Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wedding Wows

For a few months now, Saffy has been quietly staging a campaign in her office. The goal: to get what she’s calling a long overdue pay rise.
            “Two years,” she said stoutly the other day. “I’ve not had a pay-rise for two years. I wonder if it’s because I’m a woman.”
            Amanda lifted her chin, the better to catch the light falling on her flawless cheekbones. Even in the midst of discussing sexual discrimination in the office, she is always conscious of her best angle. “But didn’t they give you six months bonus last year?” she pointed out.
            Saffy sighed. “Yes, they did,” she said slowly, as if talking to someone who’s just emerged from a coma. “But I’m talking about a pay-rise. A bonus and a pay-rise are not the same thing.”
            “But no one else got a pay-rise, right?” Amanda asked.
“And, some more, hor,” Sharyn added, “you got the highest bonus in the office! I got one month!”
“That’s because I worked harder than you, and if I had had my way as the firm’s HR director, you wouldn’t have even have had a month in the first place!”
“Aiyoh! So bad!”
“Honestly,” Saffy snapped. “Attacked on all sides! This must be how Donald Trump feels!”
“We’re just saying it’s probably just a sign of the bad economic times that you’re not getting a pay-rise, and not because you’re a woman!”
“Yah, lor!”
“It’s sexual discrimination,” Saffy insisted, “and I won’t stand for it! Don’t people know how expensive it is to live in Singapore, these days?”
A few days later, Amanda was walking home from the supermarket. She took her usual short cut through a block of HDBs. A Malay wedding was being held in the void deck of one of the blocks. The buffet tables were lined with hot plates mounded high with curries, satay sticks, and fried goodies. On a dais at one end of the space sat the newly weds, resplendent in their batik wedding outfits.
Amanda slowed her pace down, smiling at the happy couple and feeling a little wistful. She was making a mental note to herself to be a little more active on her Tinder account when her smile froze. She stopped in her tracks and waited for some people to move out of her sight-line. And when they finally did, there was no doubt about it.
There, sitting at one of the tables, almost lost amidst all the colourful baju kurungs, was Saffy – eyes down as she tucked into her heaped place of nasi goreng, fried fish and beef rendang.
Amanda pursed her lips as she fished her handphone out of her purse. She dialed a number. Twenty metres away, Saffy looked down at her phone, swallowed her mouthful of nasi, and slid her finger across the screen.
“Saf, where are you?”
Amanda watched Saffy cock her head at her plate. “Uhm…I’m…uhm…I’m at…uh…City Hall…uhm, MRT. It’s very noisy here!”  
“Really! I didn’t realise they served satay and beef rendang at the station!”
Amanda later reported that it was so incredibly gratifying to watch Saffy literally drop her fork and jump in her seat. “Priceless!” she said back at the flat. Saffy sat sullenly on the couch, radiating injured pride.
“What were you doing at a stranger’s wedding?” I asked.
Saffy’s bosom inflated. “Well, if you must know, I was trying to see how much money I can save!”
Amanda paused. “But why?”
“Well, in case you haven’t noticed, the world is going to the dogs!” Her bosom swelled magnificently. “I could be out of a job tomorrow and then what would happen to me? How am I going to live?”
“So you decided to experiment at a Malay wedding?” I asked. “Didn’t anyone ask who you were?”
“No one cares! So many people come and go at these events. They sit down with food, eat, and leave! Which was what I was planning to do until I got busted by Miss FBI here!”
“Did you at least give them some money?”
“I asked the macik sitting next to me, and she said, and I quote, ‘Five dollars enough!’ So that’s what I gave.”
Sharyn whistled. “Wah, so expensive, ah? You go eat chai beng downstair in my flat, only four dollar!”
Saffy blinked. “Really?”
Amanda threw her hands up in the air.
The next day, at the office, Saffy’s boss asked her how she knew Nasruddin Mohammed.
“Who?” she asked.
“Nas,” he repeated. “I saw you at his wedding yesterday!”
Saffy leaned in, her bosom inflating. “So, listen. About my pay-rise…”

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.