Luke, I Am Not My Brother’s Keeper

, , , | Friendly | January 5, 2021

My younger brother is five and I’m fifteen, and we go to the same Chinese tuition centre. He’s in the preschool class and I’m in the secondary school class. I should mention that our classes are on completely different days and times, but we do have the same teacher.

One day, my younger brother decides to come to class wearing a Darth Vader costume and totally derails the lesson. When the teacher tries to scold him, my brother just runs up to the teacher and hugs her.

Younger Brother: “I love you!”

She then loses all heart and can’t bring herself to scold him. So, she decides to do the next best thing: scold ME the next time she sees me.

Teacher: “You should be more responsible with your brother! He should come in wearing proper attire. This is a tuition centre, not a playground!”

Me: “But I didn’t even know he did that!”

Teacher: “Well, he shouldn’t! He was disrupting the lesson and distracting the other students.”

Me: “Then why are you scolding me?”

Teacher: “So that you can tell your mother never to let him do that again!”

So, somehow, I’m at fault for something that I not only didn’t do but didn’t know even happened. I’d like to say that’s an isolated incident, but no, I almost always get the flak for my younger brother’s antics. People seem to think that as the older and more mature brother, I hold my brother’s leash. Nobody seems to understand that he definitely doesn’t listen to me precisely BECAUSE I’m the older and more mature brother.

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Something’s Working? Time To Meddle!

, , , , | Working | December 1, 2020

My workplace has some strict confidentiality rules. What happens in the office, stays in the office. Most of us are totally fine with that rule, as we have the “work stays in the office” mentality. Unfortunately, a global health crisis wasn’t fine with that rule.

When lockdown kicked in, we suffered badly. The company refused to relent on its confidentiality policy, meaning that we couldn’t download any work to take home. As such, next to nothing got done for a few months. Occasionally, a few of us would sneak back into the office to shave off some of the backlog, but that was nowhere near enough.

When the restrictions were relaxed, we faced a massive backlog of work, but social distancing meant that only half the department could be in at any one time.

Our managers worked out a schedule for us, splitting our nine-to-five shift into an eight-to-three and three-to-ten shift. The only time both shifts would be in would be for the joint briefing at three pm. And although they didn’t consult us on who was on which shift, they actually did a surprisingly good job at picking who was on which shift.

The early shift was made up of the guys that lived nearby the office, under the justification that their travel time was lesser, so the strain of waking up earlier was less. That was totally fine for them, as they liked getting off work two hours early and could go drinking before the dinner crowd came in.

The later shift was made up of the guys who lived further, which was great. Personally, I loathe waking up early to go to work and the rest of my shift agreed. It helped that we were made up of the more competent guys, so we could do more work in less time, which meant that we usually left on average two hours early, despite the backlog.

With this system in place, we managed to get our department functional again. Unfortunately, HR cottoned on and decided that they knew better.

First, they stole the dual-shift idea and presented it to the rest of the company as though it was theirs. Second, they insisted that keeping everyone constantly on the same shift was “detrimental to morale” and ordered us to swap shifts every week.

Yeah, that didn’t work out. My shift had to wake up by six am at the latest to get to work on time. Also, as we were the more competent guys, we got everything done early but couldn’t leave until the three pm joint briefing, no matter what. For the other shift, that didn’t matter as they always barely finished in time, but we always had to spend an extra two hours in the office every time we got stuck on the early shift.

The other shift also hated the new schedule, as they could never go back early, couldn’t go drinking, and couldn’t watch late-night shows.

Our managers agreed that the situation wasn’t ideal and told HR that we wanted our shifts to be permanent. They did that… for only the managers under some tortured justification.

That didn’t work. Everyone loved their own manager but hated the other. The early manager was the micromanaging type and could get the less competent shift to work better. And the later manager was more easygoing and knew that us competent guys could do our work without his constant supervision.

However, when shifts swapped, everyone suffered as the later manager hated having to constantly deal with the less competent guys and the more competent shift loathed the earlier manager’s micromanaging.

So, we all sent a more strongly-worded petition to HR, all but demanding that we get back to the original arrangement. HR then spouted some bureaucratic nonsense.

HR: “The rest of the departments in the company agreed that the shift swapping is working well.”

They were totally ignoring that we weren’t them.

Despite all our complaints, our managers insisted that we still had to obey HR.

Manager: “We’re willing to take s*** from you, but we’re not willing to take s*** for you.” 

Basically, if they disobeyed the higher-ups, it was their heads on the chopping board and they didn’t want that. So, obedience it was.

The worst part was that sometime later, the higher-ups still had the gall to demand to know why our department’s efficiency varied so greatly every week and why we couldn’t consistently go at peak efficiency as we had initially done.

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The Frustrating Adventure Of Aunt Brainless

, , , , | Related | November 29, 2020

My aunt often speaks without thinking, which leads her to say some very thoughtless and offensive comments. But if you can believe it, she doesn’t even mean to be offensive; she’s actually that brainless.

A few of us are at my grandmother’s house, watching a televised military parade. The commander is shown on TV, saluting the President.

Aunt: “Wow, his uniform is very bright. Look at how bright the colours are!”

Sister: *Politely* “Yes, very colourful.”

Aunt: “So colourful! But look at him!”

We’re all trying to ignore her, knowing that she’ll have an inane comment. 

Aunt: “His uniform is so bright! But he’s so dark!”

We try to change the subject quickly, but her loud voice cuts through our conversation.

Aunt: “Why is he so dark! Did they paint him?”

We all gawp at her. I know my jaw is hanging open, and a few cousins’ are, as well. My uncle jumps in hurriedly and tells her to be quiet.

Another day, my cousins and sisters are taking a group photo with our grandmother. My uncle offers to help us take the photo.

Aunt: “So nice to see all of you together in the photo with Grandma! She’ll be so happy!”

Uncle: “Girls, can you move closer together—”

He’s cut off by his wife.

Aunt: “It’s too bad, though, that [Other Cousin] isn’t here! She’s the one that Grandma really loves the most!”

All four of us turn and stare at her. My grandma doesn’t speak English and is confused as to what is going on. The photo group breaks apart, the mood spoiled. But my aunt remains utterly oblivious with an empty-headed smile.

Aunt: “Yeah, too bad [Other Cousin] isn’t here!”

A few minutes later, she is talking about a few of her friends who are coming to visit my grandma.

Aunt: “[Friend] and her daughter are coming. The daughter is in her twenties, a bit sub-normal, but very nice.”

Me: “Sub-normal?”

It’s only the sheer WTF!-ness of the adjective that stops me from saying more.

Aunt: “Yeah, she’s a bit sub-normal, but you can try talking to her; she can understand what you’re saying.”

I am so offended, I stalk off and won’t talk to her. I know if I say anything, it will get back to my mother, who always insists on us being polite. The daughter turns out to have very mild Down’s Syndrome, and only speaks a little more slowly than usual.

To avoid any further conversation with Aunt Brainless, I gather up all the dishes and wash them very slowly. Later, that aunt comes into the kitchen. She’s laughing loudly and carrying on as though at a huge joke.

Aunt: “You know, because you’re dressed plainly and were doing the washing up, they all thought you were the maid!” *Laughs loudly*

Me: “…”

Aunt: “Yeah, because you were washing the dishes. They thought you were the maid! Because you’re dressed so plainly!”

Me: *Flatly* “Well, I wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t come to tell me.”

Aunt: “Yeah, isn’t it funny?!” *Laughs louder*

She’s still oblivious, even now. Listening to her makes me want to bang my head against the wall.

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Time To Bite The Bullet, Part 3

, , , | Romantic | November 28, 2020

Anyone up for another Potong Jalan story?

After a day of soldiering, my section likes to sit down in bunk and play trading cards. One of my sectionmates likes using a card that is basically a seductive character that can steal another character from an opponent’s field. He calls it the “Potong Jalan Horse.”

After [Sectionmate #1] wins another game with the Potong Jalan Horse:

Me: “Dude, I don’t know why you’re so fond of using that card. Potong Jalan isn’t a joking matter.”

Sectionmate #2: “Yeah, it goes double for you. You’re one of the few that still has a girlfriend.”

Sectionmate #1: “Yeah, yeah. You’re just being sore losers.”

Me: “You’ll jinx yourself.”

Sectionmate #1: “Pffft. Like that’ll ever happen.”

Me: “Suit yourself. But I won’t lend you a shoulder to cry on later.”

Everyone Else: “Neither will we.”

Sectionmate #1: “Whatever. Anyone up for another round?”

One week later, none of us lent him a shoulder to cry on. He never touched the Potong Jalan Horse again.

A month after he stopped using that card, he triumphantly declared that he had successfully “Potong Jalan-ed back” his girlfriend. Naturally, he then started using the Potong Jalan Horse again. A month later, they broke up again. He stopped using the card. He won her back a month after that. He started using that card again…

In the end, they broke up and got back together over a dozen times before we left National Service. From what I’m told, he never played the card game — and by extension, the Potong Jalan Horse — after he left, which is possibly why, after the latest time he won her back, she never ditched him again.

Time To Bite The Bullet, Part 2
Time To Bite The Bullet

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Love Isn’t Always A Hole-In-One

, , , , , | Related | November 17, 2020

For years, I’ve tried to convince my son to play golf, but despite a very promising start, he never had the interest and stopped after his crush stopped going to the golf classes. I’ve tried to drag him back a few times, but he’s been vehemently opposed, and hence, I gave up.

Ten years later, he suddenly comes out of the blue and asks if I still have his old golf clubs.

Me: *Surprised* “Yes, I do, but you won’t fit them anymore. You haven’t played since you were eleven.”

Son: “Ugh. Got a spare set I can borrow, then?”

I’m just trying to figure out what is going on.

Me: “I’ve got several.”

Son: “Great! Can we hit the range together at some point?”

Me: *Dumbstruck* “Of course. You have… had… such a wonderful swing. Let’s see if you can still remember.”

Son: “Okay. Thanks, Dad.”

I spend the next few days in a daze, wondering if I’ve stepped into some strange bizarro world. My son DOES NOT just come out of the blue and ask to play golf. He’s even gone on record saying that golf is a sport for old men like me.

And yet here we are, a week later, driving to the golf range.

Me: “So, why the sudden interest?”

Son: “[Girlfriend]’s dad. He’s a stereotypical old [slang for Caucasian] man.”

Me: “And what does that have to do with anything?”

Son: “What do all old white men do?”

Me: *Sudden realisation* “They play golf.”

Son: “They play golf.”

Me: “So that’s why you’re suddenly so interested!”

Come to think of it, he really only played golf to be with his crush. When she stopped, he stopped. It made total sense that he’d come back if a girl was involved. He didn’t play golf for a decade because none of the girls he’s liked since then — or their parents — played golf. This alone is honestly enough to get me to approve of his girlfriend.

Son: “That, and I realised that in the future, I’m going to have to deal with a lot of old men, so I might as well learn how to play this old man’s sport enough that I don’t embarrass myself.”

Me: “Don’t forget tennis, as well. That’s another thing old men like to play.”

My son swore violently in Malay.

Like golf, he has no interest in tennis. Unlike golf, he’s got no talent for tennis. Too many years of playing badminton have given him some seriously sloppy habits.

Nevertheless, I’m so happy that my son has finally come around to playing golf again. That girl is definitely a keeper.

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