Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Pop, Goes The Decision

The elderly on my roster cannot let me mop, sweep or clean in silence. They must follow me about the small space and keep up a running conversation, one-sided, usually. Never mind that I don't speak Hokkien. They know I understand it and will mumble a reply at some point in either Cantonese or Mandarin. To those who babble on in Cantonese, they know I will also reply when I feel like it. Even though I've largely managed to tune them out, nowadays, I feel like wearing ear plugs.

I'm fine if they drone on about government policies and social commentary, to gossiping about neighbors and friends. Even if they ask about my salary, my 'husband', my whatever, that's okay too. However, it has taken me years to learn to take a deep breath and not let personal questions ruffle me. To the usual, "Have children lah, they're good, they take care of you in old age...blah blah blah", I wisely keep quiet. I'm not about to insult them by either saying "None of your business" or "Having children hasn't done you any favors". It isn't because I'm unfailingly polite. I'm just incredibly sensitive to the feelings of these old folks. To other old folks and random humans, I'm fairly fast, direct and rude in my retorts that usually hold the gist of STFU.

Today is 'cleaning day' at their homes. I hit the last flat and started on the very fast task of sweeping the area. I can't really complain that they don't use vacuum cleaners. It's not a matter of buying one for them; they'll scold me for increasing their electricity bills. :P I already lug around a trolley of cleaning agents. Not about to heave a power generator too.

In the middle of wiping down their ancestral altar, cleaning the ashes off the incense holders and shaping the mound of ashes properly to hold more joss sticks or coils, to the rhythm of a rant (in Cantonese) that covered everything from a 'hi-five president' to 'Fann Wong as mafia boss', typhoons in Taiwan' and 'radioactive cows in Japan', I suddenly tuned back into my surroundings. It was as though a little lightning bolt stabbed me in the calves.

I had been pondering about a job opportunity that arose on Monday night and floated above my head. I met the good people yesterday and promised them a reply by Friday evening. It's very flattering. The scope is tempting. To be able to wear slippers, birkies and dark jeans to work! To waltz in at 10am! To be able to work with very cool and brilliant people! Damn, stars swirled in my subconscious all night as the physical self slept. I woke in the morning, still indecisive.

Unexpectedly, swamped amidst these chores, I found the answer much sooner. The answer is 'no'. I love doing these menial tasks for the elderly on my roster too much to give it up just as I'm beginning to settle into a routine. Very few (full-time) jobs will entice me to re-shuffle this routine immediately. With a decision reached, I smiled and whistled to myself as I gave the altar a final flourish. The old couple stared......wondering what got into me. I gave them a big breezy smile and waltzed out of the flat. Onward for a cup of coffee and to give my honest reply to the good people (no point to wait till Friday), and feeling kinda rueful that I wasted their time.


catty said...

What a beautifully written post! I don't know what you do, full time or part time or voluntary, but this is so touching.

bookjunkie said...

You are so sweet!! I feel so guilty now, because I don't even do that much cleaning for myself. I adore the way you write - makes me feel calmer that I'm not the only one out there that doesn't fall into the norm. Not the only one who hates anyone questioning my lifestyle or imposing their views on me.

I just loathe those lil boxes that society likes to place us into. Some of my distant relatives that I am estranged from, are estranged for that very reason.

I often say 'STFU' & worse in my head, although I am much too meek/chicken to say it out loud.

imp said...

catty: with the old folks, this is voluntary work. sometime i've done for years. :) not in any full-time job as a salaried employee for the now!

bookjunkie: ehhh...i don't even lift a finger to clean at home. hehehehhe. and i'm not about the let society put me in a box. i've never and will never allow that. accordingly, i choose my friends too, as some fall into little boxes and point fingers at us who refuse to get in, and there'll be ones who cheer us on, and the ones who walk with us.

notabilia said...

"I'm not about the let society put me in a box. I've never and will never allow that." - Imp

A-effin'-men. (I've found that moving 10,000 miles away from home tends to solve this issue, BTW ;).

And beautiful post. So glad you find so much happiness in your day to day life.

jingjing said...

Isit too evil for me to ask u post a photo of u lugging ard the trolley of cleaning agents?? :P

Anonymous said...

you're a good imp.
it's always good to listen to your heart. and head.
good cheers to the old folks for having you around them longer!

Lady J said...

A lovely post that you've shared for it's such a joy to follow your heart and to find happiness in what you do. :)

M. eats said...

Until the next opportunity then. Am sure something will come up at the right timr ;)

Cool Insider said...

There is always a trade off between full-time work with all its perks, pay packets and pressures, and freelance/part-time arrangements where less stability is sweetened by greater flexibility. It is a dilemma that we all face, and I can empathise acutely with what you're going through now.

Kudos for opting to do what you feel is right for the underprivileged. Judging from your posts, you do live a very rich and fulfilling life as it is. As long as the finances are in order, the only standard you need to measure up to is your own.

sinlady said...

it is a luxury to able to turn down a job because certain other people and non-paying work matter more. and yes, this is an extremely touching post.

Candice said...

you strike me as someone who knows clearly what you want from life. so..to the next opportunity at the opportune moment!

imp said...

notablia: wieee. moving out of the family house does wonders too!

jingjing: heh. i'm too busy cleaning to take photos!

tuti: the old folks will always have me. well, till they die.

ladyJ + M. + Candice: yessssh. this is what i want to do now. so i shall focus on this now!

sinlady: half and half. no amount of salary offered can entice me away if the scope isn't what i want. i rather earn S$5 an hour than S$50 an hour if it makes me happier. so i feel it keenly turning down such an exciting scope after i've gone to explore it. :(

coolinsider: well put. it's something i've been wanting to do for a while already. except that i didn't bargain for the part about 'missing work'. didn't realize that i'm not that lazy afterall! muahahahha. i miss being in the thick of work action.