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!”
“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…”