The soft warm rays of the sun envelop me as I lie upon the soft sand. The sky is a beautiful shade of robin’s egg blue with a hint of cloud in the distance. The warm, salty ocean breeze dances through my hair, promising a languid summer afternoon that knows no end… That was what I envisioned myself to be enjoying after taking the GCE Cambridge ‘A’ Levels.
But no, I ended up working in an office.
You know, the kind where everyone dresses in work clothes, practices office hierarchy and smokes – both cigarettes and brimstone.
I’ve heard many stories about office politics and used to think that what we see on TV was merely an exaggerated form of the actual thing. Yet, today, I am starring in an office drama of my own. Lucky me. Maybe fate doesn’t like me, or maybe I’m overthinking it, but even as a temp, the mountain of office politics that I’m facing overhangs an avalanche from which there appears to be no escape. And no St Bernard dog loping over either, bearing a collar-barrel full of liquid relief.
“Hey littlethundervoice*,” my superior, P, said. “It’s either you take the night shift or quit.” The night shift starts at 2pm and ends at 10pm. Upon expressing my hesitance (I said, “um…” instead of “yessir!”) to work at such an odd hour in an office block located just southwest of the middle of nowhere, P merely shrugged and said, “It’s the boss’ idea. I can’t do anything about it.”
I blinked with incomprehension as I struggled to absorb what I heard. The boss, who often treated me so nicely, wanted me to work the night shift? That was despite him repeatedly agreeing that it was far too dangerous for a sweet, innocent, defenseless nineteen-year-old girl to be working The Night Shift!
“Are you sure he said this?”
“Yes, he did, alongside the boss’ boss.”
But it turns out that the boss didn’t say any such thing.
That’s just an instance of the half-truths I am living with at work. In school, we faced student politics, but that’s nothing compared to the real working world. Students, from my observation, are just a tad more transparent than working adults. When they do not like you, they unmistakably show it – cut all ties with the student you despise, I say!
This is unlike the adult working world, where everyone seems to be wearing a mask of hypocrisy. I have heard all too often the phrase, “yee ûmm sį nãng, sį g’ui lai gai!” (translation from Teochew: He is not human, he is a devil/ghost/monster!).
Besides this, I have to tolerate being treated like an inferior being. Maybe it is because I am so young that people think I’m a high school dropout (not that they’re bad or anything – I don’t judge). I have been treated as though I were an uneducated peasant living in medieval times. Spoken to in a condescending tone? Check. No “thank you” despite being put through the mill for a trivial matter on another’s behalf? Check. Shouted at as though I made an extinction-level error when I know it wasn’t my fault? Check. The list just goes on.
Right now, I am considering terminating my job at this said workplace. I have seen people come and go in a span of a mere two months. Last month, two coworkers quit. And this week, two of my colleagues have quit. Another two are about to follow suit by the end of this month. And my office has no more than 20 staff remaining. That’s how bad it is.
So, all you students out there studying for your ‘A’ Levels, you better study a whole lot harder and smarter. And continue to do so at the university. I know I will, because it is apparent that you will truly suffer wherever you go in Singapore without good academic qualifications. That, unfortunately, is the sad fact we all have to accept.
The next time I’m stepping in an office, it will be at a higher tax bracket and preferably a (much) higher position.
And no, I’m not going to behave like the superiors at my current workplace. Don’t say I haven’t learnt anything from my experience.
*Littlethundervoice is currently working at a dialect businessmen’s association somewhere in the boondocks of Singapore.