When we decided to make contact cards for our new roles, the design process took about ten days. 1 day for Clo to come up with the design, and 9 days for me to decide what title I wanted under my name. I decided on Storyteller. Why that title, and why so long? They are both related; I spent a lot of time thinking about how I want to portray myself to totally random strangers we come across, and this was much tougher than it may seem. I consider myself currently in the middle of a bit of a search for my own identity. It's not that I feel I've lost my identity, but I choose to leave a major part of it (my job and career, not to mention standard of living) behind and now I am creating (or is it updating?) a new one for myself.
As part of that process, I have decided to explore writing as a way to tell stories. Below is the first in a set of four short stories that cover a morning in Singapore from different perspectives.
Arthur awoke in a cheerful mood, slowly opening his eyes and stretching in the sun streaming through the open windows. It was 6:54 on Monday morning and it was the beginning of what he was expecting would be a very busy week at work. Nonetheless, after a relaxing weekend he was actually looking forward to getting to the office and starting to put out fires and find out what problems needed to be solved today.
Moving to the couch in the living room after getting a glass of water, Arthur intently studied the screen of his iPhone. There were both upsides and downsides of working in a large international company, and one of the downsides was that work rarely stopped. No matter what time of the day or night, there was always work happening and in Arthur's position, usually this meant a situation occurred where he needed to either be notified or intervene. 7:05 on a Monday morning was no different, and after a few minutes of quickly tapping away at the screen Arthur had a meeting scheduled for 7:30 with a Product Management team in San Francisco and Head of Marketing in Prague. Time enough for him to have a banana, do fifteen minutes of yoga and get his laptop powered on and connected to the corporate network.
Around 9 and after taking care of the first little fire for the day, Arthur put on his jeans, short-sleeved button-up, sneakers and headed towards the MRT. Besides always being hot and humid in Singapore, he didn't have any customer meetings scheduled today and his company had a rather relaxed dress code. He was also more than a little lucky since he worked independently and away from any of the corporate chain of command. Not that any of them would have required a tie, but perhaps slacks now and then would be expected. One of the upsides. Stepping out and locking the door to his condo, he put in his earbuds, turned on the Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify and waited for the elevator to arrive.
Arthur waited patiently for the MRT to arrive. Lots of waiting. Among all the countries in Southeast Asia, Singapore was certainly the most business focused and generally in a rush to queue. He found it similar in many ways to parts of New York and London, though he had only been in both of those places for leisure and didn't spend a lot of time in the typical lanes of humanity focused on business. He enjoyed these times, waiting for the train to quietly come to a stop and open the doors for an exchange of people in a hurry to arrive for those in a hurry to depart. Watching the ebb and flow was entertaining, occasionally syncing itself to the rhythm of his music. He also enjoyed being different from the masses of commuters with their shoulders hunched and eyes glued to the glowing screens in front of them.
He stood out in other ways, height being the most prominent. Though not especially tall by Nordic standards, his 183cm certainly allowed him to look above the heads of the majority of the other residents in this tiny and densely populated island nation. Leaning against the wall at the edge of the crowd, he enjoyed observing people and trying to guess at their personalities and occupations based on their dress, facial expression and body posture. After a few minutes, he was interrupted by a friendly, "Good morning, Arthur." from behind him.
He turned out and saw Juliet, one of the few neighbors he knew by name. She and her husband had recently moved in to the unit at the end of the hallway and he frequently chatted with them waiting for the elevator or occasionally by the pool. "Juliet! How are you doing this morning?" Responding with a pleasant affirmative, she asked Arthur what he had done with his weekend.
"It was a fun one! I went wake boarding with a few friends on Saturday and then joined a few others for a BBQ at their condo."
Arthur especially enjoyed BBQ's, as they were a relaxing way to spend time with friends and meet new people. Home-made food in Singapore was always a treat, too, and it was nice to have a break from the constant restaurant meals.
"On Sunday I spent a lot of time reading and then walked to the jazz club on Jalang Sultan for the weekly Sunday night jam session." He smiled cheerfully, "How was your weekend?"
Juliet seemed somewhat distracted, but politely smiled back, "We spent a lot of time working on our condo on Saturday, then on Sunday we spent time with my parents. They are older and my mother has been ill for the last two years." Before Arthur could respond, Juliet's cellphone buzzed and she excused herself with a brief nod and furrowed her brows worriedly at she listened carefully to whomever was on the other end of the line.
Arthur shrugged and went back to people watching. Soon enough he was deposited at his final station, a few short minutes away. Walking directly to the office took almost exactly the same time, but using the MRT allowed him to avoid the intense humidity and powerful heat that was a defining characteristic of the city. Alighting from the train and swiping his card at the exit turnstile after waiting in queue, the crush of people in a hurry to move to the escalator queue caused him to frown in frustration.
"Paper?" Queried a bored sounding voice, coming from one of the two middle aged Chinese aunties, thrusting one of the daily newspapers towards his chest. Arthur frowned and shook his head dismissively, ignoring her while trying to get back in the mood the music in his ears was trying to convey. Every. Single. Day. The same lady shoved a paper at him and he never, ever accepted it. Obviously, there were a lot of people that came through the City Hall Metro Station and he didn't expect her to remember him, but why did she have to be so pushy?
He grumbled to himself as he ascended the elevator. Standing on the left side, he wondered why the people on his right were in such a hurry to rush up the elevator but suddenly lost their urgency once they were walking on a flat surface. It’s not like overheating was an issue indoors, as powerfully cold air conditioning was a guarantee for any high-end office building or mall.
After briskly walking the remaining kilometer to his own office building complex, Arthur smiled as he walked in the coffee shop on the ground floor.
“Good morning, Mr. Arthur!” Cheerfully exclaimed Tommy, the manager of the café. Arthur smiled and nodded back to Tommy and took his place in line to pay. He had been coming to this café regularly for nearly two years and knew all of the employees by name, just as they knew him and his beverage of choice. It was a comfortable place where he often spent time sipping his coffee and watching people.
“How is your family?” Arthur queried Tommy as it was finally his turn to pay. Tommy’s family lived in Bangkok while he was working in Singapore, and he saw them only once or twice a month.
“Krit has not been feeling well over the weekend, so his mother took him to the hospital this morning.” Tommy frowned with concern as he explained the doctors hadn’t found anything besides a mild fever, so Krit and his wife were back home already with orders to rest.
“I hope he gets better soon!” Arthur knew it was difficult for Tommy to spend so much time away from his wife and four-year old child, but the job in Singapore paid well and was a sacrifice they had agreed as a family to make together. Tommy and Arthur had spent hours discussing various topics during slow times at the café, and shared a comfortable level of familiarity.
Thanking Tommy for the latte, Arthur once again wished his family well and walked towards the lift in his office building. It was time to check his email and see what sort of chaos had ensued with work in the past thirty minutes since he left home.