It’s funny what people of different nationalities talk about when they get together. Spend two minutes with an American, and inevitably, the subject will turn to Donald Trump. With a Brit, it’s Brexit. And with a Singaporean, it’s an en-bloc sale.
Amanda reports that she had barely seated herself during her recent lunch at Chatterbox when June immediately launched into a blow-by-blow account of the latest en-bloc drama at her condo.
“She didn’t even give me any time to look at the menu,” Amanda complained later that evening. “And you know how I like to order first before I start gossiping!”
Saffy looked up from her da-bao chicken rice. “I’m totally with you. Priorities, people! But I can’t believe you went to Chatterbox again!”
Amanda shrugged. “They have the best chicken rice in town.”
Saffy’s eyes rolled back as she pursed her lips. “For like fifty bucks! This packet,” she gestured at her pile rice and scraggly chicken sitting on oil-stained wax brown paper, “cost $3.50! And it’s just as good!”
Amanda raised an eyebrow.
Saffy’s chest deflated. “Oh, alright. It’s not as good. But still! Seventy bucks for chicken rice!”
“One of these days, you’re going to get into so much trouble for exaggerating,” Amanda told her.
But Saffy was unrepentant. “Donald Trump does it all day and he seems to be doing just fine!”
“Funny you brought him up, because June says that the collective sales committee running the en-bloc at her condo has clearly been taking lessons from that man!”
It turns out that that ever since the decision was made a year ago to try to en-bloc the condo, the committee has been using every trick in the book to convince all the residents that it would be in their best interests to sell.
“They’ve got people lurking around the carpark every day,” June said. “And the minute someone pulls up, they pounce with their clipboards. We don’t want to sell because we just bought the place and spent a bazillion renovating and we’d have to pay the stamp duty, but they’ve been such pests! They’ll call, they’ll e-mail, they’ll even come knocking on the door!”
Amanda put up a finger. “Wait a minute. How do they even know you haven’t signed? That information is meant to be confidential.”
June sighed. “The real-estate agent handling the sale gave the committee our details!”
“They’re not allowed to do that!”
“I know! So, when my husband complained, the real-estate woman told him, ‘Oh, if you hadn’t wanted us to give out your details, you should have told us!’”
Apparently, when June’s husband said, again, that he wasn’t signing, the committee member who accosted him in the carpark then told him he was being irresponsible. “You must think about your children’s future!”
“We have no kids.”
“Oh. You must think about your retirement nest-egg!”
“My company just had an IPO. My nest-egg is set.”
The member hesitated. “Uhm… your parents?”
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!” the member said desperately. “It will never happen again!”
“That’s what you told the previous owner five years ago when you tried to en-bloc. It didn’t work then and it’s not going to work now. Plus even with the extra money, we’d have to downsize and downgrade to get an apartment that’s the same size and in the same convenient location!”
Amanda was impressed. “Wow, your husband is good!”
June preened. “Yes, I married well. Yale Law School, okay?”
“I went to Harvard and…” Amanda began, but June was not going to be derailed. Because she went on to say that the following week, the police were called in to the block across from her.
“Apparently, two residents, one remainer and one seller, got into a fight and one guy spat at the other!”
“Wait!” Amanda said, again putting up a finger. “They spat at each other? And these were two guys? What kind of fight is that?”
June hesitated. “Well…”
“And someone called the police? Because of spitting?”
“Welcome to Singapore,” June said, stabbing her fork into her rojak, which Saffy later told everyone cost a hundred bucks.
Amanda said that if this is how grown men behave, it’s no wonder the world is in such a state.
“God, if anyone spat at me, I’d smack them so hard their teeth would get jammed into the back of their head!” Saffy threatened.
“You’d be arrested and thrown into jail!” Amanda told her.
Saffy was unmoved.
Amanda tried again. “Think of your children’s future!”