The nurse ushered Ah Beng into the main hall where all the patients were resting. Some of them were drawing on sheets of papers all over the table, some of them staring into emptiness, some of them chatting with each other while more chatting with just themselves. Ah Beng found his friend Ah Seng sitting by himself at a corner of the table, busy scribbling on a piece of paper. When Ah Beng walked forward, he could see that the paper had numbers written all over it.
AH BENG (patted Ah Seng on his shoulder): Hey Bro, how's things around here?
AH SENG (stared at Ah Beng then snorted): Hello? This is the Institute of Mental Health Hospital. How well do you think I'm doing around here? I'm surrounded by mad people, for Christ's sake!
AH BENG (gave an awkward smile): Hahaha... you're right. So... anything new happening around here then?
Nonchalantly, Ah Seng pointed to a very old lady writing non-stop on a piece of paper, just like him. The only difference was that she was frowning and her hand was shaking uncontrollably as she wrote.
AH SENG: She's new around here.
AH BENG: Oh... she looks stressed... what's her case?
AH SENG: She was working a a cleaner, then her supervisor enrolled her in some cleaning certification course so that she can clean BETTER. She went cuckoo after she failed the written exam like ten times.
AH BENG (eyes wide opened): She looks like she's already in her sixties! How can they expect her to sit for exams?
AH SENG: Eighty to be exact.
Ah Seng then pointed to another woman who was shifting invisible boxes furiously.
AH SENG: She's new here too.
AH BENG: Wow... her hands are moving faster than Superman! What is she trying to shift?
AH SENG: She was working as a factory operator, then her supervisor complained that she needed to work FASTER. She went cuckoo after they ramped the machine speed up to maximum.
While Ah Beng shook his head in dismay, Ah Seng pointed yet again to a man sitting near the window and staring into the air. He looked like he was in his forties and well dressed in shirt and pants.
AH SENG: He's also new here.
AH BENG: He looks pretty harmless and... normal, except for the part that he just sits around.
AH SENG: He has been working as an IT manager in a local firm for the past decade. Then his boss decided to employ someone else from India to take over his job, because that replacement was CHEAPER. He went cuckoo on the day that he was fired.
Ah Seng then patted Ah Beng's shoulder and smiled.
AH SENG: Hey Bro, do you remember why I ended up here?
AH BENG (looked up but could not answer Ah Seng): Erm...
AH SENG: I was a Sales Manager, remember?
AH BENG (sighed): Yes, and though you were already meeting your target every month, your boss raised the bar every month too, expecting you to work SMARTER and bring in more revenue. At the sales target of 150%, you finally broke down and went cuckoo.
AH SENG (sighed): Yes, Bro, that's exactly the story.
Ah Seng turned back to face the table and continued with his scribbling on the piece of paper. Ah Beng stood up and tapped Ah Seng on his shoulder.
AH BENG: Hey Bro, this will be the last time that I'm visiting you.
AH SENG (looked up): Why?
AH BENG: My boss has wanted me to work HARDER even though I was already working from eight to eight everyday. The faster I finished my work, the more work got piled on my desk. Eventually I worked till midnight and even on weekends, yet I could not finish all my work. My boss said I need to be more hardworking.
AH SENG (smiling): And then? You went cuckoo as well?
AH BENG (chuckled): No, Bro. My mind is still intact, but my body is in the office. Anyway, you just take care, okay?
Slowly, Ah Beng walked towards the door, then as Ah Seng watched, he walked through the door and disappeared into thin air.
2 days ago