I started my new job at the start of 2018, and this requires me to travel to town. Prior to this, trips to the heart of my country were few and far between; I had little interest in large crowds and admittedly, I did not have the best knowledge of what town consisted of. Bus rides to and fro on the odd chance I ventured in revealed precious little. To me, town was an enormous space that would take forever to travel from one end to another.
It has been just over a month since, and the more I was exposed to the various districts, the more my perception of town began to change. It started with walks of varying lengths, from work to the different lunch places I have been recommended, often ending in surprise as I gradually learn how close one area is from another. With distance no longer an issue, I started to enjoy walks around town, taking my time to curiously study the different buildings that line the streets, from a Michelin-recommended Peranakan restaurant to a Freemason lodge. So it seems that there is so much more to see and do than the dreary few places I have been accustomed to going thus far.
There is also a flip side, as I came to discover as the days passed.
I was made aware of it as I walked into a food court one afternoon. There, all around me, stood my fellow corporate workers, mostly men, dressed in the same corporate attire — white, long sleeved shirts, black pants, and polished leather shoes. There were shades of light pink, purple, and blue, but they were indistinguishable. They stood about in line, shuffling their feet forward, more on instinct than will. Most were engrossed with their phones. At that point, it was nothing more than just mere observation, and so more days went by.
I found myself walking down from City Hall to Raffles Place one evening, a 15-minute journey. The latter is where the Central Business District is located, and at 6:00pm, it was packed with swarms of corporate workers clocking out for the day, eager to head towards their next destinations —home was my guess—. I began to notice more details as I walked alongside them, becoming one with the crowd for the next 10 minutes. I saw the emotionless expressions on their faces — how it seemed like they were not merely physically exhausted, but they were also tired of their jobs. I was surrounded by imposing skyscrapers, and although many new and well-designed ones have emerged over the years, the older parts of the business district remain uninspiring and dull.
Dystopian novels often depict the corporate world as a soulless collective, and it was only when I started to be a part of it that I discovered what it really meant to go through the motions — 9 to 6; barely any time for anything else before and after work; settling for any job because there are bills to be paid. Sometimes I wonder if I have already started to become like everyone else. But for the occasional writing, I think I am developing symptoms, and like a patient diagnosed with an incurable disease, I now write to document my degeneration.
I’m just kidding.