No one asked our opinion about the remodel that’s taken over the portico, driveway, and lobby. This is because we’re leasers, not owners. I imagine the four or five residents who own flats in the building discussed the project. Did they deliberately invite this hell? Did they foresee muddy footprints everywhere, the noise, these dark people napping in all corners of the property at midday? What negative condition could have prompted the owners to take this action? It was a clean lobby, lovely floor and walls, wrought iron railings along the stairs and handicapped ramp. The driveway was cobbled and the portico was roomy enough to allow taxis to exit without excessive maneuvering. Visitors offered compliments regarding the marble floors, the subtle chandeliers, the cheerful fountain, the refreshing breezeway, the inviting pool—though no one in the building was sad to see the waterfall being torn out; it was a blight on the vista, a twelve-foot crag, and the splash reverberated through the lower fifteen floors.
In Singapore, the noise a jackhammer makes when it breaks up cement is referred to as “hacking”—and considering the way buildings are constantly being torn down or renovated, it’s not unusual to hear the term several times a day. The morning the work began a notice appeared in the elevator warning that there would be “hacking” for the next couple of months. It never occurred to me that the noise would be so thunderous that I wouldn’t be able to host book group or Mahjong, but that’s exactly how bad it got, and still is. From eight in the morning until six in the evening the hacking soars up and out, smashing into the walls of the other high-rises, and ricocheting back at us until it’s uncertain whether it’s coming from over there or over here, above or below.
Today they closed off the residents’ elevator, leaving only the service lift in use. I’m not a snob. I don’t mind sharing the elevator with delivery people or live-ins or the maintenance staff. But now, and for the next vague period of time, everybody’s using only one elevator, whereas before there were three. And in order to get to the single elevator, a hike through a hardhat zone is necessary. Workmen stop working and step out of my way when I leave the building. I’m a hindrance to their progress. Tools clutched, their brown eyes follow me as they wait for me to pass; and the same thing when I return. Oathman, the man who’s in charge of the comings and goings, is quite agitated, ushering people through the cement carnage, explaining to everyone that it’ll only be four more weeks.
I’m leaving for Houston next week. When I return to Singapore, a whole new lobby will be in place.