When Pat & I returned to Singapore, we were each assigned to understudy a senior forecaster and started operational work. The shift considered of a 6-day cycle : 2 day shifts, then a night shift followed by 3 days off. The first day shift was devoted to aviation and shipping, while the second involved public weather forecasts, issuing TAFs & trend statements & sending out lightning risk warnings to various clients, mostly golf courses & construction companies. Night shift included all of these, but fortunately the golf courses & most construction firms closed at night so there were fewer warnings to issue.
The forecasters have a locker room & I was given my own locker where I kept my met. books & sleeping bag. There was a table there where the kettle & toaster resided. It was also where the forecasters left edibles which were meant to be shared by everyone - usually chocolates or titbits bought during an overseas workshop, or pineapple tarts/various biscuits for Chinese New Year. It was understood that any edibles left on this table were for everyone's consumption. Therefore, leave your personal snacks there at your own peril, or else return & find them gone.
One custom I found strange was the forecasters' habit of using the word "weather" to imply "bad weather" i.e. any form of precipitation. Eg they would say, "Any weather expected today?" "There was a lot of weather last night." "Shift was OK today, there wasn't any weather." I was mystified at first. How can there be no weather? There is always weather, whether good or bad, sunny or rainy.
Then it was entertaining to discover the quirks of various colleagues.
I was assigned to understudy W, a forecaster who used to be from Hong Kong. He was noisy & sociable; he would assign me some job to do, then while I applied myself to it, he would roam around the office, checking the radar & weather charts, & singing various songs in Cantonese. Then he took great relish in ordering me around, checking my work & picking out my mistakes with glee. No matter how carefully I checked my sigwx chart before showing it to him, there was always one little label I'd forgotten to delete or one cloud left unlabelled.
I got my own back on him, though. One night a member of the public called & asked when the Southern Cross could be seen. Luckily I'd been noticing it above my neighbour's roof around 8pm during that time of the year. W had never heard of the Southern Cross. "What's that?" he asked, and then he looked rather sheepish.
Another colleague was C. He was excellent at technical things & programming, but occasionally absent minded. He would brush his teeth in the gents' after lunch, put the toothbrush in his back pocket & then forget it was there, & walk around with it sticking out of his back trousers pocket for the rest of the day.
Then there was S who was a walking encyclopaedia of Chinese culture, & who also had a huge library of books in both English & Chinese. What is remarkable too is that he really reads all his books. He is one of those people who manages to never stop learning & keeping up with things current, whether it be IT (always armed with his pda & mobile phone), developments in met., or current affairs. He is also a certified Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.
Then there was H from China, who was already an experienced meteorologist when he joined us. Because of his experience, he was pretty good at doing the routine work. On one occasion, though, I overheard him attending to an enquiry from someone going to Beijing for a holiday.
"Yes, 7 degrees Celsius," H was saying earnestly, "that is the minimum temperature now." Pause. Then, "No, not cold. 7 is not cold, you wear one jacket should be OK."
I almost choked on my drink. In Singapore the temperature is quite uniform, usually about 24 to 32 deg Celsius. I waited till he put the phone down, & then, trying not to laugh, told him, "H, to YOU, 7 degrees isn't cold. To a Singaporean, it is VERY cold!" Hopefully the poor caller didn't freeze during his holiday.
Then there was G. When I first joined, he sported a moustache & everyone joked that he looked like the Hong Kong actor George Lam. In fact, whenever he went to Hong Kong for meetings, he was tickled because the people there also would comment that he looked like George Lam.
One day, he shocked everyone by shaving the moustache off. It was quite peculiar seeing him without it. When asked about it, he just joked that he was protesting against Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian's antics of getting himself shot in the stomach.
The following day, D decided to tease him by pretending not to recognise him. "Who are you?" he demanded fiercely, glaring at G when the latter arrived in the office, briefcase in hand. "Over there, over there, sign your name," waving him toward the counter where visitors are supposed to register.
G just smiled.