luton waiting for our cheap Easyjet flight.
The whole place is literally a construction site. Half the airport is boarded up for renovation, and the other half is covered in road works that seem to have been going on for years. It took forever to get through customs. And when we finally staggered out, we found the place is so crowded there aren’t enough seats. Everyone is piled on top of one another, while the rest sit on floors. As Saffy puts it in technical terms, “This place is so packed you could not swing a dead cat!”
Squashed onto a tiny stool at Pret-a-Manger, both arms sandwiched between two big burly Bulgarians, Sharyn looked up from her iPhone where she’d been WhatsApping her children to make sure they were all still alive and passing their exams without the benefit of her close supervision. “Eeee,” she said eloquently. “Where got dead cat?”
“It’s just a phrase, Shaz,” Saffy told her. “It means it’s so crowded here that if you were to swing a dead cat, there’d be no room!”
“But why must be dead cat?”
Saffy paused and gave the matter some thought. “Well, it’d be cruel to swing a live cat, no?”
Sharyn shook her head. “Wah, your England so cheem. Aiyoh!” Someone bumped her as he tried to navigate the narrow space between her and a flock of baby strollers.
“This is how plagues are spread,” Amanda murmured. She has always said that if it were up to her, Changi airport would be listed as a national monument. “Whenever I arrive home, I just want to get down on my knees and kiss that ugly carpet!”
Saffy nodded. “People have no idea.”