Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas and relax lah!

To hell with the COE prices! The most buy second hand lah!

So what if we still can't get a good HDB flat! No flat, marry later, produce babies even later! Still got new immigrants to top up right!

Who cares who's going to win the election! Next year then say lah!

Don't you know it's Christmas NOW?

Some great man once say: When the ship comes to the wharf, automatically straight it will become! So go relax and come back next year to worry! Merry Christmas, my friends! :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Aunty, you give female drivers a bad name!

That's enough. I'm so having enough of people praising me that I park well. Whenever I managed to park my car without adjustments, one of the guys in the car could not help himself saying "Wah, your parking not bad har!". Yes sir, I've learned my parking well back in driving school and by the way I've been driving for more than 10 years, so why shouldn't I park well? And you should see their faces of admiration whenever I slotted my car neatly into a parallel parking lot.

Unfortunately, at this age of time, men can acknowledge a woman's capability to be a CEO but yet they still can't believe in a woman's driving skill, or worse, parking skill. But seriously, can I even blame them? While most of my girl friends and I have no problem when it comes to parking our cars, there are indeed some hopeless ones out there. And if I were to profile these ladies...

She is usually old enough to be called an aunty. And because this aunty is old enough, this means she has usually worked her way up her career high enough to draw a respectable pay, which means she will drive a large BMW or at least a Toyota Camry. If she happens to be married and with kids, she will drive an even larger MPV.

And how will these aunties park? Lemme illustrate those I've met...

Aunty #1 drove a SUV up a HDB multistorey car park. After she went up part of the slope to the next level, she suddenly reversed without warning or indication to park at a lot at the corner of the lower level, just before the slope. Of course the car behind her had a shock when he had expected her to go up the slope but instead saw her reversing into him. And of course she had successfully caused an accident.

Aunty #2 drove a Camry into a shopping center basement car park. After she parked into a lot, she realised the car next to her had parked on the line so she couldn't get out of her car. So she drove out of her lot again to find another lot. There was only one problem. When she drove out of her lot, she insisted on driving on the wrong direction of traffic for some reason and the whole row of cars have to watch her do multiple-points turn slowly and squeeze pass them even more slowly.

Aunty #3 drove a wide European car into a basement car park. She was quick in her parking and needed no adjustment. In fact she was so fast that I couldn't react fast enough to call her back and request her to re-park because she was parking so close to my car that my passenger had problem getting out!

Aunty #4 drove a MPV and found a parallel parking lot on a very busy road. I'm sure all of you have met Aunty #4 somewhere in your driving life at some point. She drove in and out of the lot in differences of 1 degree angle and meanwhile the whole road got so congested up that it should have been reported on the radio to warn other road users to avoid that road.

And of course we must not forget Aunty #5 who just have to reverse her car so slowly into the lot that you couldn't tell that her car was even moving.

Friday, December 17, 2010

To have 3-star toilets, have happy cleaners first

After only about 30 per cent out of the 30,000 restrooms in Singapore meet a three-star standard, must be from hotels and ATAS shopping centers like ION, the Restroom Association of Singapore (RAS) came up with some Inter-Agency Working Committee (IAWC) report, and targeted to have at least 70 per cent of the toilets meet that three-star standard by 2013.

And in order to draft a three-year blueprint sophisticated enough to justify their jobs and prove that they were working hard, the committee came up with some very out-of-the-box ideas that are totally out-of-touch with the people using and cleaning them.

Like an ERP system for toilets during peak hours. How original. I've written enough of the effectiveness of the original ERP system on the roads so I won't bore my readers here again. And anyway they are smarter than the committee to know when things won't work.

Like giving cleaners the authority to act as "inspectors" to warn or fine irresponsible users. So what will you call people that beat cleaners up in the toilets then? Toilet bullies?

And other ideas - like shared cleaning services, and better restroom lightings and brighter colours to influence improved user behaviour - are just... other rubbishes.

Enough focus on the toilet users. My suggestion to the committee is to look at the other side of the coin instead. The cleaners.

Cleaners are one of most exploited workers in Singapore, perhaps second only to construction workers and maids. One reason is that most of the cleaners are retired old folks who are less educated, and like what we have learned from robbers and con-men, they are the best candidates to cheat and not get caught. Thus cleaning companies find it difficult to resist the temptation of paying them extremely little and exploiting them further.

Unfortunately, most of my elder relatives, even my father, are cleaners, and what I'm about to reveal are real stories happening below the nose of the Restroom Association of Singapore.

When one of my uncle was working as cleaner in a office building downtown, he will always get his pay, which was about $600, at least three months late. The foreign workers were even worse. One of them had his pay delayed for more than six months.

When one of my aunties was working as cleaner in a secondary school, she did get her few hundreds dollars pay on time. But her company failed to pay for her CPF. In fact, the company did not submit CPF contribution for all of the cleaners.

When this aunty of mine resigned and joined another cleaning company, she did get her pay and CPF contribution regularly alright. But the company had a rule that all cleaners shalt not take sick leave. Meaning all sick leaves will be considered part of their 7 days annual leaves. Oh, also, when they are on sick leaves or annual leaves, they have to get a temporary cleaner to stand in for them, and get this... they have to pay for their own temporary cleaners.

My father is working as a cleaner in a NEA waste management plant in Tuas. He gets his pay on time, even his CPF contribution, though not on time. But when I last checked his CPF statement online, I discovered that his company's name has been changed from Company A to Company B. Nope, his employer is still the same and they did not change their company name. Due to the Government's tightening of the import quota for foreign workers, his company has apparently set up a new company and transferred the names of all local cleaners in Company A to Company B, so as to employ more cheaper, better, faster foreign workers. Ah... so my father has become the Phantom of the Cleaning Company.

This is common sense. If the cleaners are not treated fairly, they are not going to be happy. And when the cleaners are not happy, most probably they won't be doing their best at their work. So dear RAS president, I'll suggest that you grab a cleaner out of a toilet and ask him whether he is happy. This might put more practicality to your sophisticated three-year blueprint.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gimme back my Singlish speaking waiters and waitresses!

First of all, let me declare that I'm not xenophobic. I work in a MNC with more than half of my colleagues from the rest of the world outside Singapore, and I really have no problem working with India Indians, China Chinese and what not.

However at the same time, that doesn't mean I love to be surrounded by foreigners 24/7. And with the rate that foreigners are coming onboard, we are seeing one foreigner for every two or three Singaporeans now. Which means that I'm still surrounded by foreigners after I get out of my MNC office. I know this shouldn't bother me because gahmen said foreign talents are good for us and I should take it as a good Singaporean. But when these foreign talents start to conquer culinary positions, they start to get on my nerves.

Did you realise that when you order a kimchi soup from a Korean stall in the food court, it is most probably cooked by a China Chinese chef? Did you realise that the local delicacy chili crab that you're offering to your overseas guests might not be cooked by a Singaporean? Did you have problem understanding what the sweet counter gal at a fast food chain is saying, only to realise that she was asking whether you want to "upsize or add any dessert", in English?

When I take a coffee break at the kopitiam, my favourite kopi aunties has been replaced with some young China gals, and my kopi-C siew dai always turn up as kopi-O siew dai, kopi-C without siew dai, or simply kopi. These days I just order Milo to be safe.

When I go to a steakhouse for some good steak, I have to give my order in Mandarin. That didn't really challenge me much because I can always point at the menu when I'm too lazy to do mental translation. The only problem is she has no idea what is "medium rare" and I've got no idea medium rare equals to how many percent cooked. Luckily there is still a local floor manager who can translate my medium rare to whatever percent cooked.

Recently when I had dinner at a Japanese restaurant at Suntec City claiming to sell only authentic home-cooked Japanese food, I had the illusion that I was at Manila. All the waitresses there were Filipinos and believe me, it is not easy to understand a Filipino pronouncing Japanese dish names.

I'm really not xenophobic and I don't care that a foreign worker quarters is located just down the street from where I stay. But seriously, I just want to order my food and eat in peace. I just want my waitress to say "How you want your steak? Medium rare har. You want baked potatoes or fries?".

Friday, December 10, 2010

Second hand car market is back in business

The last COE prices are simply crazy. The price that I paid for my 1.6L car three years ago can only get me a piece of obscenely expensive invisible paper now. For the COE prices to shoot up the sky, there must be mountains of bids received for the month, which means there must be showrooms full of people buying cars. So much for the purpose of the COE is to deter people from buying cars.

Seriously, if you think that the the real purpose of the COE system is really to deter people from buying cars, then you must also believe that the $100 levy is really to deter Singaporeans from gambling. Which means you are either too pro-government, too rich, or too naive. If the COE system would have worked in keeping Singapore road traffic smooth, then why do we have the ERP system? DUH!

Firstly, why won't the COE system deter people from buying a Toyota Vios in Singapore that costs as much as an Audi A3 Cabriolet in the UK? Because people who buy new cars in Singapore are either too rich, because they have been rich all their lives, or just won 4D/Toto, or received a 2.5 months bonus; or they don't have a choice, because they work till the moon comes up in remote parts of Singapore with limited public transport, like Tuas, or have a handful of kids, parents and maids to transport around. So even if the COE price touches the million mark, they might still consider.

And then for the rest of those who have simply given up on the cannot-make-it public transport, but cannot afford the Audi-priced Vios, the COE system will not deter them from buying a second-hand car. For some of us, this gives a sense of deja vu when the COE prices were just as high about 10 years ago and you can only see P-plates on second-hand cars. In this case, higher COE prices only means it is time for those salespeople to move out of car dealers like Borneo Motors, brush up their smoking skill and get into the booming second hard market.

So in summary, what is the effect of high COE prices? You've still got the same number of cars on the roads, but expect more traffic jams because of more old second-hand cars breaking down.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Jurong is the illegal parking heaven

Now I get it. Why is it that despite all the foreign workers quarters with their foreign workers, all the pollution from all kinds of factories, and despite it is too freaking far from anywhere else in Singapore, there are still so many people moving over to stay in Jurong. Because Jurong is the illegal parking heaven.

For the cyclist, Jurong is the illegal parking heaven to ride your bicycle to anywhere and park everywhere. Trees, railings, lamp posts, or any other vertical objects are there for you to lock your bicycle to. You just have to make sure your lock is strong enough and your bicycle old and dirty enough so that it does not get stolen. But even when it does get stolen, no worries, you can always steal another loosely locked one on the next tree.

For the motorbike rider, Jurong is the illegal parking heaven where every pavement is your parking lot. Why park at the multi-storey carpark when you can just park your bike on the pavement beneath your flat? You don't have to worry about your bike blocking the pedestrians because in Jurong, they are trained to avoid motorbikes on pavements and walk on the grass or road instead.

For the vehicle owners, Jurong is the ultimate illegal parking heaven where double yellow lines are for decorative purposes only.

On week day morning peak hours, lorries and tracks will park on the road side of Pioneer Road North to load their goods and all other cars and buses will know to avoid that lane totally.

Private buses and vans will park on Boon Lay Way while waiting for the time to pick up their passengers and the students of Jurong West Secondary School know not to bother reporting to the school about suspicious vehicles parked outside the school.

The slope leading to the entrance of the multi-storey carpark next to Pioneer Mall is constantly lined with lorries and vans unloading goods, and even more cars while their drivers have a burger at MacDonald's.

Jurong Point itself is surrounded by illegal parking all year round and all day. On Saturday mornings, lorries park themselves right before the entrance to the carpark to do their unloading. The loading bay may be empty, but apparently too far from the stores. They must be concerned that their trolleys may not make it to the stores. And anyway it is not as if these lorries are totally blocking the the cars from the carpark and buses from the bus interchange. There is still another lane.

And here comes the cream of the crop. In the illegal parking heaven of Jurong, you can park your car along the road outside all kopitiams and have your meal in peace! Nope, the kopitiams in Jurong do not have some high tech super efficient officers alarm system. In fact, these kopitiams do not even have a lookout. The reason is simply because in Jurong, there is no such thing as parking violation officer.

When traffic police used to rule, you don't see one in Jurong. When the traffic police decided they have too much on their plates and shifted the responsibility of curbing illegal parking to LTA, you still don't see a parking violation officer in Jurong. Because in Jurong, parking violation officers are like ailens. You know they exist somewhere but you will never see them.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What have they done to deserve the 2.5 months bonus?

It is a no brainer that the best job in Singapore is to be at management level of a statboard, where your daily job is to channel jobs from the big guys on top of you to the poor guys below you, then send political emails to channel the jobs your poor guys could not cope with to the other departments' poor guys, also attend meetings to present PowerPoint slides that your poor guys have created, and for the rest of the day you can just la kopi and relac one corner.

Oh don't you worry about getting too little pay for your little effort. As long as you've got the right papers, you can expect an offensively huge pay check, even more if you are a scholar, and regardless of job experience. And when the rest of the world is still struggling with economy recovery, you'll still get a generous 2.5 months bonus! Still not enough? Try siphoning some rewards for yourself from the countless contracts for external vendors. As long as you are discreet enough, nobody will notice your Lamborghini. Well, at least for quite a few years. So now who says that the best job in the world is in Australia?

Right at this point, some of you might be accusing me of stereotyping, especially when I do not work in a statboard. Yap, despite my papers and experience, all my applications to all the various statboards only ended up in shredders. Hey, I was so eager that I've even sent resume to the allegedly more boring statboards like NLB and NPB for junior positions that are held by my subordinates! Some said I must have been rejected because I was asking for the same pay as a freshly graduated scholar, which is probably too much to ask for since all I've got is more than 10 years of experience and a normal honors degree from a normal UK university. With such resume, I could only work for MNCs listed on NASDAQ.

So instead, I'll tell you real stories of some statboard managers, painfully obtained by the countless nights of grumble calls I get from my unfortunate friends who have to work under these bosses. Wonder what did they do wrong in their past lives to deserve such bad karmas.

He is the one who asks his next-in-line to do his own tasks and reports, and when the next-in-line said she have no idea how to do his job, he says "If you don't know, I lagi don't know! Can you go find out?"

He is the one who organise one-to-one interviews with the whole office to find out how critical it is for them to have a particular stationary that costs SGD12 each before signing on the procurement request.

She is the one who bought Hello Kitty pink flowery guestbook for the guests attending an industry seminar organised by her department. No, those guests are not pre-school teachers but managers from various SMEs and GLCs.

He is the one who goes into panic mood whenever there is a quarterly meeting with higher management and always ensure that his next-in-line attends the meeting with him, and when questions are asked in the meeting, he stares at his next-in-line and waits for the answers.

He is the one who traveled to China to cut a deal with the potential partner, but after days of meetings, refused to sign on the dotted line because he needed to check with his boss back home. And of course in the end someone else from a private company got the deal.

She is the one who takes annual leaves on days when there are deadlines to be met and important meetings to attend.

She is the one who was expecting an overseas VIP who was critical for a partnership deal, and she asked her PA to email their address to this CEO instead of asking someone to receive him.

He is the one who nervously had a talk with his subordinate who closed 4 deals for the financial year when the sales target was actually 2. His subordinate was advised to slow down.

There are so many more examples yet to be cited and in order to relate them all, I would need to start a new blog for this specific topic altogether. Seriously, I hope the 2.5 months bonus is enough to compensate the mental torture that my statboard friends have to go through.