Sarah is a Penang nyonya. Her grandmother spoke Malay and wore baju kebaya with beautiful elaborate kerongsang. Sarah used to make sure she stood at least 3 meters away when her grandmother was enjoying her favourite past time of chewing betelnut. Any closer and Ptui! She would be splattered with red betelnut juice spat out by her grandmother.
Sarah came from a lower middle income family. There was enough for necessities but not for luxuries. Sarah had always admired and wanted the beautiful handbags that her rich schoolmates carried. However, her school allowance was just enough for her to buy food and drinks during recess plus some left over for the occasional karaoke where she would sing her heart out with her friends. Their favourites were Hit Me Baby One More Time, Crush, Can't Fight the Moonlight and Circle of Life. If they felt older, they would belt out Beat It and try the Moonwalk.
One day, after seeing her best friend excitedly showing off her birthday gift of a particularly beautiful Longchamp handbag, she decided that she had to have one too. She couldn’t very well ask her parents for the money. She knew they would refuse. Besides, her parents were saving to buy a bigger house to minimise the constant quarrels of teenagers hogging the bathroom. She concluded that the only way was to earn her own money. How? But getting part time work during the school holidays.
Sarah started her search by going from shop to shop, restaurant to restaurant to ask whether they could do with an extra helper. She spoke to supervisor after supervisor. Many just shook their heads. She felt like giving up but the picture of the Longchamp bag hanging from her shoulder made her push on. Finally, she managed to land a job as a promoter selling perfume at a departmental store. She was to be paid a basic salary plus commission.
It was hard work. She had to walk over 2 kilometers to the bus stop, push herself into the crowded bus, and sway amongst the other commuters, airing their smelly armpits in the sweltering heat. Then stand the whole day in heels, with a smile on her face to persuade unfriendly people to buy her wares.
She persisted. She succeeded in earning more than enough to buy her dream bag. The leftover money, she used to treat her family to a kari kepala ikan dinner. Although her parents were not too sure about her reason for working part time, they were proud that Sarah was determined, did not give up and worked towards getting what she wanted instead of asking them for the money.
Thus began Sarah’s journey into earning additional income, especially as a part timer and her slippery path as a shopper which could eventually cost her her happiness.