“Routine Application” by William Ng



The printer, sheet after sheet, roars off another batch of applicants in the Pre-Interview Processing zone. For the first time a full-screen dialogue box pops up on the screen of his laptop – COLLECT FORMS. He floats down the grey-carpeted corridor past the cubicles of others, retrieves his ream of ivory-coloured forms, and retreats to his minimalist desk. How many times, he thinks, will I have to reincarnate as trees for this ream? But that’s too soon for him to count, for it is only the second week of his probation period as a Global Business programme assistant.

    Enough. Pinch two papers; staple left corner. Pinch; staple; pinch; staple… From the reflection on his monitor he notices that his stapling hand has fallen into a clapping rhythm. Every two pages an applicant – names, results, disabil special needs – that’s all the currency GB needs to know. Twenty interviewees today, he is assigned to receive them in the waiting room on the first floor .

    Clock ticks thirteen. “Hello,” he again reproduces the guidelines with his rehearsed lips curling up like a smile, as the final applicant of the pile materialises in RM101, “ID card, transcripts, and other certificates for verification please.” How many Johns and Chans are there under the neon signs, his high school teacher’s words to him reverberate in his mind, dying for their folder of top-notch certs. “Thank you, John, please wait.”

    “Sir, may I know if I’m… sorry,” John apologises as the vermilion INTERVIEW IN PROGRESS sign flashes to silence and signal that the interview room is ready.

    He presses 13/F as John follows into the lift full of WE WANT YOU posters.

    “Leadeur Camp, Bildungsociety,” John murmurs while exploring the surrounding notice boards, “are they for freshmen?”

    “Yes, please do…” he replies, “learn skills and have certs.” Pause. He feels the gaze of John, which anticipates something more than the guidelines. “I joined them back then.”

    “Oh,” John lights up, “did you make friends there?”

    “Not many, since most of them were busy with their extracurricular interests,” he hesitates with a faint grin, “more like curricular… but yes, mine had the time of our lives together.”

    “It’d be nice if I get in and meet my buddies,” says John with a cheerful crescendo.

    “Right, you’ll be fine,” he looks up at John. That promising countenance is not unfamiliar.

    “Thanks,” John nods with the decelerating lift, “hope to see you again.”

   He smiles. “Yes, I’m…” yet, his muffled voice joins the open door that reveals  the oblong corridor, “the third room, please.” He remains in the lift, for John will be then followed up by the post-interview team.

    He returns to the PIP zone and slips into his partitioned square. His cheeks are warm, perhaps due to the dazzling LED sun. The photocopied pieces lie on his desk. He holds these paper applicants and checks. Again, he looks, for three stapler claps longer than usual. Through these papers, his gaze seems to converge on something more tangible. Clock tocks. AC moans. However, the data light flickers green and green the printer grunts. He stamps a tick on their faces, puts them into the out-tray slot and resumes. The printer, sheet after sheet, roars…


williamWilliam Ng is a graduate of the Department of English and Department of Education (Class of 2016). [Click here to read all entries by William.]

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