Monday 24 December 2018

Asbestos or no asbestos, please don't call me Johnson Baby Powder

My parents never gave me a Christian name.

I’m guessing it might be because we’re not Christians.

But I still celebrate Christmas. That is, if you can call shopping for Christmas presents for myself celebrating Christmas.

Anyway, I don’t have a Christian name, but when I was in primary school, I really wanted one. I was jealous of classmates with such cool names as “Gordon” and “Rebecca”.

So I decided to just give myself a Christian name. My first choice was “Peter” because that was what a neighbour called me once for some reason. But I felt that “Peter Ong” was too plain and not magnificent enough.

So one day, I wrote on the cover of my exercise book “Peter Johnson Ong”.

Of course, at that age, I didn’t know I had inadvertently selected two words that also happened to be euphemisms for the penis as my self-given Christian names. I might as well just called myself “Dick Willie Ong”.

But I was too young to be aware of the unfortunate genitalia-related meaning of my newly adopted handle to be embarrassed by it. No, the source of my humiliation would be more unexpected.

As my teacher was returning homework to the class, she came across a name she had never seen before. Puzzled, she asked the class: “Who is Peter Johnson Ong?”

Suddenly hearing it said out loud by someone else for the first time, I realised how ridiculous the name sounded.

I reluctantly raised my hand.

“Oh,” my teacher said. “I didn’t know I have a new student.”

The class laughed. I wanted to die.

As she handed me my exercise book, she asked: “Why ‘Peter Johnson Ong’?”

I was too numb to speak.

Then someone yelled out: “Johnson Baby Powder!”

The class laughed even harder. I died and went to Haw Par Villa hell.

After that, I removed “Peter Johnson” from all my exercise books, but for the next few days, my nickname in class was Johnson Baby Powder.

Worse still, every time I rubbed Johnson’s Baby Powder into my armpits for the last 40 years or so, I’m reminded of that childhood shame.

I tried switching to other brands of talc, but Johnson & Johnson is usually the cheapest.

Yes, I would rather relive that painful, ignominious moment over and over again than spend a couple of bucks more.

So I had mixed feelings when I read last week that Johnson & Johnson lost a US$4.7 billion (S$6.4 billion) lawsuit to 22 women who blamed their ovarian cancer on asbestos in the US company’s baby powder and other talc products.

On the one hand, it was about time Johnson & Johnson got punished for my primary school trauma.

On the other hand, I have been using Johnson's Baby Powder all my life. Am I going to get ovarian cancer?

To my relief, on Saturday, Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority said it did not find any asbestos in Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder or other talc products sold here.

Now if only the cruel, cruel memory I associate with the baby powder could be absent too.

I probably wouldve been better off if I had just called myself Dick Willie Ong.

- Published in The New Paper, 24 December 2018

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Someone on Carousell wanted to buy my My Melody holder for $1,001? Real or not?

As I wrote in my column, I listed my McDonald's My Melody holder for sale on Carousell for $1,001.

On Monday, I received a Carousell chat message from someone called blurt_apparels_zambrut:

Of course, I was suspicious. What sane person would pay $1,001 for the thing?

But I accepted what the person wrote in good faith. So I replied:

It all seemed to easy. But if you have bought or sold anything on Carousell before, you should know that if you want to confirm buying something, you have to click or tap the MAKE OFFER button. My would-be buyer had not done that.

Using the button allows both buyer and seller to provide feedback on each other on the tranaction.

So I messaged him:

At this point, I still wasn't if the buyer was for real, but I was curious enough to play along to see how far it would go.

What was the worst that could happen? He doesn’t show up and it was all a prank?

His (I assume he's male) Carousell profile seemed legit:

The feedback on him is positive:

And he even has a Facebook page.

So I went to Braddell MRT station on time and this was our chat:

I never heard from him again.


So this person went so far as to string me along for five more minutes with one last message before cutting me off.

As much as I half expected it, I felt duped. My faith in humanity was destroyed.

Did he feel justified in pranking me because my $1,001 Carousell listing came across as a joke?

I could easily retaliate against him since his Carousell and Facebook profiles are public.

But I just took it as a lesson learnt.

Next time someone wants to buy from me, I will insist that the person use the MAKE OFFER button.

And I couldn’t believe what happened next.

Within half an hour, someone used the MAKE OFFER button and offered me $800 for the My Melody holder.

The catch is that I had to deliver it to him right away.

At this point, I assumed it was another prank. He may be in cahoots with the first guy since it came so soon after the first prank. It may even be the same guy.

It was as if he knew I wouldn’t fall for it again unless he used the MAKE OFFER button.

I declined the offer.

So he raised his offer. Twice.

Now it really looked like a prank. So I stopped responding to him.

To my amazement, two hours later, he actually sent me an angry message for not responding to him.

And that was the end of that.

What a stressful day.

Someone commented on my Carousell listing: "His intention is not to sell the Melody but to promote his blog via Carousell by linking his blog website in the one & only listing."

That would mean I went through a lot of trouble just to promote this blog.

Look, if anyone is really willing to pay $1,001 for my My Melody, I would be insane to say no.

But after what happened, I just can't trust people any more.

EARLIER: I'm selling my McDonald's My Melody holder on Carousell for $1,001

Monday 10 December 2018

Hare-brained? I'm selling my McDonald's My Melody holder on Carousell for $1,001

I admit, before last week, I had never heard of My Melody.

But when McDonald’s posted on Facebook last Monday that the My Melody holder “that took Japan by storm” was coming to Singapore on Dec 6 and that you should “grab yours before it’s too late”, I knew I had to grab mine before it was too late.

It was only later I found out that My Melody is a rabbit born in the forest of Mariland, wherever that is, whose favourite hobby is baking cookies with her mother.

Her favourite food is almond pound cake, which she enjoys eating with her best friend, a mouse named Flat, according to

My Melody is also the best friend of Hello Kitty, who is the much more famous Sanrio character, which made me wonder why McDonald’s isn’t offering a Hello Kitty holder instead.

Probably because it wasn’t a Hello Kitty holder “that took Japan by storm”.

Remember when queuing for Hello Kitty merch at McDonald’s was a tradition as Singaporean as ridiculing the Miss Universe Singapore national costume?

The queues got so out of hand in 2013 that the next year, McDonald’s started selling the mouthless feline online and the queues disappeared like Robin Thicke’s career.

The tradition was no more.

So why didn’t McDonald’s sell the $6.90 My Melody holder online too?

One reason could be that My Melody is no Hello Kitty and McDonald’s wasn’t expecting the same demand.

Yet when I went to the 24-hour McDonald’s outlet in Yew Tee at 2am last Thursday, a My Melody queueing point had been set up.

But there was no queue.

So maybe people are just not that into the cute bunny after all.

McDonald’s had announced that it would start selling the holder at 4am and I was two hours early. I was being kiasu for nothing.

So I decided to go home and come back two hours later. But I overslept and by the time I returned at 4.30am, a queue had formed.

Dammit. If I had stayed, I would have been first in line.

Instead, I had to queue for half an hour for my My Melody holder.

It felt like old times when I used to queue (unsuccessfully) for the black Singing Bone Hello Kitty doll back in 2013.

It was also an expected communal experience, waiting in line at an ungodly hour for a children’s novelty item with my fellow Yew Tee residents, which I would have missed out on if I could order the stupid thing online.

Each customer could buy up to five holders, but I bought only one. By 11.30am, it was sold out islandwide, according to McDonald’s.

To show off my achievement, I posted a selfie with my hard-earned My Melody holder in a WhatsApp group of my ex-secondary school classmates.

One of them commented: “OMG. U woke up and Q but only bought one piece?”

Just to make sure that he really hurt my feelings, he included a Rolling On The Floor Laughing emoji.

Another ex-classmate added: “They are being sold on Carousell from $20 - $50.”

Oh yeah?

I’ll show them by selling my My Melody holder on Carousell for $1,001.

Someone else had already listed it on Carousell with the asking price of $1,000, “hoping” it would be mentioned in the newspapers.

That’s why I’m charging $1 more – so that mine is the most expensive.

So far, my listing has 23 Likes.

Woohoo! I’m on my way to making a profit of $993.10 on one lousy holder.

Who’s rolling on the floor laughing now?

My Melody might just become my new favourite character. So cute.

- Published in The New Paper, 10 December 2018

EARLIER: I queued up at 4.30am for McDonald's My Melody holder this morning

UPDATE: Someone on Carousell wanted to buy my My Melody holder for $1,001? Real or not?

Sunday 9 December 2018

SCSM 2018: My last half marathon?

Taking the shuttle bus from Yew Tee to the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon race venue this morning at 3am:

The race village at the F1 Pit Building:

Long wait for the flag-off at 4:30am:

I think I was in the sixth wave which was flagged off at 4:42am:

A woman running in what looked like a plastic sombrero:

1km marker:

I high-fived the neon man:

I was surprised I managed to run the first 5km in half an hour. I haven't done that in a race in a long while.

According to my splits, the 8th km was where my pace collapsed and I never recovered.

I even took a gel.


Approaching the "cooling zone" which doesn't cool at all, although it was fun going through it:

Even the snowman overtook me:

I forced myself to wait until after 15km to take my first drink of the race:

During the last few kilometres, I almost felt like vomiting. Maybe it was the gel?

Jugglers on stilts for some reason:

Approaching the finish line finally!

I made it just under three hours, but I honestly thought I would do better after starting so well. Very disappointed.

And as if to rub it in, my former running mate Baey Yam Keng completed his first half marathon in less than two and a half hours, the bastard!

I think I'm retiring from half marathons. I'm getting too old and injury-prone to improve.

So my last race of the year could be my last race, period.