I assisted a distressed Aunty today. She was struggling with several bags laden with groceries near the entrance to the apartment complex in which I reside and looked as if she was about to collapse. An 'Aunty' is a term used here in Singapore to address elderly women. Their male counterparts are 'Uncles'. Such terms are both courteous and respectful and are as well given as they are received.
The Aunty in question lives in my apartment building. I have seen her before. She is Singaporean Chinese. I always say "Good Morning Aunty" or "Good Evening Aunty" to her as our paths cross in the lift lobby area or in the apartment complex grounds. She generally smiles back but she rarely speaks. I am not sure of the Auntie’s age but I would guess that she is at least eighty. Perhaps older.
I could tell that the Aunty was distressed as she was gasping and wobbling a bit and had dropped one of her bags. She looked on the verge of collapse. I saw this from a distance. I was approaching the complex entrance from behind her and when I saw her stagger I rushed up to her and took her arm.
"Are you OK Auntie?" I asked.
With the great benefit of hindsight this was a silly question. It was obvious that she was not.
"Gaaaaarn' she gasped back at me. This is an approximation of the noise that she made. It is obviously not a recognizable word in any language.
I took the two bags that she was still carrying and put them on the ground. The poor old dear leaned into me. She was breathing heavily and was shaking. We were fortunately only ten or so meters from the entrance to our complex and I asked her if she could walk.
"Gaaaaarn' she repeated. Then she whispered a barely audible "can"
I led her very slowly up to the security guardhouse. I was hoping for the assistance of the security guards who are normally posted there. I have written about my battle with these guys a couple of times before. No matter what time of day or night it is they are usually asleep at their post.
This time however there was no-one in the guardhouse. It was empty!
"Fuckers" I thought to myself. I did not say this of course as it would not have been appropriate to utter such an obscenity in front of such a sweet little Aunty.
Fortunately the door to the guardhouse was not locked. I pushed it open and ushered the old dear inside and I sat her in a chair. She slumped and I told her to wait while I called for an ambulance. When I pulled out my mobile phone she shook her head furiously and again said "Gaaaaarn' to me.
"You don't want me to call a doctor Auntie?" I asked
I received another furious shake of her head
"I think I should"
"Gaaaaarn'. Quite a loud one this time. It was accompanied by a very insistent shaking of her head.
"OK wait here then Auntie and I will go and retrieve your shopping. I will be back in a flash"
I put down my own laptop bag and ran back out to the street where I quickly packed up the contents of her spilled shopping and retrieved the two other bags. I noticed that there were four very large boxes of Essence of Chicken in the bag that had been spilled.
Essence of Chicken is a very strange Singaporean substance. I have written about it before. I wrote about this in a piece that I most unimaginatively titled "Essence of Chicken". The product is very expensive and is claimed to boost energy and cognitive powers. Many Singaporeans I know are both listless and are not deep thinkers so I am not convinced of the benefits of this product.
I suspect that it may in fact contain the concentrated souls of chickens. It is the only explanation I can come up with that would justify the price or it's declaration to be an 'Essence". I immediately wondered to myself whether the Singaporean Aunty was suffering from an Essence of Chicken overdose.
I had no time to continue such ponderings though and I raced back to the Security guardhouse. The Aunty seemed to be breathing a little better now. There was still no sign of any of the security guards.
"Are you sure you don't want me to call for a doctor lah Aunty?" I asked again.
I threw a 'lah' in there because it is a Singaporean thing that I thought might assist her in relaxing a little
"No lah" she replied
"Is there anyone at home for you?"
She nodded an affirmation.
"Can you walk OK then Aunty? I will take you up to your apartment"
"Can" she replied and she stood up and took my arm.
I left my laptop bag and her shopping in the security guards office and the dear little Aunty took my arm. She clutched it tightly. We walked very slowly to the lifts and when the lift door opened she pushed the button to level 11. She pushed the button with a very shaky, wrinkled and gnarled finger. I live on level 6. The Auntie lives 5 floors above me.
When the lift door opened on level 11 Aunty guided me to her apartment door. There are only three apartments on each floor in the building in which we live. I knocked on the door and it was almost immediately opened by a young Chinese girl. I am guessing that she would be in her early twenties. I walked Aunty inside where she sat down in a battered old armchair. She and the young girl immediately began a conversation in a barrage of Hokkien. This is a Chinese dialect commonly spoken in Singapore. I couldn't understand a word that they were saying but it was obvious that the Aunty was giving the girl a tongue lashing.
The girl was giving Aunty a lashing back.
At one point she pointed at me and said "Gaaaaarn' again. This alarmed me somewhat.
After what seemed like a few minutes of witnessing what was becoming an increasingly hostile conversation I felt a bit awkward just standing there. So I said, "Excuse me".
I was addressing the young woman.
"Do you speak English?"
"Of course I bloody do" she replied.
"Oh" was all I could respond. I was momentarily shocked at both her answer and her demeanor.
"Is Aunty OK?"
"She is a stupid old cow." the angry young woman retorted.
"I always tell her not to go out and do her own shopping but she doesn't listen to anyone"
"Will she be alright then?"
"She will outlive us all." she said bitterly.
"Sorry" she then added.
"Thank you for bringing her up"
"No worries" I replied.
"Her shopping is down in the security guardhouse. I will go and get it for you"
"Thank you" she said.
Then she started launching into the Aunty again in a verbal tirade of Hokkien. As I walked out of the apartment I could hear the Aunty screeching back. She seemed to have made a fairly rapid recovery.
I retrieved the shopping from the guardhouse and took it up to level 11 where the Aunty was continuing to rant and rave at the young Chinese girl. The girl told me that her name was Ying and the Aunty was her grandmother. She thanked me for bringing up the shopping and told me that if I ever saw the old woman floundering again in the street I should turn around and walk the other way.
I told her that I would do no such thing but when I went to pat the Aunty on the arm and say goodbye she made another horrible guttural noise at me and she waved me away. She was quite rudely dismissive.
"I told you she was an old bitch" Ying said as she ushered me out the door.
"Too fucking right" I agreed as I departed.
Then I went back down to get my laptop bag. There was still no sign of the security guards
I was pretty pissed off myself now so I marched with purpose to the rear of the building and to the office of Mr. Tan. He is the Building Manager of the complex in which I live.
I knocked on Mr. Tan's door and stormed straight inside.
Mr. Tan had one foot up on his desk and he was cutting the toenails of his other foot. The sight of this both shocked and appalled me. As I entered his office Mr. Tan attempted to leap to stand but he got all tangled up and fell over. However he sprang quickly to his feet.
"Mr. Peter" he said in a most startled fashion. He was sort of hopping around trying to put the sock back on his bare foot.
"Mr. Tan" I said in a very stern voice.
"Please sit down Mr. Peter" he said.
"I prefer to stand thank you Mr. Tan" I replied.
I watched with my arms crossed and had on my very cross face while Mr. Tan replaced his sock and shoe. I noticed that the sock that he was putting on had a large hole in it. I assume that the hole was caused by his untrimmed toenails.
When Mr. Tan had regained both his footwear and composure he offered me his hand to shake.
"You have just been cutting your toenails Mr. Tan." I advised with a slight tone of disgust.
"Please do not take offense but I do not wish to make contact with the hands with which you have been touching your feet"
"Of course Mr. Peter" he apologized.
"I am sorry"
He put then put both hands behind his back. I do not know why.
"There is a problem Mr. Tan" I informed him.
"Oh dear" he responded.
"Has Mr. Jens done a doo doo in the pool again?"
"Not to my knowledge Mr. Tan. However the Security Guards have abandoned their post and I have had to assist a very distressed Aunty with her shopping and help her get up to her floor"
"They are not in the guardhouse?"
"They are not"
Mr. Tan immediately picked up his mobile phone. He rang several numbers but there was no reply.
"This is most upsetting Mr. Peter"
"It is unacceptable Mr. Tan. These fuckers are either asleep all the time or they are not there. The poor Aunty that I assisted could well have died"
I was however grossly exaggerating this state of affairs but I really was quite annoyed by the dereliction of duty by the Security guards and the fact that the not-so-sweet Aunty had caused me some angst.
"I shall seek them out immediately Mr. Peter"
"Please do Mr. Tan"
I then went upstairs to my apartment. As soon as I got there realized to my great annoyance that I had run out of milk and bread. I was therefore further aggravated that I had to go back out again. However I was both thirsty and hungry and I decided that I may as well also pick up some Essence of Chicken. The episode with the angry Aunty had drained me physically and emotionally and my cognitive powers can always do with improvement. I am hoping that no great harm will be caused by consuming small amounts of the powdered form of the concentrated souls of Singaporean chickens.
So I walked down to the local shops and on my way there I found the two missing security guards.
Here they are. I took a photograph of them:
I rang Mr. Tan immediately.
"I have found the fuckers" I informed him.
"Come and get them"