Sunday, May 16, 2010

The end of an era

An empty shell, that's all there is left now.

This was Blessed Hope, a place where I spent many hours of my youth. This was a little shop at Coronation Plaza that sells Christian music and literature.

I used to work here during the school holidays during my late-teens. Initially I was roped in during November and December to help out during the months leading up to Christmas. The shop would be really busy and I became good at wrapping presents of all shapes and sizes.

One year, the proprietors asked me if I wanted to work there full-time during the school holidays. Vacation could last up to 3 months at the university and this was the time to top up my bank account. But pay was pretty miserable. Since it was a long time along, I can now reveal that I was paid a mere S$25 a day. I could have earned twice as much had I taken on a data entry job. In those days, data entry jobs were highly coveted; pay was good but one could get cross-eyed at the end of the day.

But the non-ambitious me decided this job was what I wanted. Work started at 10 am, there was no supervisor, there was a direct bus to work and I could invite friends over. I spent my days playing the racks of CDs (customers came in asking for the complete Praise 15 cassette collection), reading the shelves of books (like Stick a Geranium in your Hat and Laugh - about coping with grief) and crocheting little pouches (I stuck in M&S eclairs for my friends). There were interesting - sometimes strange - customers. At least it was an interactive job.

I can't remember exactly who came over to relieve my boredom. The shop was tiny so sometimes, I had to relieve my visitors' boredom by sending them to the supermarket downstairs.

The owners knew I wouldn't stay long. This was definitely not my career of choice. The lady in the picture is Auntie Maureen, who would succeed me and stayed on for the next 10 years or so. At that time, she had just been laid off from her factory job, anyway she was the aunt of one of the owners.

We spent one month together so that I could "show her the ropes". I couldn't see why she was chosen. She had no interest in music and didn't read very much. She wasn't even a Christian. Okay, she was Catholic. Then how do I reject her when she tried to invite me to send my petitions to Mary?

Auntie Maureen is nice. She bought me drinks in the afternoon. She liked to know who was coming to have lunch with me. I was safe if a girl turned up, but I would get probed if it was a boy. How many ways are there to ask about a friendship without mentioning the word "boyfriend"? I was often teased by the owners about my interrogations. But she was really harmless.

Over the years, business at the shop waned. Blame it on the location. Or blame it on the stock. One of the partners wanted to give up a long time ago. It wasn't profitable and was a hassle keeping it going. Business carried on because it was a form of ministry. They wanted to meet fellow Christians' spiritual needs.

29 April was Blessed Hope's last day. I came to witness the hacking and removal of shelves. The smell that was so familiar was gone on that day. There were stacks of magazines in boxes that I thought looked familiar. 1992 said the date. Gosh, those had been hiding under the counter all these years.

CDs are out of date; the internet is the main supplier of music nowadays. Christians apparently aren't reading so much now. Gone were the little cards of encouraging words and scriptures. SMS or Facebook fulfill this function now. The shop was filling up with stationary and knick-knacks.

Ultimately, Blessed Hope was bought out by a bank. I was told the bank, one of the largest in Singapore, sought out the landlords of 3 adjacent shops and offered twice the rental. a neighbour moved across the aisle and 2 others folded.

There goes another piece of memory. I don't really go there much anymore but just felt comfortable seeing it every time I pass by. It was selfish of me to want things unchanged.

Life has to go on.

As for Auntie Maureen, she is going on a long holiday and is choosing between a choice of jobs.

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