Wednesday, December 01, 2010

So That's Minimum Wage

The only thing that I took out of China over the last week, other than cup noodles and a tempted will to resist buying a fake iPhone 4, was respect for the majority of the population who are earning a wage than will make flipping burgers at Tampines look like Gisele's catwalk fee.

Okay, I have to be honest. I'd be lying if I said it was respect in entirety because it started with me laughing and telling them to stop joking about it, and then it escalated into amazement, then somewhere down the line when my conscience started warning me about karma, I decided that I would respect them instead. Only because I'm trying to be a better man.

But Butterfly, it's all about being relative to the cost of living index. I know all about these indexes because I invented them when I was drunk and peeing on one leg. And it is because I am measuring against a bevy of lifestyle costs, which I believe to be essential to life like toilet paper, milk and condoms.

In my measure of quality of life and necessities, I have included an irreplaceable list that otherwise absent in life, would prove detrimental to an adult psyche. This includes, beer, vodka, McDonald's and cost of handjobs, along a list of many others.

For the sake of those of you who have never taken economics, geography or sociology, I will explain in brief on how we ascertain cost of living. In simplicity's sake, you take your pay and you divide it against how many Big Macs you can buy and if that other persons pay yields about the same in their country then the cost of living is equal. This is the essentials, because I am asleep when lectures get technical.

I wouldn't say that Zhuhai - the part of China where we were in - was particularly cheap because it bordered Macau and as with the law of proximity, you fuck up everything that is around you. It was not as with some ASEAN countries where you know you can walk in with a USD100 bill and maybe come out with the property deed to a shopping mall.

The other day, we spent an entire afternoon at one of their popular massage centres and I decided to have a foot reflexology because at SGD$20 for an hour, it would have been blasphemous if I had given it a miss.

In general, I do not like making small talk when I am having my feet rubbed because I don't want my masseuse to get distracted and damage my kidneys from pressing the wrong nerve endings, and also because I am not proficient in Mandarin.

But this masseuse of mine kept going on and on about her life for some reason, I could have swore that she was a book about self perseverance in disguise. I had no interest in her ranting until we came onto the topic of salary.

Me: "How much do you earn?"
She: "RMB13 for every one hour foot massage."

I immediately did a quick mental calculation and discovered that she makes $2 per hour, and this is only if she does a session of foot massage. I thought it was a joke and I wanted to snap a picture of her and have all fast foods in Singapore pin it up on their staff board just so that people working there can feel good about themselves.

She: "Good days we get about 4-5 customers."

It's like cheering for mediocracy or giving the guy who came in 5th in the race a standing ovation and a one page interview. All I heard was $10 per day and this girl was beeming with delight that I was her fourth and she might just break her record for day earnings.

And at the same time, a part of me started to respect her because for alot less effort - dignity and clothes -, she could have sold her body and soul - debatetable - to the open arms of prostitution, but here she was, toiling for a months pay which she could have otherwise with alot of makeup and cleavage, gotten in a day.

I am by no means saying that I respect prostitutes any less because I genuinely belief that there are women who are in this trade simply because they love sex or having men push them around, as opposed to rubbing a fungus infected foot that has gone beyond the salvage of Dettol.

It was a lesson in frugality and thrift and you know that this girl had all the right qualifications to present the lecture because she had a tight budget that allowed her $2 on meals daily and a no alcohol or cigarettes policy.

She: "Sometimes customer will give us tips and that's where we earn more money from."

I pretended I couldn't read the English numbers on her tag after that.


At 11:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are all so well pampered here in Singapore and so oblivious about the world around us that we take things for granted. What's 2$ to us?

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