Seng Han Thong’s nightmare before Christmas

From ‘MP Seng not racist, says Shanmugam’, 25 Dec 2011, article by Teo Wan Gek, Sunday Times

…During a Channel NewsAsia programme Blog TV, which aired on Monday, Mr Seng made a comment which some found to be racist. He was asked about the lack of communication with passengers during the evening peak-hour breakdown of MRT trains last Thursday.

In his response, he misquoted an SMRT officer, who had earlier said: ‘Our staff at the stations and in the trains may not be making sufficient announcements and also good enough announcements. And that’s because our staff of different races, it could be Malay, Chinese, or Indians or any other race, they sometimes find it difficult to speak in English.’

But Mr Seng, when rebutting the officer’s comments, mentioned only Malay and Indian train drivers. He later clarified that he misheard the SMRT officer’s remarks, which he had heard over radio while driving.

…Mr Seng has since apologised for his remarks.

It’s Christmas Day, and instead of government officials sending well wishes or attending to holiday ‘ponding’, they’re spending time on damage control over an MP’s blooper, or Freudian slip, whatever critics want to call it. A driver who’s unable to calm passengers in the midst of an emergency breakdown is a victim of inadequate training, drills and SOPs. As an organisation with a rigid mastery over templates, surely there should be some standard announcements in place to aid anxious train drivers during disruptions.  This is all just one finger-pointing and tactless blame-shifting after another between various MPs, an SMRT vice president named Goh Chee Kong, and train drivers . If this incident and Desmond Choo’s backfired sexist anecdote tells us anything, it’s that politicians need to stop paraphrasing totally, or learn how to use the disclaimer ‘I quote’ or read excerpts out loud from pieces of paper instead.

In Seng’s defence, he seems to suggest that ‘broken English’ is OK when desperate times call for it, which runs counter to the efforts of our Speak Good English campaign, that lapsing into sub-par English is our ‘default’ setting in stressful situations, while putting on Good English politeness for mundane things such as telling someone that you need to ‘excuse yourself’ for the washroom is expected of us.  In fact, broken English/Singlish, by doing away with time-wasting grammatical formalities, would be ideal in a situation where every second counts and sounding professional should be the least of your worries. The problem is speaking English of any sort, whether broken or of the pristine BBC standard, isn’t very useful when one considers elderly passengers who would be more prone to fainting spells or injuries in the event of a disruption, in which you would have to depend on good Samaritans to do the necessary translation, provided of course that the driver is relaying the right instructions, and that passengers are not busy smashing windows for air in panic. You can bet SMRT will not be happily celebrating their annual Xmas dinner, despite earning the title of the year’s biggest turkey. Even if there was some form of celebration, you can bet no one wants to be caught pants down being treated like a pharaoh like CEO Saw Phaik Hwa in a previous DnD. You probably wouldn’t see the Dim Sum Dollies providing the night’s entertainment as well.

Seng Han Thong’s faux pas is mild compared to the remark on Indians by ex-MP and soon to be convict (twice) Choo Wee Khiang, whose atrocious joke on skin colour qualifies as true racism.  But being labelled a racist and trolled online isn’t the worst that this man has suffered. In Jan 2009, MP Seng was literally FLAMED by an assailant whilst attending a community event as Yio Chu Kang GRC MP. He was inflicted with burns on 15% of his body and his attacker was determined to be a 70 year old retired taxi driver who was subsequently admitted to IMH. Even then, not everyone was sympathetic, with some forum users adopting a ‘let this be a lesson to MPs for bullying the elderly‘ tone, adding ‘fuel to the fire’. The MP torcher was even lauded as a ‘courageous hero’ by others.

It appears that MP Seng has a history of drawing the ire of crazy old taxi drivers. Earlier in July 2006, he was punched in the face, again by a 70-plus former cab driver during a Meet the People session. The attacker was reportedly unhappy that his contract was terminated by ComfortDelgro and demanded an answer from his MP. Despite being boxed in the face and suffering the trauma of being burnt alive, this man continues to serve, though he  might be wearing asbestos underwear wherever he goes and have a phobia of blowing birthday candles for the rest of his life.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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Halloween Horrors axed for not being family friendly

From ‘Night Safari axes Halloween Horrors event after feedback’, 16 Sept 2011 and ‘Staff split over decision to cancel event, 19 Sept 2011, articles by Amanda Tan, ST

The Night Safari has canned a Halloween event – even though 1,000 tickets have been sold – because of feedback that it has no relevance to conservation. Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) has pulled the plug just two weeks before Halloween Horrors was to be held on weekends between Sept 30 and Oct 30.

On Thursday, WRS, which manages the Night Safari, said the decision was made ‘because of the negative feedback received from corporations, friends of the zoo, the public and the media about the event, especially over the relevance in relation to conservation’.

Ms Isabella Loh, director and newly-installed chief executive of the group, added that it agrees with comments made by President Tony Tan Keng Yam and that ‘WRS parks should have more family- bonding and wholesome activities’. On Sunday, Dr Tan was at the Singapore Zoo celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival when he said: ‘Such family bonding, I believe, is very important for Singapore because we need to create informal occasions where families, children can bond with their parents and grandparents. It is the best way of building a sense of unity and comfort within the family.’

….She said she had visited the event’s Haunted House on Monday and ‘got upset’ after that as she was ‘uncomfortable with the idea because it was too scary’. ‘I explained in an e-mail that that is a lot of money spent on an infrastructure (Haunted House) of devil worship,’ she said.

According to sources, Ms Loh said she had heard that ‘zebra heads were chopped off as a scare tactic’ as part of Halloween Horrors. Employees told her this was definitely not the case.

…On social media platform Facebook, netizens posted stinging comments on WRS’ page, while others had doubts over the reason given for the cancellation. One user, known as Jolyn Chia Yiling, wrote: ‘Maybe you guys would consider giving us a better excuse than we want to concentrate on Deepavali. Halloween in and of itself is also a great bonding activity for the whole family.’

The cancellation at the Night Safari has also come as disappointing news for 17 Singapore Polytechnic students. The third-year integrated events and project management students had conceptualised the theme, developed characters and designed costumes as part of their final-year project. They held their first full-dress rehearsal on Monday.

‘We’re disappointed. The students have done 90 per cent of the work and everyone was hyped up,’ said lecturer Jacqueline Ho, although she added that their grades would not be affected by the cancellation.

WRS chief isn't a FAN of Halloween

For an organisation that prides itself in conservation of endangered species, WRS is BLOODY cruel to Homo sapiens in the form of SP students . Isabella Loh’s knee-jerk reaction to Tony Tan’s comment during the Mooncake Festival among other anti-Halloween public complaints about Qing dynasty zombies in 201o  demonstrates how easily organisations crumble under mounting pressure at the expense of wasted resources, logistics and broken hearts all round. Pulling the plug on some ghoulish fun is like a parent spanking a child for making funny faces, and as much as WRS has good intentions of keeping the Safari wholesome, it just goes to show that WRS is to a sense of humour and fun as a silver bullet is to a werewolf. The WRS chief also appears to be hiding behind the clout of Tony Tan as justification for the ban, when TT DID NOT STATE for the record that he disapproved of the spookfest in the first place. Not only does one flush the SP efforts down the toilet, but gives the impression that it was the President who gave the orders to do so.

Caving in to terrified parents who want to protect their children from being cursed with demonic possession is ignoring the simple fact that people have a choice of participating in Horrors or not, and surely there would have been precautions in place to ensure that the faint-hearted or scaredy-cats were warned well in advance before accidentally landing themselves on the Tram Ride to Eternal Hell. Organisers could have also toned down the event to just a few days over the weekend or raised the age limit, thereby arriving at a compromise between customers and dissenters. Banning this altogether is like driving a wooden stake through a someone’s chest just because he has a pale complexion and speaks with a Transylvanian accent, but more importantly it leaves a bad taste of dried blood in the mouths of 1000 customers who signed up for the event.

Halloween here has been a gleeful excuse for ladies to dress like Catwoman and men to put on make-up once a year, and is more a modified Cosplay event than traditional Jack O Lanterns or trick or treating, meaning it doesn’t necessarily have to be all freaky ghouls, goblins or ‘devil worship’. People can come dressed as Hitler, Batman and Joker, or members of ZZ Top if they want to. Unlike the ethnicity-specific Mooncake festival or the proposed  ‘Horrors’ replacement Deepavali (Festival of FRIGHTS? hur hur), Halloween is a more ‘informal’ event which brings all ages together, not to mention it’s more FUN.  It’s also one of the few ‘festivals’ we have that’s racially and religiously neutral (The others are New Year’s Day, May Day, National Day and of course April Fools’ Day), though it needs some time before Halloween becomes universally accepted as a legitimate family-fun activity rather than a weekend of  drunken pranking and cheesy  fake blood.

Every company should be like Lady Gaga

From ‘Swee Say to firms: Emulate Gaga’, 12 July 2011, article by Gwendolyn Ng, MyPaper.

COMPANIES in the service industry here should emulate Lady Gaga. That was the advice Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, had for business owners and industry representatives at an event marking the fifth anniversary of the national service-excellence movement, Go the Extra Mile for Service (Gems).

Though Mr Lim admitted that he knows next to nothing about the 25-year-old popstar, he is impressed by the emotional attachment she inspires in her “little monsters”, or fans. He said: “Somehow, Lady Gaga is able to engage her fans all over the world, not just with her songs… but also with experiences. Every (company) ought to find a way such that more of you will become like the Lady Gaga of your respective sectors.”

…Mr Lim said: “The gap between the very-good and not-so-good is quite wide… Not because those at the bottom are not good, but rather those at the top are running faster and faster. We hope to help those who are running fast to run even faster. We (also) hope to reach out to the majority.”

This awkward analogy came fresh after the NDP Funpack song fiasco, which our dear Minister here would have taken as an original composition given that he knows ‘next to nothing’ about Lady Gaga, or her ‘Bad Romance’ song for that matter. Perhaps Lim Swee Say should spend more time surfing tabloid news before randomly selecting a music and fashion icon as a business model. You could apply the same analogy to any hip, successful celebrity with adoring fans (Kylie Minogue for example), and it appears that the only reason why Lim Swee Say went Gaga is because her stage name sounds like that of a superhero, in addition to being ridiculously catchy.  Lady Gaga can afford to stir controversy, whether it’s splashing herself with blood, cooping herself in an egg, wearing a dress made of steak or spouting blasphemous slander. Such antics define the product that is her, and suggesting that companies gaga-fy themselves by becoming tacky media whores and aggravating animal rights groups as a means of getting recognised is simplistic at best, a regrettable mistake at worst. If Lim Swee Say’s inspirations were a national dish, it’d probably be a big bowl of  ‘rojak’.

Most successful companies hardly live on the razor’s edge, being more like safe, steady David Beckhams than offbeat, volatile Lady Gagas. Think Coke, Apple, Pfizer. Do any of these sound the least bit Gaga to you?  Such analogies are redundant and unhelpful, serving only to create the illusion that Lim Swee Say listens to what you listen to on the radio, though it’s likely that he had only heard of the performer via the Funpack song and it’s the only Western female solo artist he can probably name other than Madonna or Dolly Parton. He probably rates Poker Face as his all time favourite song. now. Here’s some possible Gaga-inspired motivational posters to adorn our cubicles, featuring our patron saint of business herself living on the Edge of Glory. Eh Eh Eh There’s Nothing More I Can Say.

SACRIFICE 

TRANSPARENCY

DON'T LET THE BUBBLE BURST

MAKE MEAT OF YOUR RIVALS

EVERY IDEA IS AN EMBRYO

Double O’s double standards

From ‘Ladies Night Dress Code’, 28 June 2011, Voices, Today

(Shalini Jayaraj and Jerrie Tan Qiu Lin): MY FRIENDS and I regularly patronise dblO, a nightclub, on Wednesdays as women get complimentary entry because of Ladies Night. This practice is longstanding among most nightclubs. My friends and I have never had problems getting in.

However, on June 15, an extremely rude bouncer denied a friend entry, citing an alleged “dress code” that women must follow in order to obtain free entry. Apparently, my friend was not dressed in a sufficiently “feminine” manner.  As this was the first time we had encountered such a refusal, my friends and I protested and asked to speak to the manager. First, such a “dress code” was never publicised nor represented to us.

Second, this “non-femininely dressed” friend never had problems getting into dblO in the past. Granted, she does not dress in a “feminine” manner but is most obviously a female.  The manager claimed this “dress code” had been the club’s practice since it opened. Recognising the futility of challenging the code’s existence, we enquired how we could modify my friend’s outfit so as to meet the requisite standard. The manager was contradictory in what he considered “sufficiently feminine”.

First, he advised my friend to head home to change into a dress before coming back. Upon our pointing out of several women who were dressed in a similar fashion as my friend, and yet let in free, the manager said they were allowed in because they wore make-up. But even after my friends and I asked if she could be let in upon applying cosmetics, the manager was reluctant.

I suggest that the management at dblO be more transparent about this “dress code” requirement for Ladies Night. While I do not want to question the management’s reasoning behind the requirement, it would certainly be fairer to the public if such a “dress code” were plainly set out.  Only then will my friends and I have the option of deciding whether to adhere to the required theme or head to another nightclub – especially when the alternative to complimentary entry is a payment labelled on the signboard as being the cover charge for “males”.

This ‘dress code’ is nothing more than a formality substituting for what’s basically a subjective, inevitably sexist assessment of how ‘ladylike’ a patron is, which varies from bouncer to bouncer. A  tomboyish celebrity would be granted entry even if she were in sneakers and a T-shirt, and such biasness is an inevitable catch of Ladies’ Night, an event with long established discriminatory practices; demanding that girls wear lipstick, are not handicapped, and that they must be entirely female. Some clubs like Overeasy even match the number of free drinks you get with your brasize. As a business and with a reputation to maintain, clubs have every right to be discerning in its clientele, otherwise bouncers would be plying their trade as professional gymrats or PE teachers (They’re too bulky to be football players, not big enough to be sumo wrestlers). But it’s an unfortunate fact that if you’re not hip, physically appealing or dressed to kill, as compared to the rest of the socialites savvy with the ‘unspoken rules’ and spent the last 2 hours dolling up, you will be the brunt of euphemistic excuses when the truth is something no girl ever wants to hear, that no amount of make-up will ever earn you that right to a free drink.

It seems that ladies night is more discriminating towards its own sex than paying males, despite what some ads tell you about how ‘discrimination works’ to a lady’s advantage. It’s all part of that exclusivity mythos that distinguishes boutique clubs from your run-of-the-mill pubs, and as maddeningly condescending as it is to put on make up just because a bouncer says so,  it’s worth nothing that we men do things we’re not exactly proud of to gain acceptance into social circles all the time, whether it’s wearing a tie, wearing shiny shoes, or shaving every morning. Of course, if you’re a fiercely independent woman who doesn’t need anyone to tell you what to do or clubs patronising your sex with freebies, you can exercise free will, hit another joint, and tweet about your humiliating experience so no one will ever step into DblO again, since that is the risk clubs are willing to take rejecting women who don’t fit their ‘client profile’. Double O was more blunt in its reason for rejection back in 2005 (See below, ‘Female, but not welcome at a Ladies’ Night’, 4 Nov 2005, Voices, Today), whereby a ‘butch’ was turned away. Hence the politically correct but ambiguous ‘dress code’ 6 years later. Perhaps some definition of what clubs mean by ‘Lady’ is in order, since we’ve been using ‘lady’ far too loosely in daily conversation when we really mean ‘woman’ most of the time. The terminology may have changed, but everything else about Double O’s Ladies Night that makes it still successful, however you want to label it a winning, sexist ‘anti-butch’ formula, hasn’t changed one bit.

Your bloody passport

From ‘Why visit a place where we are not welcome?’18 June 2011, ST Forum

(Lawrence Koo): …Last Saturday, I left home at 7am to go to Malaysia for a holiday. I took the Second Link hoping to beat the jam at the Malaysian immigration checkpoint. It was rather smooth clearance at the Tuas side. But to my horror, it took me four hours to clear Malaysian immigration.

Just before I drove off, I said to the immigration officer attending to me that the new system was really bad and impractical. Instead of saying sorry for the inconvenience caused, the officer replied: ‘Then don’t come, lah.’

That was almost unpardonable coming from a government official who is supposed to be tourist-friendly. Who would want to visit a place that is unwelcoming to visitors?

It was reported that visitors from Singapore made about 13 million trips to Malaysia last year, which constituted about 53 per cent of Malaysia’s total tourist arrivals – contributing RM28.4 billion (S$11.6 billion) in receipts. Whose loss is it if Singaporeans stop visiting Malaysia?

The friendliest immigration officers I’ve met in my Asian travels were the Japanese, and the sulkiest sort were the Cambodians at Siem Reap who barely look at your face that you wonder if they’re doing their job or not. I suppose the grouchy attitude is to ward off any unnecessary feedback from the throng of strangers entering your country  everyday. It’s debatable if immigration officers, Malaysian or otherwise, are supposed to be service-friendly and polite all the time; after all they need to be stern when quarantining dubious characters so that they can administer naked squat body checks and such. The nature of their work is strictly business and one shouldn’t get too hard up on this scathing unfriendliness which isn’t entirely representative of Malaysian hospitality. I’m certain the offending officer must have gotten complaints the whole time (probably mostly from Singaporeans) while Mr Koo was stuck in the jam, and it’s not like he could do anything about it. Still, this outburst is tame, and even sort of makes sense, compared to the treatment dealt to Malaysians themselves in the 1970s (See below, Hard words and no chicken, 24 Oct 1970, ST Forum)

Of course, one shouldn’t flame Malaysian authorities and preach about service standards when our own immigration officers aren’t exactly tourism ambassadors themselves (See below, Our unpleasant return to Singapore, 12 Aug 2009, Today).

In terms of derogatory treatment, Malaysia’s notorious naked squat and strip searching is a stroll in the park compared to the POW grade detention practices of the Canadian immigration authorities in the 80’s,   that it actually drove a Singaporean tourist to commit  suicide right in their office (See below, Holiday girl’s nightmare in Canada, 8 November 1985). I myself was subject to an embarrassing ordeal by Canadian officials once after being initially deceived by what appeared to be friendly banter when it was in fact tactical interrogation, and in spite of how welcoming everyone else outside the airport were, it’s still one country I’d swear to avoid as much as possible. So, be respectful in front of an unfriendly officer, but be even more careful when he’s exceptionally friendly.

SIA stewardesses sleeping on plane

From SQ air stewardesses caught napping, 14 June 2011, article in insing.com translated from SM Daily

Some SQ air stewardesses were caught in the act: Taking a nap right next to passengers.

A curious passenger, Mr Tan, took a photo of two stewardesses sleeping on empty seats during a flight from New Zealand. He was flying home from Christchurch, New Zealand via Singapore Airlines when he saw the scene. When he was interviewed by The New Paper, he said he saw some stewardesses sleeping in the last few rows of economy class.

“My flight lasted about nine hours, and I was surprised to see flight stewardesses taking a nap right next to passengers.”

He said that the stewardesses were obviously asleep and yet some passengers kept pestering them for drinks.

Mr Tan wondered why the stewardesses were so tired, and whether the company had given them enough time to rest.

I guess refreshments won't be served anytime soon

Somewhere in that article must be an invisible complaint about how bad this is for the Singapore Girl’s reputation, but instead the person who took this picture was wondering why passengers were trying to wake them up for drinks and questioning staff welfare. It would be the saddest irony that this shot, originally intended to suggest that the Singapore Girl is ‘overworked’, will no doubt be interpreted by everyone else as the exact opposite. Just see how cosy they are. I’m jealous that they look more cosy than me when I’m flying long haul. If this is SIA’s idea of power napping, then God help us all in a real emergency when every second counts.

Fine, we don’t want to know goes on among Singapore Girls behind the lavatories on long haul flights. Maybe they do shift napping on their cabin stations, kill time freshening up the toilets (or themselves), gossip about difficult passengers, whatever to stave off the sheer boredom without the luxury of a passenger entertainment system or an internet connection – I don’t want to know. What attendants do after landing, whether it’s smoking outside terminals or kiao-kar-ing away, is none of my business. But the least our girls could do, tens of thousands of feet up in the air, is to give plane insomniacs like myself the assurance that we’re not the only ones wide awake when all other passengers are blissfully asleep, and that someone on the plane is always ready to jump to my rescue and wrap an oxygen mask around my face if I suffer a panic attack, or collect my airbag after I’ve vomited into it. In fact, this image, assuming that it’s not some staged viral prank (as much as I’d hope it to be), is taking  ‘kiao-kar-ing’ to the next, and in fact highest achievable, level. If Singapore Girls can snuggle up on unoccupied seats, it’s only fair that passengers can do the same. In fact, it is imperative that passengers take up whatever empty seat that is available, just to prevent our stewardesses from using them. Alas, that’s often not the case, even if you’re suffering from severe air sickness. Of course, stewardesses aren’t the only uniformed people caught sleeping ‘on the job’, it happens to our NSmen too.

Airsick SIA passenger not allowed change of seat

From ‘Passenger disagrees with airline’, 14 June 2011, ST Forum online

(Law Cher Khiam): I REFER to Singapore Airlines’ reply (“Why passenger was not allowed to change seat”; May 31) to my letter (“Service goes out the window amid SIA balancing act”; May 27).

It was a 6am flight, and there must have been about 30 empty seats from economy class row 30 to 54 on that flight (54D was the seat given to me).

I checked with my aviation and pilot friends and contrary to SIA’s reply, I am told that I could have easily been given one of these seats up front (to alleviate my severe air sickness) without compromising the safety of the flight. I didn’t specify any seat and any attempt to move me forward – even if it was a row or two – would have been appreciated.

No attempt was made to help me despite my plea.

The arrogant manner in which I was brushed off at the airport by two of the senior staff there hurt as much SIA’s reply. This is definitely not the sort of service one would expect from the world’s most awarded airline.

The initial complaint was about SIA’s refusal to allow Mr Law to change seats citing ‘plane balance’ and safety as a reason. No information on how far exactly the complainant would want to be moved from his position at the time, but would moving ‘a row or two’, as he now claims, make any difference for ‘SEVERE’ air sickness? In his first letter ‘Service goes out the window..’ (May 27), he in fact states:

…She refused to give me a seat further up front even though I explained to her that I experience giddy spells sitting behind (for example, when the plane hits turbulence).

I then sought the help of the supervisor, but was told the same reason: They couldn’t give me a seat further up front because they needed to “balance the plane”.

So, if you’re on the verge of puking your lungs out, what does one intend exactly by ‘further up front’? Moving ‘a row or two’? I don’t think so.Would flight attendants even suggest that he move one row up at the risk of sounding silly and getting scolded for it? Naturally, in that situation, one would assume a fair distance away from Mr Law’s seat, and you can imagine the affected staff reading this and going ‘Aiyah..NOW then you tell me..’. This is like saying ‘Oh I would have appreciated if NTUC exchanged my maggot ridden apple with something slightly rotten’. It’s common behavior of complainants to adjust their expectations in hindsight to make them appear less unreasonable as they very well could be in the beginning. I could scream at a cyclist for ramming into me for being ‘a bloody blind  bastard’ in the heat of the moment, but later downplay the situation politely i.e inaccurately in a complaint letter with a euphemistic ‘I told him sternly to watch where he’s going’.

But back to SIA’s ‘arrogant response’ by Divisional Vice President Xavier Lim(May 31, ST Forum):

…Mr Law’s flight was nose-heavy. To ensure safe operations, we had to ensure that some passengers were seated towards the rear to achieve the correct balance for take-off. After take-off, passengers would be able to change to the forward seats if they are available.

Mr Law expressed his unhappiness to our staff over his seat arrangement. We are sorry that we could not accede to his request but cannot, under any circumstances, compromise the safety of our flight operations and that of other passengers.

Aeronautic physics aside, did either the complainant or the attendants think of asking someone in front to exchange seats?A little basic human beneficiary could have saved all the embarrassment really. Still, if Mr Law was well aware of his condition, why weren’t precautions taken? If he runs the risk of overflowing his airbag, how about bringing along some motion sickness tablets which you can buy off a pharmacy, or from a doctor for more potent ones? Motion sickness is mostly preventable, and by means other than bossing flight attendants around. It’s unlike peanut allergy sufferers having to risk anaphylactic shock with peanut dust floating around the plane.  Still, this is a masterful ‘I’ve got the Last Word’ letter, with a cunning post-hoc  ‘I’m really not asking for much’ disclaimer and a shaming whopper of a finish that would leave any organisation speechless.  Please save as a template if you are ever find yourself inconvenienced by SIA, be it lack of legspace, crappy food or failure to understand what stewardesses are saying. You may even get a free business class upgrade if you’re lucky.

Joanne Peh’s Nando’s ovation

From ‘Ovation-goodbye for Joanne Peh’, 1 June 2011, article in insing.com translated from LHWB

Joanne Peh posted on Twitter her “experience” two days ago at a restaurant in Tanglin Mall. Peh had gone to the restaurant “Nando’s” with her Caucasian boyfriend Bobby Tonelli after filming a programme, “Ladies Nite” nearby.

However, before the couple could enjoy alone time with a quiet evening repast, they encountered poor service from the restaurant. Peh had asked for a glass of hot water from a waiter, but was told that the restaurant does not serve hot water.

Accordingly to Peh, the manager of the restaurant informed her that a glass of hot water costs $3.90. This is despite a bottle of mineral water costing only $1.80 on the menu. In comparison, a cup of tea is $3.90 on the menu.

Angered by this, the couple decided not to dine at the restaurant and stood to leave. What happened next was completely unexpected.

All the staff members of the restaurant began clapping to the couple’s departure! The furious Peh immediately tweeted about the incident and even specified the name of the manager on duty as “Shah”.

As ridiculous as $3.90 sounds for hot water (was it heated up over a charcoal grill?), compared to 50 cents for the same beverage at Ya Kun, what I don’t get is how someone is willing to forsake a perfectly good chicken meal just because Nando’s charges expensive hot water on the side, which you can jolly well refuse to order and get on with dinner, the main attraction of Nando’s by the way, not their hot water. Unless of course, you have a baby on tow, or having hot water is an obsessive compulsive trait of paranoid celebrities who fear that anything less than tongue-scalding comes direct from the tap and is an attempt by crazy stalker fans behind the kitchen to poison them.

Such a sarcastic, synchronised reaction from the staff could only be triggered by a staff member with a personal vendetta against Joanne and her date, or Miss Peh was making an impetuous request worthy of humiliation. An explanation by Nando’s is in order perhaps, though any patron unaware of the ruckus over hot water would take the applause as just a playful announcement of Joanne and her beau’s presence and departure. Maybe they were experimenting with a new way of saying ‘Thank you, come again’, or it was special guest ‘Joanne has left the building’ treatment that Nando’s provides all their celebrity customers, since applause is to an actor’s ears like a mother’s voice to a helpless child . At least they didn’t taunt her with lines like  ‘Your character should have died in Little Nyonya!’ or ‘SPG!’.

Still, such fury over Nando’s price of hot water and attitude before being served anything comes across as a little petty even by Joanne’s standards. It’s not like someone vomited in her Peri Peri sauce, nor did Nando’s intend to deceive her by withholding the price of hot water and subsequent refills till she receives the bill. Perhaps if she had remained calm and sated her hunger without the trivial accompaniment of hot water,  this unnecessary fracas could have been avoided altogether.  Someone could have just offered a free coleslaw (maybe mashed potato since coleslaw is, well, cold) just to appease her, instead of orchestrating the bizarre gesture of mock applause behind the scenes.  Just remember to ask dear Bobby to bring a thermos along next time, then. Meanwhile, will an economist please stand up and clarify once and for all, how much should a cup of hot water cost, if not free of charge?

Postscript: Turns out that the Nandos’ staff were really taunting Joanne, and have duly ap0logised by sending  free bottles of Peri Peri sauce. Surprised that no free water was given with it, though. Nando’s were reluctant to explain why they clapped though. Anybody asked to define sarcasm or irony would be at a loss for words too.

M1 rejects husband who forgot wife’s D.O.B

From ‘Can’t recall wife’s birthday, so no help from telco’, 11 March 2011, Voices, Today

(Jimmy Ng Kim Kok): Two days ago, I received a frantic call from my wife who is on holiday overseas, saying that her handbag containing her mobile phone had been stolen.

Immediately, I called M1 to ask for her phone line to be suspended. I was asked to provide my wife’s name, phone number, address, postal code, IC number – to all of which I gave the correct reply. Then, I was asked her date of birth. When I said I could not really remember, I was told my desperate request could not be acceded to. Weren’t the correct replies I gave earlier sufficient for them to act?

As the last straw, I was told to call my wife to ask for her birth date. How could I, when her phone had been stolen!

I hung up the phone and am now waiting for the phone bill to come.

Strange cliffhanger at the end, with the complainant resigning to being charged an extravagant phone bill from the culprit rather than finding means of retrieving such information without crawling in shame to his wife’s friends or worse, his in laws for help.  Which is why everyone should have a Facebook account, in case people forget their significant others’ birthdays, full name or their favorite colour, so that they can obtain such details discreetly without making a fool of themselves. It’s really not that uncommon for husbands to forget birthdays in brief moments of panic, especially when you have a spouse who expects you to recall multiple anniversaries, all her dental appointments and even your pets’ birthdays. But it takes some astonishing nerve to broadcast your failings for the whole world to see, which includes not just his wife, but his children, his wife’s friends, and the in laws as well. You could almost hear the collective awkward whispers of ‘Oops’ from everyone in the country and beyond reading this incriminating complaint.

To top it all off,  he then proceds to divert the blame from himself to the telco for abiding by protocol, when the sensible thing to do here would be to find out which hotel his wife was staying in (where she would most likely be after losing her hangbag, not shopping) and just call her directly, if she weren’t calling from someone else’s mobile phone already.  Which was what the staff at M1 probably meant anyway, before Jimmy hung up the phone and started sulking instead of doing something with a little more common sense than telling everyone you can’t remember your wife’s date of birth. Top pick for the  ‘Unintentional self-shaming’ award.

Female cleaners in male toilets

From ‘ Mind the gender in toilet cleaning’, 3 Feb 2011, ST Forum online

(Seow Joo Heng): OFTEN, we see female cleaners being employed to clean all toilets, including men’s toilets; and male inspectors inspecting all, including women’s toilets.

Obviously, this arrangement causes inconvenience and embarrassment to both users and cleaners.

Let us give some respect to all, especially the female cleaners, with just a bit of common sense: all cleaning processes involving men’s toilets can be handled by men, and women’s toilets by women.

A counter argument that this will then increase manpower costs should not hold water.

Perhaps instead on complaining about getting caught shaking off the last drops of pee at the urinal by female cleaners  one should consider that these workers are picking up our shit after us and it’s unreasonable to expect that, in this line of work with a possibly askew gender distribution, males can only clean male toilets and vice versa for female cleaners. What if there were only one cleaner on shift that day because her male colleague fell sick from clearing up someone’s liquid poo-margeddon the previous night? Would you rather the toilet be left in a state of  after-party faecal desecration, shit splattered and compacted that you would need tongs to fish out formidably rock-hard stools or unflushable condoms, swirling with noxious fart vapour so repellent and persistent your 15 minute lunch will taste exactly like the undigested discards of all toilet users combined? You spend no more than 5 minutes doing your business, these folks make sure you don’t slip on urine for more than 8 toxic hours a day. Show some understanding for god’s sake.

It’s a dirty, hazardous job really, and it’s understandable if toilet cleaners are an angry, disgruntled bunch who, being exposed to all manners of excrement, spit and pubic hairs in the course of a day, wouldn’t care less about your modesty even if you’re so well endowed that you have to stand an arm’s length away from the urinal just to relieve yourself. Best pee with caution, you know, adopting the usual stance of head and hands down, not hands behind your head whistling and cooing with pleasure. After all, it’s not just female cleaners one has to watch out for barging into our toilets, it’s also fathers who bring in their girls as well, as seen in this letter ‘Modesty issues at the urinals’, 26 June 2007, Today.

 

 

 

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