Dateline: Subang Jaya, 6.10am, Monday May 4, 2020.
Yawn! Had my sahur meal half an hour ago. Maybe I’ll walk a few rounds at the council’s outdoor stadium. It’s been a long time.
When I get there, I see 5,000 people. Okay, I am exaggerating but it’s really crowded. So I turn back and head home.
On the bright side, I’m looking forward to go to the office after nearly seven weeks of working at home. Don’t get me wrong. I remain fearful of the pesky coronavirus but I also fear losing my job.
It’ll be great to meet my colleagues in person again – Chong the braggart, Samy the sweet talker, Halim the ever-smiling one, Greg the irritant, and Norma the sweet young thing who is new to the team. I call her Norma Baru. There are others but too many to mention.
I shave, take my bath, dress up, say goodbye to my sleepy wife and off I go in my rickety Proton Iswara.
Three minutes later, I’m back home – I forgot my face mask. I get that and an extra one before driving off again.
Traffic is heavy. At the first junction, I wait for the lights to turn to green before proceeding. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a motorcyclist zooms past. I almost knock into him.
I honk angrily, wind down the window and scream, “Woi! Mau mati kah?” But the Valentino Rossi wannabe is long gone. Phew! That was close.
As I hit the Federal Highway, there’s a jam. So what? It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a jam. It’s nice being in a jam even though there’s no roadblock. Nothing is going to upset me today.
It takes me two hours to reach. It’s 9.15am. I’m late for work. I’ve changed my mind – I hate jams. Always have.
I go three rounds the block before getting a parking spot but have to walk half a kilometre to the office.
And who’s there to welcome me? It’s my boss who is more like a Donald Trump-Hitler combo.
Boss: First day and you’re already late.
Me: Sorry, the jam was bad, boss. And parking, you know …
Boss: Excuses, excuses. See me in my office now!
Me: Okay boss (In my heart: Welcome back, boss. Nice to see you, too).
When I go to his office, I realise something. The boss is not wearing a face mask. Then he lets out a cough, and another. I swear I saw those droplets flying towards me … the droplets that our health director-general warned us about. I’m going to die lah! But I dare not say a word. He’s very garang (fierce).
Boss: Alam, business has to pick up fast. You have to buck up. You know what to do. I’m not going to waste time.
(Then he rattles on for half an hour).
Boss: Have I made myself clear?
Me: Yes, boss. Very clear.
Boss: Okay, stop wasting my time. Get back to work.
Me: (silently) Grrrrrr!!!!!
I leave his office and go to my workplace where I see the familiar faces. Chong and Halim come over to hug me. I retreat hastily.
Me: Stay off! Stay off! (Actually I said something unmentionable).
Chong: What’s wrong with you lah?
Me: Social distancing. I have a family to look after (Such ignorant colleagues, I tell myself).
Halim: Whatever. Anyway, welcome back, dude.
(I’m wondering why Norma Baru was not as excited to see me again).
I get down to work and before you know, it’s lunchtime. Samy comes over and I cringe in horror.
Me: One metre please, bro.
Samy: Aiyoh, you ah. I’m going to tapau from McD’s. See you later.
Me: Please get me a chicken burger.
He smiles sheepishly and goes off.
Samy returns 45 minutes later. I finish my burger. And then I remember – I am fasting. I slap my forehead. It’s too late. So that’s why Samy was smiling. He should have reminded me.
At 2.30pm, I get a memo from Human Resources via email. It’s a “polite” request to “donate” five days of annual leave to help the company get back on its feet.
Yes, why not? What’s a little sacrifice for my beloved company? You already cut my pay by 20%. What’s five days of leave? Because if I don’t agree, I’ll be the first to walk the plank.
Work is actually a disaster. Greg has been getting on my nerves the whole day with his lame jokes. I sent out 17 emails to clients in the morning. Only two replied. One said: “Hi, I’ll get back to you after the MCO.” The other said: “Stop bugging me. I lost my job, you creep!”
I am not angry. I’m sad. People losing their jobs is a serious matter. I really hope things work out for everyone.
At 4pm, my daughter calls.
Daughter: Papa, please buy my favourite murtabak from Hussen Bistro on the way home.
Me: Sure, girl. I’ll get one for myself too.
It’s been a hectic day, especially trying to keep my distance from everyone. There was no problem, however, with Norma who stayed far from me all day. Okay lah, I know I have a grumpy face.
I leave the office at 4.30pm so I can make it back in time to buka puasa with the family (the boss left at 4pm). And it’s about to pour.
Before you know, it’s raining cats and dogs. And it seems like the whole world is leaving for home at the same time.
Traffic is at a crawl. My pet tortoise moves faster.
Then near Sunway, it’s standstill. Coincidentally, I receive a call (I’m on hands-free) from a friend telling me that the tunnel 1km ahead is flooded.
What to do? Have to be patient lah. I (try to) sing along to Sudirman’s “Balik Kampung” which is playing on the radio. Not many people will be pleased with that tune this year.
Finally, I reach home at 7.30pm. I have missed buka puasa by 10 minutes. That’s still an achievement, I tell myself.
My daughter is waiting excitedly at the door to greet me.
Daughter: Papa, you’re back! Where’s my murtabak? I haven’t eaten yet.
Me: Errrr, oh, oh. Oops.
She gives me a killer stare and walks off in a huff.
Sigh! What a day!
I wish I could work from home.