Zheng fumbled for her keys. It was her duty to open the Orchard Road office each morning. The big bosses were sometimes late having cared for important tour groups during regular late nights, and the remainder of their tour guides would already be at the various hotels facilitating the commencement of regular tourist tours for the day. Zheng had only been employed for a few months having spent almost a year after school searching for employment. She’d been one of the brightest student in the class, but a bit aloof from her classmates whose families she imagined were not as prosperous as hers.
The bosses were very demanding and expected Zheng to keep in touch with various tour guides during the day to make sure all was working out and their groups were satisfied. That was not as easy as it sounded. Things could go wrong, and Zheng would have to use the phone to make contacts to fix problems. Several times more than one tour group needed her assistance liaising with bus services that did not materialize when they should, or sometimes medical or travel emergencies. All these contacts had to be done while attending to needs of tourists calling in to make inquiries about tours on offer and attending to work put on her desk by bosses. Business was expanding, and it was more than one could manage. Yesterday several events had caused concern and the bosses were holding her responsible for delays. She anticipated a scolding this morning.
She glanced at her watch as she opened the door, then noted fearfully that the lights in Mr Wu’s office, the head boss, were on. She quickly took her seat and began to check phone messages before the rush hour made that difficult. She made notes quickly and glanced up as the bell rang when someone entered the office.
Zheng remembered her from school days. Always positive and very smart. Eager to learn and popular with the students. Because they both excelled in their school work Zheng found her to be irritating. She wanted to be the most popular and a centre of attention but her aloof nature prevented her from bonding with other students. She was jealous of Jun Jie for that reason, and now here she was standing in front of her when she’d hoped never to see her again.
“What can I do for you?” Zheng put on her most professional manner to impress.
Jun Jie had been equally unimpressed with Zheng during school years. Zheng was always putting other students down and trying to establish herself as most important. However, in this situation she had to be polite if Zheng had control over who would be employed in this office. She almost decided to walk out but controlled her thoughts and responded politely.
“I’ve come about this newspaper ad.” Jun Jie produced the clipping which indicated need for another employee in the office.
Zheng thought quickly. She didn’t want to have Jun Jie in her office as a fellow worker and was about to say position filled when she became aware Mr Wu was standing behind her listening. She turned, bowed slightly to Mr Wu and handed him the clipping.
“Come into my office!” Mr Wu barked the command and Jun Jie’s eyes widened in surprise. She’d never been addressed so abruptly before and once again thought of walking out. But she decided to see how the interview worked out before making that decision.
Mr Wu indicated she should sit and studied her for what seemed to be an eternity. Then he spoke.
“Do you know anything about the tour industry? Have you studied any courses for this trade, what experience have you had that would make you valuable to me as a worker?”
‘I studied hairdressing, and I clean buildings. Everything I do I do well, and you would enjoy good fortune if you employed me!”
Mr Wu studied her incredulously for a few minutes again and then burst into laughter.
“Wah, Good fortune lar?” He said this mockingly.
Then he sat in thought as he considered all the problems his tour business was experiencing with rapid expansion and the unusual woman sitting in front of him. Logic told him he should send her on her way immediately. No experience. Another potential screw up if he employed her. He already had enough under performers. But she exuded confidence and a sixth sense told him to give her a try.
Jun Jie was nervous but determined not to show it so sat looking him in the eye and smiling winningly.
“You will come with me today and I’ll see just how much my fortune improves while you demonstrate why I should employ you.
Jun Jie groaned inwardly. She was bone tired after working all night and longed for the comfort of her bed but was determined not to lose face in front of Zheng.
“May I leave my carry bag in the office?”
Mr Wu looked at the bag suspiciously. “What’s in that bag?”
“My cleaning clothes!”
“OK, leave it with Zheng then sit in reception until I call for you.”
A few minutes later Mr Wu appeared at Zheng’s desk and checked the notes she’d written for attention.
“Have you attended these Zheng?” Zheng pointed to the ones being worked on and the results of her interventions. Mr Wu selected two that had not been dealt with and explained the situation to Jun Ji.
“Do you have a cell phone?” Jun Jie nodded and produced her phone.
“Now you know the problems you will solve these while I watch!”
Jun Jie glanced at Zheng’s notes for a few seconds then commenced dialling the numbers. The first was a bus company. The company had their own problem with driver shortage that day they were trying to resolve. Jun Jie was tired and their delaying tactics she found irritating so imitating Mr Wu she barked commands and the contact at the other end of the phone line jumped to attention. He rearranged schedules and the bus was soon on the way. Then Jun Jie began to phone the second contact, but Mr Wu put up his hand.
“Good, good work! Give the other to Zheng and come with me now.” Mr Wu studied Jun Jie’s appearance and nodded with approval while Zheng shot daggers at Jun Jie for her excellent performance. Once again, this girl would be a thorn in her side.
Everything Mr Wu gave Jun Jie to do that day she did quickly and with excellent results. She barely had time to phone her mother Lanfen and tell her what was happening begging her mother to arrange a substitute for her office cleaning job that night. Wu was lining up work for her to do that evening when Jun Jie reminded him she’d had no sleep the evening before. She desperately needed to go home.
Wu at first looked irritated, but then he nodded his approval, and for the first time since they met he smiled at Jun Jie. “I want you to work for me! How much are you expecting for your wages, don’t say too much or I can’t afford to employ you.”
Jun Jie decided! She was interested in this job but was not happy about Mr Wu’s attitude. He could be very demanding and abrupt and even during her hairdressing apprentice training she’d not experienced this level of demands. So, she named a salary which was much higher than anything she’d thought possible and looked him in the eye. “You will have good fortune if you employ me!”
Wu recoiled in shock but quickly recovered. He named a more modest figure which was still far more than what he was paying Zheng. Jun Jie bowed slightly in response and nodded.
Wu looked at her and his manner softened. “It’s Friday and I see you need rest. You will start on Monday and be ready for long hours work during the week and sometimes on weekends I’ll need your assistance. You will work for me for one month and I’ll see how you perform and if my good fortune really does arrive. Sometimes you will work by yourself and sometime with me or one of my partners. If no good fortune at the end of that month?” He shrugged and let that threat sink in.
Jun Jie suddenly felt as if she’d fall asleep right there. She bowed and thanked Wu then caught a bus back to the office to retrieve her bag. Zheng handed it to her sullenly but did not ask if she had the job or not. At the bus stop she was fortunate to find a neighbour catching the same bus to Upper Thomson Road. It was a close friend of her mother Lanfen. Jun Jie begged her to see she got off the bus at their stop and was quickly lulled to sleep by the sound of the bus as it sped on it’s way.
She woke on Saturday and was surprised to find it was nearly midday. Lanfen had been pacing all morning waiting for her to wake up and report on the mysterious change of employment. Jun Jie gave a report to her mother and curious neighbours who’d been told by Lanfen her daughter had a change of employment. News travels fast in a high-rise complex. Jun Jie went to bed early dreaming of her amazing change of circumstances. It would have to work out now as her cleaning contract had been snapped up by an eager job seeker.
To be continued.
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