A Companion 一个伴


Sometimes, we just need a companion.

Someone who is on the same frequency, whose company we enjoy, who understands us in just a few words, whom we can laugh aloud with, who accepts us for who we are, who does not probe about our pasts, whom we can grow old with, who we can hold hands with and hug and kiss… all but without the sex.





Yesterday, I watched a variety show on unique hotel accommodations around the world, and the episode yesterday was showing Cave Hotels in Granada, Spain. It immediately sparked my interest.

I have been feeling out of place for years in this urban city, though I am very grateful for being born here. It is a beautiful island transformed into a clean garden city, with lots of efforts from our forefathers, as well as our government. However, I feel that I do not belong to this place. I am not certain, but deep down in my heart, I always sense that I belong to the countryside. Perhaps it is in my roots, as I was born in kampong. I cannot really remember my years spent there, as I was just a toddler when we moved out, into our HDB flat. There are simply some bits and pieces of memories here and there, in addition to what my mom told me about some of the hilarious stuffs I had done. She told me that there was a litter of puppies with whom I always hung out with. I was always running to and fro on the broad, uneven road right in front of our attap house, with the puppies. I cannot recall exactly, but I think the puppies were in shades of browns and blacks. And there was a mother dog, too.

There are lots of things about my years living in the kampong which I cannot recall, and I seriously wish that I could. As I grow older, I realise that, though I am not a nature lover and I dread the sun as much as I love my bed, I am not much of a city person. True enough, when I was in my late teens till late twenties, I was having that much fun in exploring life in the city and making friends everywhere I went. I had thought that life would be as exciting all the way, even after I have my own family and children. Boy, how wrong I was.

Especially in recent years, I have been cooping at home, other than spending hours at work. I have no desire to go out. The crowds and noises out there terrify me. I have been asking my mom if we could grow our own veggies and herbs at home. Though we do not have a balcony, and it is not safe to keep them along the common corridor, I believe we can have the pots along the windows in the kitchen. Although we cannot farm a lot, at least we can eat whatever we grow. I have been telling my mom that if I can stay in a landed property, I would want to have my own mini farm, where I grow veggies and herbs for my own consumption. Without the chemicals, it is definitely healthier and cleaner.

Back to the show of Granada, the cave homes simply caught my eyes, and my heart. They do not look like a huge place each, but essential for a small family. Of course, there ought to be bigger houses for bigger and richer families. I did not know about the weather, but the residents said that temperatures are constant in the cave houses throughout the seasons. When it is cold outside, you would feel warm in the cave houses. When it is hot out there, being in the cave houses keep you cool. In comparison with modernised apartments, living in a cave house help to save a lot of energy and money. I got so keen that I went online to look for more information on Granada.

I slightly glanced through the blogs, and it looks like Granada experiences four seasons. That is a challenge to me, as even though I dread the sun, I dread the cold even more. Safety-wise and other information, somehow I have my reserves on what those several bloggers said. Because if they feel that Malaysia is one of the best places to retire in, I seriously have my doubt in their opinions. Even expenditure-wise, there are different scales. Well, as I scrolled down the list of best places to retire in, I saw Chiang Mai, Thailand. I like Thailand, for the cost of living is low. The air and water may be badly polluted, the road traffic may be much worse than what we are experiencing here in Singapore, the hygiene standard may not be fair, and crime rates is probably higher than Singapore. But I have not been to Chiang Mai. I just read up on it, and realised that it can be cold at night there, too. A killer factor for me.

I have been born and bred here, in this merlion city. And I am keeping in mind that our late PM Mr. Lee Kuan Yew would love our citizens to return to the nest he had built for us, no matter how far out we venture. Hence, will I eventually migrate to another place to spend my retirement years?


Managers These Days

Case 1

A customer purchased a product by this company I am working for, and encountered some issues, and insisted on having a refund. The Sales team refuses to take his calls, and the Sales Regional Manager asked me to get his email address. Even a Regional Manager does not have the guts to take on the responsibility of just answering a call from a dismayed customer. What kinda manager is that? What capabilities does she have, other than behaving like an Ah Lian and putting on layers of make-up?


Case 2

There is a conference call scheduled for tonight, and all employees are expected to dial in from all over the globe. I did not know, as I am simply a receptionist, and nothing else, except for the email from the CEO, was received a couple of days ago. This morning, HR sent a mass email to remind on this call. I asked if everyone has to participate. Indeed. I do not know if it is a simple teleconference thingy, or do I have to log in to Webex. When I asked the HR senior which number to call from our end, she did not reply. Till now. I asked another HR colleague, he was in a meeting, and asked me to check with the HR senior. I then asked another colleague, and she told me she has an appointment tonight, so she will not be dialing in. She asked me to tell my HR manager that I have an appointment to excuse myself from it.

I then sent a Skype message to my HR manager, asking her if everyone has to call in, she replied, “Yes.” I sensed the dullness in me straightaway, and simply asked if the toll-free number is what we are supposed to dial. She replied with another “Yes”. Period. I refused to say a word more. If I make any excuses, I suppose she will dislike me more, and my days here will be more tortured than ever. Thus, I resigned to my fate. If everyone has to dial in, why are some people excused? This is the so-called double-standard, and I hate it so.

Miseries At Work

When I came for interview for this current job position, I was told that I would be reporting to the HR manager, and that the HR team would assist me whenever in whatever areas, should I face challenges. Now, I feel deceived, extremely.

Not only was the HR team unable to render support, I was guided in the wrong direction 99% of the times I approached the supposedly senior HR employee, who has been in the company for 5 years and even longer than the HR manager, who is here for 2 years. Is she deliberate? Or is she simply of no help to me? I guess the former.

My predecessor left because of her, only to my knowledge much later, which was 2 months after I joined the company. I still keep in touch with my predecessor, as whenever I am troubled with the job or the people here, I would turn to her for advice. From the very beginning, I had tried to sound her out a couple of times on her reasons for leaving, but she was tight-lipped. Only until 2 months into the job, when I confided in her that I was having some issues with some coworkers, then did she share with me the real reasons that pushed her to tender her resignation. Apparently, the senior HR personnel was jealous of her close relationship with the HR manager, as well as with other colleagues, that the former began to tell my predecessor lies, such as how the HR manager disliked the way she dressed, how the other colleagues disliked her and talked behind her back, etc.. None of those tales were true, she found out later. In the end, she left because she felt humiliated by how negatively the senior HR employee commented on her dressing. She felt it was a personal attack, no longer something to do with her work performance.

I have been very cautious around this HR person, ever since I joined this company. I admit that I judge people. I judge people based on their faces. I believe, a person’s character reflects clearly on his/her face. That is, you can tell what kind of a person you are dealing with, from his/her looks. In this case, this HR senior I have talking about has an unfriendly and scheming look. She tries to behave chummy to me, but we all know how villains stab their preys in the back while with all smiles on their faces.

One morning last week, a colleague, was asking for the binding machine and materials, as she had documents to prepare for her superior, and it was urgent for his appointment. In my near 4 months here, I have never seen the binding machine, but I knew that an ex-colleague was the one who was using it all the time. I went searching for it from one end of the office to the other end, and found it at the HR department. Then, I went to get the binding combs and covers, but I could not find the clear front cover in my stationery cabinet. I was appalled, as there is a big stack of back covers, but none of the front covers, which is not quite possible, as my predecessor was a detailed person who would order in advance more than sufficient stock. And I did not remember seeing the front covers even once in the past 3 months. I had no choice, but to ask the accountant, as I supposed other than HR, Finance colleagues would most likely be the one to do binding. But the accountant did not have any of the front covers, and she suggested reusing what we have for our staff handbook. I ran to my workstation to retrieve mine, and dashed back to where the colleague was doing binding, and realized that the clear cover I have was different from what the accountant has. Imagine my frantic, and the colleague who was doing the binding was in frustration, and suggested to ask the HR senior out from the HR manager’s room, where the team of 3 was having a teleconference meeting. I knocked on the clear glass door, and obviously, the HR manager was annoyed as she waved her hand impatiently, signalling me to get in, without looking up. I called the HR senior, and signaled her to come out. Then, mystery solved. She kept stacks of those clear front covers in her cabinet! I was not fed up, but relieved when we got the covers for the other colleague.

When I was back at my workstation, the colleague, who did the binding, came out to me twice, complaining furiously about how ridiculous and unreasonable the HR senior was. The former understood that the office stationery costs does not come from the HR department’s expenses, which means all items should be kept in the common stationery cabinet and be accessible by all employees. She was bitter about how selfish and mean the HR senior has been with her gestures and attitude. When I asked for the clear front covers from her earlier on that morning, she gave the displeased look, as if we were taking what had belonged to her. The frustrated colleague said she wanted to send an email to the HR manager, complaining about this matter, that no one should have kept any excess stationery to themselves, without informing me, the one in charge of ordering stationery supplies, that we had run out of it in the stationery cabinet. But I stopped her, explaining that the HR manager would have sided with the HR senior, and eventually, the blame would come to me, for not checking the inventory. In the end, she did not make the complaint, but was so pissed for the whole morning.

I have been sensing that the HR manager does not really like me, maybe even to the extent of disliking me. One can feel whether another person dislikes him/her from the latter’s attitude, behavior, or even simply a look. This morning, I affirm this feeling of mine. I was late yesterday, due to a train fault somewhere down the line in the opposite direction. Yes, the opposite direction. I wonder why it affected the direction I was travelling in, as well. Anyway, I was late for less than half an hour yesterday, and I made it up by starting work half an hour earlier today. I was at the pantry, doing my daily routine task, when she came in, she knew I was there, but she walked to the sink, dropped something, then walked to her room in the opposite direction, without looking up. Then, she came to the pantry again, this time walking past me to get some cookies, and briefly said a “Good morning”, without eye contact. I felt like a dead person right there and then. I have observed how she interacted with other employees, the other person I saw her “entertain reluctantly” was the colleague who was terminated on the spot last month. I suppose I will be the next to leave in that kind of circumstances.

I have begun looking for jobs. If nothing comes up, I am thinking of registering for a course, and change my career path. I am exhausted of this position and similar scenarios everywhere I have been. It seems to me, even clearer than ever, that HR personnel are assholes. They should be the ones preventing office politics and conflicts, and promoting work harmony. Yet, many of those I have encountered are agents from hell. I am contemplating to stay, due to the insurance benefits and annual leave entitlement. However, given the circumstances, and with the dignity I was born with, I doubt I will be here for long.

Buddha, please enlighten me and lead me to a better path. Thank you.