Anne Yeo is our building manager. Her office is in the second basement of the condo. It’s a small, windowless room, a few steps away from the fluorescent lights of the car park. It’s more like an interrogation room really: a small, mean desk, two clinical chairs, and one small station for fingerprinting.
Yes, fingerprinting. Every door in my condo is controlled by a small fingerprint scanner. The main gate, the back gate, the lobby door, the lift, the gym door… “Success!” it chirps when it recognises you. “You are authorised!”
It’s a bit like living in the future, a dark sinister future where someone can keep tabs on your whereabouts in the living compound, how many times you visit the pool, whether or not you pick up your mail, and if you’re a regular recycler.
The first time I met Anne Yeo, she was sitting behind her desk, like a sour, whey-faced spider. She was wearing one of her neat little outfits, pinching trousers, sensible blouse, severe crop framing her bespectacled mole eyes. “Yes?”, she barked, affably. When I explained I was there to get my fingerprint access activated, she looked me up and down and said “You are the maid?”.
Needless to say Anne Yeo and I now share a mutual dislike. We ignore each other politely in the street. I am the annoying foreigner she lost face to. She is the dictatorial Big Sister who must be challenged.
To this end I have been playing a fickle little mind game with her. This may or may not have anything to do with the fact that she restricted access to the gym’s changing room and sauna, on no particular grounds. Pettiness, I suspect. She is fond of putting up infuriating little portentous notices in the lift, mostly about maintenance work, filled with pomp, circumstance, and a hundred subtle but glaring grammatical errors.
“We kindly advise to please inform your staff to locking the doors and windows”.
“We thank you for your forbearance with the above mentioned inconvenience”.
This particular notice, printed on heavy bright green paper, has been in our lift since the 9th of September. We’ve all read it several times over, and have absorbed the riveting information about gable end walls and ceiling painting many times over. One evening I turned it upside down, laughing quietly to myself. The next day it was back the right way up. Then I turned it upside down again. It was righted again. Sideways, high up out of reach, down low by the floor, no matter where the sign is put it always returns to its rightful place, staring at me mutely and resolutely. I almost chicken out sometimes. After all, she has my fingerprints. I look for hidden cameras in the ceiling. But the temptation is too strong, and peeling off the blue tac to adjust the position of the notice is just too appealing. I can just imagine her angry little face, the small stamp of indignation, the small bead of sweat forming on her brow.
I’m going to leave it for a few days now, to give her a false sense of security. I’m pretty sure she hasn’t realised that the other notice, the one printed on white paper on the side wall, the one about larviciding and fumigating, is also upside down.