Memories of my workplace part 1
After months of not really accepting the inevitable, I have decided to leave. After all that’s been said and done, it’s just nuts that I’m not going to follow through. Do I know exactly what I’m doing? No. For some time I had been vain enough to wonder how I’d be remembered when I leave this place. After all, I spent 9 years here.
Then it occurred to me, when I was making that change in my life, that I would be looking forward, not looking back. Until one day. For some reason, I thought that I would report sick. Now I never get an MC without being sick, but it was a soft MC. Just a bit of flu. Just feeling a little tired. It was something I hadn’t done in a while, maybe did it once or twice a year. Then I decided to go to my company’s clubhouse to rent a few VCDs. (I always made copies of them and returned them the next day.)
If I had something to compare it to, it would be like the time I left secondary school. First few years at secondary school were painful for me. The rest of the time was fairly relaxing. Sure, there were times of underwhelming achievement. Sure, I didn’t think I 100% belonged to that place. But I would be lying if I said I learnt nothing, achieved nothing, made no friends, didn’t stretch myself a little here and there, that the whole experience was hellish. It wasn’t a time of intense achievement. It was a time when there was some hard work, some slacking going on. It would not be a heroic time in my life, but there were good memories.
There was a time, when I was thinking back on my secondary school days. My biggest regret from those times was my not being a member of my school’s maths team. (Coincidently I’ve just met up with one of the guys who was keeping me out of the team.) But I suddenly asked myself another question: were you happy during those days? Yes, I was. Was I happy during my 9 years on my job? Not really extremely happy, but more happy than not.
Why am I leaving my job? I would be “more happy than not” for the rest of my life. But more than likely I was starting to get tired of what I was doing. Even if the career progression was not fantastic, I could always dream up of a few more new things to do, new ways to do things. But in the end, I needed a change of environment badly. Or I could see myself rotting in my current position.
So what I have here are memories of my time. Not all of these things took place at work, but all of them took place during these 9 years. I'm putting up 42 because it's a nice round number.
1. The basketball / football games
Halfway into my second year, Sniper started organising games in the evening for our department. A lot of people made their appearances there, except for the bosses of course. Even so, water tap was a regular. There were people from other departments joining us sometimes. People who later became deputy factory managers.
Those weren’t entirely happy times for me. I got more than my fair share of sniping. But there are always team mates you like, and others you don’t and they always come in one package. I was no athlete, but I learnt how to play a bit of basketball and soccer, very importantly, before I hit 30. Because after that, you probably will never pick up any more physical skills. Sure, there were quarrels. Sure, I drove a nail into the coffin at the end. But it was good while it lasted. I’ll never regret walking out of it the way I did, but those are fond memories.
2. The lunches in coffee shops and hawker centres of old housing estates
We work in a “factory”. The building that we worked in had been refurbished 6 months before I started work. Most of the time, there were 3 stalls in the cafeteria. The Chinese stall, the Malay stall and the drinks stall. The Chinese stall was making a killing because he provided lunches to all the crane operators. Nearly 10 years later, he’s still there. I detest his stall with a passion.
So we often drove out to eat. Most of the time, it was somebody else’s car. We would end up at a hawker centre or a coffee shop at an old housing estate. The thing about the older housing estates, they are a reminder of what Singapore used to be, a more idealistic, generous period, when people didn’t charge you sky high rentals, or make you pay more for your food just because there was air con, or squeeze you into a ridiculously small place. Sure, these were grimy places but I liked them because they remind me of Singapore’s golden period. It’s too bad, that when the inhabitants in there die, the whole place will also be emptied out.
3. Sipping tea at meetings
We had a messenger who made good pandan tea. He was some kind of a joker as well. I suppose it was here, as well as my time in NS, that I learnt how to drink tea Singapore / Malaysia style. It would be possible to replicate this elsewhere but I cannot imagine why anybody would want to flavour their tea with anything else other than condensed milk.
4. Reading books in ice cream parlours after work. The long rides on the Lornie Road bus
There was this period when I was always taking the same long route back. I would go to a nearby bus terminal, pick up an icy drink at a convenience store, and sip it on the back of a bus, reading my latest book from the warehouse sale. Or I would stop at an ice cream parlour halfway, order 2 scoops, and just while time away. Or maybe it would be a beer. I think it was a very decadent time. I was almost determined to have an easy life around the time when I was 30. I don’t know if I regret that now.
A few months ago, a colleague that I had once gone after got married. I haven’t talked to her since. There were a few dates, and then it ended like that. I’m not under any illusions that you have to put in the work if you want to go after the girl. For various reasons, and possibly because of other things going on in my life, I didn’t go after her. And even if I did, I don’t think it would have worked out.
6. Borrowing VCDs
The company’s clubhouse had a VCD rental service. It was a boon for me. To be sure, you only got the movies that opened at theatres. You didn’t get art house masterpieces. But there was a good selection, and once the movie was out, it was certainly cheaper than watching it at the cinemas. I copied a lot of movies and I still have a stockpile, from the time when I would just burn loads of movies for the heck of it. Supposing I were to watch a movie every other week, which is actually a lot, I would still take 1 or 2 years to finish the lot.
7. Getting my mobile phone subscription
The other boon from the clubhouse would be corporate mobile phone plans. I pay 50% of what a lot of other mobile phone users pay. However I am not a mobile phone fan, and I don’t have an iPhone or any wi fi / 3G thingy that most ppl have these days. I haven’t taken advantage of the latest plans. But I did remember how exciting it was to get my first handphone, even though it was one of those old dot matrix thingies.
8. Going to video arcades after work
Yes, for 2 or 3 years at the beginning of my working years I used to go play at video arcades. They still had those things during that time. I used to play puzzle games, like bubble bobble, shanghai mahjong. Later on I developed better vices, like reading books.
9. Going to libraries / book stores after work
College turned me into a reading fanatic. I was a general knowledge / history fanatic for many years. It lasted until 1 or 2 years ago, when I got tired of it all. Those days, I would just go to the library, look at all the wonderful colourful books, read the blurbs, which often consist of somebody’s great idea of the world, and then pick 1 or 2 for the weekend.
10. Expeditions to the Lighthouse / Riau Islands / Bangkok
In the earlier years, my colleagues were a fairly close knit bunch. This was before they started snatching each other’s wives. They were quite gracious about it, arranged everything. Barbeques. Funky games. For us it was just the novel experience of being able to laze around in a bungalow for cheap.
11. Naps on the bus during lunch time
I didn’t always get my 6-7 hours of sleep. It would be hell in the morning, but then I would just excuse myself and get myself some shut eye. Sometimes I would just get on a bus and go sleep on the seat. Or I would go to the cafeteria downstairs for a quick meal and grab half an hour of shut eye. The third place I could nap was my van. I would just grab a quick lunch, drive to a multi-storey car park, park it there, and then spend half an hour sleeping.
12. Driving ppl around for the 1st time / driving back from sports day.
Football and basketball sessions were also fun when I had my own vehicle. I would ferry ppl around for late dinners at 9 something. I liked the novelty of starting to drive all by myself. In fact I like driving. I just don’t like the idea of pumping carbon into the atmosphere.
13. Conversations with Water Tap
And before I got the van, it was invariably water tap who gave me a lift home. I can’t say that know him very well. And there are times when he would start nagging me about work, or about finding a girlfriend. But he never allowed awkward silences to take place, and I liked that. He had become a factory manager and recently I had dinner with him. Then we ended up talking about factory work. That was interesting.
14. Joo Chiat
A very strange period in my life, 3 months in all. But no regrets at all, really.
15. Gatherings at ppls’ houses
Many of the times they used to be at Sniper’s house. Then there were gatherings at Totoro’s house, and once at Ghost’s house. Nat was supposed to host 1 time, but he didn’t. I don’t host these things because my home has a bad vibe. Basketball Jones – I went to his house and I remembered that bachelor pads should not be hosting parties. My apartment at Snowy Hill Uni was always in a mess. Sometimes they were fun and other times not. And mostly in the early years. But good experience.
16. Long Distance running training
So many people started running marathons that when one day shingot decided to run a half marathon. I thought, OK. I’ll do it too. In the end, I finished a half marathon one year and the full marathon the next, and then I quit. I hope shingot succeeds earlier because it gets harder when you get older.
I don’t know if there is something about my department which is conducive towards finishing a marathon. Maybe it was the ability to keep on bashing your head against the wall in the face of overwhelming apathy from the rest of the corporation. Maybe it was the introversion that made it humanely possible to spend hours alone. Because long distance training is an overwhelmingly solitary activity, and having a running partner only makes things slightly better.
But the honour roll of people in my department who have finished marathons is fairly long. There is 1 data clerk, 1 programmer analyst (I think), Nat, Leonpix, Blinky, Dr Maths, Garoupa, Colonel, and finally myself. Shingo and Sniper have run half marathons, but probably they didn’t finish marathons because, unlike me, they have a life.
17. Concerts with Nat
This was only in the last few years. There weren’t more than 4 or 5. And most of the time I decided where to go. But the music was never any less than excellent. First there was George Clinton, then Joe Lovano, then Tortoise and Joanna Newsom.
18. Blogging / secret diary of Montgomery burns
In the middle years, it became an open secret that I blogged. There were a few people who got to read my blog. These days I wouldn’t let the youngsters know about it, I wouldn’t let the bosses know about it, and my readership has basically dropped to zero. But that’s OK. Alfian called his blog his secret wank shed, and that’s what it is for me.
There was a boss who everybody got frustrated with, and we even set up a secret blog for him. I got worried, and slapped a password on it – now I don’t even know what it is.
19. “Training sessions”
Our company held training for its staff. They purportedly taught stuff like customer service, creativity training and etiquette. While some of these courses are useful, a lot of them was just making sure that these things were taught to people in case they didn’t already know. There was a lot of fairly solid stuff that could have been taught. Some of the time was just spent in teambuilding games. Some of these were feel good sessions. Generally it was of dubious utility.
When the Colonel came in, he revamped the training and made some courses more relevant to the company. I always thought that was the right thing to do, but it speaks volumes about our company that until he came along, nobody thought to do that.
20. Stalking water girl
There was this time, right after I got dumped by codfish, that I passed by water girl, and I said to myself, this will be my next girlfriend. A few years passed, not much happened. After much nagging from my friends, I decided to go and stalk her. It was a big effort, and lasted for 1 year or so, on and off. Later on, I read her blog and realised that we just weren’t right for each other, and that the effort was more or less entirely wasted.
The first 3 weddings in my adult life were affairs to forget. The first one, I missed because I was going away to the USA. The second one, I also missed. Codfish was the bride, and for that matter, it ended in divorce. The third one was sniper, and it also ended in divorce. The rest seem to be in good condition so far. (edited: I learnt last weekend that another one ended in divorce. But it was a buffet lunch wedding, I was 10 mins late and I missed the very short solemnisation ceremony)
I remembered that at the first wedding I went to, I often felt very touched when they pulled out all the photos from the archives, and it’s like a fairy tale, ppl live happily ever after. But as you get older, it’s more a matter of been there, done that.
22. Trip to the USA
My sister asked me to accompany her on a trip across the USA. And it happened around the time my bond ended. It was a time for me to think about the future. It’s a curious thing, a lot of the time, up till the trip to the US, I was still able to remember my university life fairly vividly. Thereafter, I seem to have completely cut my ties to the USA. Now that I’m going to Mexico, I seem to have forgotten what Snowy Hill was like.