This story was collected at our Falcon backyard and is told by Min Sheen Tan. Min shares his experience of the ‘great resignation’, sparked during the global Covid pandemic, and how it may have all begun with a mysterious bag of Nando’s chicken.
Backstories 2022 is a multi-sited storytelling festival located in suburbs of across Perth and regional Western Australia. In 2022, Backstories occurred in locations such as Geraldton, Kununurra, Bunbury, Margaret River and Lesmurdie.
Backstories 2022 Falcon was made possible with funding from Lotterywest, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, and Centre for Stories Founders Circle.
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Copyright © 2023 Min Sheen Tan
Photo by Simeon Neo.
This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories.
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MST: Kaya Wanju. My name is Min. My story starts in January 2022 at 11:30 a.m. In a staff lunchroom. I go to heat up my toaster sandwich and in the middle of the staff lunchroom table has a bag of Nando’s chicken. And I think to myself, this person’s really organized. They must be like getting ready to have this delicious Nando’s, and I think nothing of it.
Then at 1:30 p.m., I go back to get a coffee and that bag of Nando’s chicken is still there. So I’m thinking, perhaps maybe this person has been called into an emergency meeting and they had to dash off. I get it. 3:30 p.m. And that bag of Nando’s chicken is still there. Now, I can’t help myself. I have to know if someone has actually taken a bite from this bag of Nando’s chicken.
So I open it up and I take out the boxes and it’s a half chicken of Nando’s with the spicy rice. And I’m about to have a second lunch. Then there was a voice in my head that said, Are you sure you want to do this? And I put it back down. This was a test. It had to be.
So I went round the entire office asking who the hell left the bag of Nando’s chicken in the middle of the staff lunchroom table and no one claimed it. This is super peculiar. Then at 5:30 p.m., as I’m walking out, I go inside the staff lunchroom again and I see Graham from I.T. eating the bag of Nando’s like there’s nothing wrong with what he’s doing without even reheating it.
Now, let me break down the three reasons why this irks me to this day. The reason number one, food safety. I used to work as a food technologist in the food industry and the poultry industry, so I know that chicken needs to be cooked to at least 78.6 degrees Celsius internally, depending on the Nando’s franchise that you purchased that chicken from, there’s no guarantee that it would have been cooked to that internal temperature.
And in 6 hours, in Perth’s summer heat, there’s a chance that some flies can get in there and lay some eggs and that is some extra protein that we do not want. Reason number two, this is money on the table. Half a chicken of Nando’s and a spicy rice, with this inflation is 30 bucks. Okay?
No one in their right mind would just leave $30 on the table and walk away. I come from New Zealand. No one in their right mind would just leave chicken in the middle of a table in a public arena, especially if it’s KFC like completely unguarded, which [inaudible words] into reason number three, the middle soft lunchroom table has the unwritten rule that it is the allocated space where any leftover foods from other meetings of workshops are placed there for everyone else to eat.
Everyone knows this, especially if you work in an office so it doesn’t have any name. No one can. You can claim it. That bag of Nando’s chicken didn’t have a name or receipt. As far as I’m concerned, that is a free for all. And I hate wasted food. And I was thinking perhaps I could conduct a public service for the environment and my stomach by having a second lunch, but I refrained from doing so, because this bag of Nando’s chicken was testing the very fabric of humanity, especially mine.
And the very next day I spoke to a colleague about what I saw and he told me that he did the exact same thing I did just 5 minutes after, which relieves me because I don’t need to go crazy questioning my ethics or morals about taking that bag of Nando’s chicken. Little did I know that this little chicken incident was going to be very symbolic, always going to happen in the next few months of my life.
In March 2022, I get kissed by Lady Rona alongside a lung infection, which is like the saying – two birds and one stone. However, I am the stone getting shat on by two birds, which is not fun. Then, during isolation, one of the worst things could have happened. I had a dear family friend pass away unexpectedly from a heart attack and it was the worst on top of grieving someone who was very close and dear to my family.
I had a final project due from a user experience design course that I was studying and I was completely out of it. There were times when I was in bed, I close my eyes. I wasn’t sure that I was going to wake up, and when I did wake up, I was hungry and I would crave that bag of Nando’s chicken.
But I wasn’t going to make a difference because I couldn’t taste or smell anything anyway. And I really wanted to attend the funeral. But because of travel restrictions, I can only attend funeral via Zoom, which is really weird because. Have you ever attended a Zoom funeral? They put the cameras on top where the service is happening, so you get the viewpoint of the deceased as well.
And it was a beautiful service. But it is so weird, especially when you see people like, you know, picking your nose and [inaudible words] during a funeral. Like, you don’t need to see that. And I was not feeling 100% after isolation and I had to go back to work. And one of the first things that my boss asked me was, why haven’t I fully recovered from COVID yet?
Like, what the hell? So it was a kind of light bulb moment for me and I went back to home that week and I finished my user experience final project and I guess you can call it an attempt at a career change of sorts. Call me one of those millennials or the snowflakes as some of the boomers like to call us.
That said, enough was enough. The great resignation, as they called it. I guess I’m one of those people that we were, I guess, duped into borrowing money to study something and get a job into a career that we may or may not love for the rest of our lives. And that was where I was at that point. So I decided with everything that was happening in my life, I resigned from my job into the unknown.
And when you’re trying to change careers, it is super scary because reason number one, I was a food technologist for over ten years and I loved it. I learned so many things. I know so many things about food products and the industry that no one knows, that not even Google or ChatGPT knows. Like there are some stuff that, let’s just say it’s under NDA wraps, but if you just talk to me one on one, I might tell you a few things and a lot of my friends and family told me that why would you want to throw all of that away?
Ten years of building up a career. But the longer I clung on to that idea of throwing my career away, the more I felt like I was throwing myself and my future potential into a downward spiral. The second reason is that applying for jobs in a new industry is hard, so you have to use a resumé, a cover letter and a portfolio.
So it looks really nice. You have to kind of look like a peacock, so to speak. So you can’t just be like, I’m really good at managing things, no you actually have to present things really nicely and aesthetically. And a third reason is that if you’re a people pleaser, it’s extra hard to change careers. One, you don’t like to say, No, I don’t like to say no to people and I really don’t like disappointing other people.
And the other thing is I don’t like to disappoint the perception that people had of me because I was a food technologist and a foodie. And to actually split those two personas into different things was extremely hard. Thinking back about that chicken, it was very symbolic about what I was going through in my life. That chicken was just cocking by doing nothing and it was just serving others unintentionally.
I was stuck back at my own mental cage. I didn’t know what to do. Then after a lot of my seek job ad spamming, then in June 2022, I get a job as a user experience designer for a company, in an industry that I really enjoy working to this very day. And I think that if I can like wrap up a nice message out of all of this is that, in life you all have a crossroads.
Sometimes it could be unexpected turn of events all at once, trying to find a new job or a piece of Nando’s chicken sitting in the middle of the staff lunchroom table. So if you see a chicken and it’s not yours, just let it be. What is meant for you will be there for you. And when destiny is calling, don’t be a chicken.