Singapore Adventure

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Business Casual
by venitha

I greet Benny with a warm smile, happy to see a friendly face. Usually the lift stops for a complete stranger who eyes me with suspicion before reluctantly joining me and keeping a silent and nervous distance.

Benny, on the other hand, and his family, who live twelve floors below us, are friends of a sort and have even kindly agreed to water our plants while we're in India. We have a rooftop garden, and plants need lots of water in Singapore. This is no small favor.

"You are off to?"

"Work," I tell him, pleasantly surprised to discover myself not unhappy with this destination. In spite of the exhaustion inherent in suddenly working full-time, it's been a good week.

"Ah!?" Benny is always a perfect gentlement, perfectly composed, perfectly polite, but he can't quite stifle this response as he takes in my attire with slightened widened eyes. In cropped khakis, a plain navy tee, and black leather slip-on sandals, I'm really not "playing the ang moh" card too egregiously, though I contrast inescapably with Benny's crisply pressed shirt and smart silk tie.

"I'm an engineer," I tell him with a laugh, and then without thinking, add, "I know how the computers work."

He nods stifly and says nothing, and I hear my apparently lame Dilbert reference splat sickeningly against the elevator wall, showering Benny's immaculate dress shirt with flecks of inadvertent insults to his intelligence. Benny is also an engineer, and he runs his own business. He obviously knows how the computers work, too.

"Perhaps I can get away with more... because..." Well, shit. Where to go with this? At last I come to my senses and shut my mouth. I shrug and paste on a rueful grin.

Benny is clearly relieved when the elevator doors open to eject me.

"Have a good day, Benny!" I tell him, looking him in the eye and beaming warmly before the doors close to whisk him further down, to the basement garage and the shiny black car that perfectly complements his attire.

Alone in our condo's lobby, I look at the closed elevator doors, shake my head, and sigh, exhaling completely before squaring my shoulders and lifting my head high.

You can't win 'em all, I tell myself as I step out comfortably with long, sure strides toward the MRT. But I do hope Benny will still water the plants.