James works for a rich new immigrant who is generous with his money. When there is an opening for a personal assistant, James wanted his wife to get the easy role which pays well without his employer knowing about their relationship. By fudging the interview process and selected applicants, James made sure his wife stands out among the shortlist.
The boss wants James’ wife for the role, however, it soon became apparent that the list of duties that Zhang requires from his personal assistant goes beyond just office work.
It was too late for regrets by then. On the bright side, James gets to see it unfold as it happens.
It was all because of a series of bad decisions.
My wife Siewyi and I live a pretty normal life until we followed an agent’s advice to sell our flat and get two private properties.
We’re average income earners and despite all the numbers checking out, we did not account for the fact that one of us might lose our job.
We also did not know the hidden costs from property taxes to agent fees to increase in mortgage payments due to interest rates payment. We depended on the rental for the private property to service our loan and when the tenant moved out shortly after a year, we are stuck.
Yes we did try to find a new tenant but there are so many studio apartments out there and with Covid, everyone is looking for space. The 450 sqft apartment we paid for is just too cramp, our tenant pool is restricted to singles who don’t mind staying at the extreme end of Singapore with a view of Malaysia.
And the rent we are asking for is enough for the same tenant to get a 3 bedroom three times as large across the causeway.
To make things worse, both of us lost our job at the same time during company restructuring.
Siewyi and I have savings but those are dwindling fast too, and I could really feel the desperation set in. In the end, we rented our place out at a price that would not even cover the mortgage and the maintenance fee. We still ended up paying $500 per month just to cover the monthly installment for the studio.
Together with the payment on the two bedroom apartment we are staying in, plus all miscellaneous fees, Siewyi and I spent almost $4500 on home payments alone.
With our combined take home pay of $8500 before we lost our job, it’s still not that bad but without a stable income, we are really starting to worry.
Thankfully, I found a job as a driver for a new immigrant. A rich man who migrated with his wife to Singapore from China. It was a stroke of luck actually because I happen to bump into Zhang at the Immigration and checkpoint authority. I was collecting my passport and he needed some help with forms and directions.
Since I had time, I walked him to the place he was looking for and while chatting, he realized I was unemployed so he offered me a job as his driver.
And the pay is a cool $5000 a month.
I thought he was joking until he asked me when I could start. It’s not a simple job by the way, it’s a 6 day work week, and my rest day is only on Monday. I have to work from 8am to 8pm everyday.
Since I was jobless, I thought I’ll just take it first until something better comes along. It’s not such a bad gig to be honest. Zhang and his wife treat me pretty well, sometimes I get to eat together with them in expensive restaurants, there are also times I get the whole day off doing nothing especially when they decide to visit the casinos.
I can chill in the car and binge watch dramas while waiting for them until I knock off.
Six months in and I was really comfortable with my job, my pay has been bumped up to 5500 and when I ferry Zhang’s friends and associates around, I get tips too. Those can add up to almost $500 a month.
Besides driving, I also run errands for the couple. Zhang’s wife, Yun likes to bake and entertain friends. Sometimes I double up as a server, a baker, a gardener, basically everything Zhang and Yun need, I will do it.
Then one day, my boss asked me if I have someone to recommend for the role of a personal assistant.
Zhang : I’m starting to get bored playing and eating, I’m going to start a business…you are busy enough…I need a PA…
James : I can help ask around…
Zhang : You know our working style…it’ll be an easy job…good pay too…
Zhang said as he gave me a pat on my back.
James : I’ll set up some interviews and pass you their resumes.
I was really excited when I heard about the opening. This is such a great couple to work for and such a golden opportunity, should of course go to my wife no?
Of course, I need to make sure everything is done by the book.
I put up an ad using Zhang’s registered company, and I compiled the applicants who sent in their resumes.
Filtering away the good ones, I deliberately chose the old, the ugly and the really terrible ones for the interview. I know Zhang’s patience, and after seeing 4 candidates, he was ready to give up.
Zhang : my god. I know we’re a new company with no portfolio and all, but I’m expecting certain standards…the last one cannot even speak proper English. Fine, even if her English is not good, I’m a mainland Chinese, I speak Chinese and Cantonese, she can’t even do any of those properly!
James : Sorry boss, these are some of the better ones already…there’s one more which I think may be situable…
Zhang : sigh…I’m starting to doubt your judgement James…the first 4 are…
When my wife Siewyi walked through the door into Zhang’s office, I could see a smile breaking on his face.
Zhang’s eyes gave my wife’s body a once over before standing up and buttoning his jacket. He extended his hand and my wife shook his with a sweet smile.
For obvious reasons, I told Siewyi to pretend we don’t know each other. I mean come on, if both of us can get a good $10000-12000 in combined income excluding bonuses, plus the tips, the rent from the studio, we just need to slog it out for a good 5 years with Zhang and the wife, pay off the mortgages and we are set for life.
Zhang looked at Siewyi’s resume and the interview went on for almost 30 minutes.
Zhang : So you’re single…
Siewyi : Yes…
Zhang : ok good…good…we’ll discuss and keep you informed…
My wife stood up and thanked Zhang for the meetup and I showed her the way to the exit. The moment the door closed, the first thing I heard my boss say was this;
Zhang : I want her…match her asking of $4500 and throw in a transport allowance of $1000, ermm…handphone allowance of $100, and what else?
Zhang said while snapping his fingers like he was trying to recall something.
Zhang : Yes…grooming allowance…$300
James : Grooming allowance?
Zhang : Yes…as my PA…she has got to look the part don’t you think?
I was a little puzzled at the remark and inside my head I could only think about the money my wife will be getting until Zhang said something that set alarm bells ringing.
Zhang : One more thing James…
James : Yes boss?
Zhang : Tell Siewyi we have a dress code…she needs to be in skirt and pantyhose and high heels for work…increase the grooming allowance to $400…that should do it…hahaha
Zhang gave me a tap on my back and told me I did a good job.
Zhang : good job James…hahaha…good Job…
As my boss left me standing alone in the office, I felt this sick churn in my stomach.
Something tells me my wife is going to have to work really hard for her $6000 pay as Zhang’s personal assistant.