Monday, 27 November 2006

Punctuality and the people who keep screwing it

I took a quick look at my watch. It’s almost 1 p.m. Traffic today is insanely busy and there’s no apparent reason—I see no cars on the side with smashed bodies and teenagers who just got their licence calling their parents nor do I see a motionless body on the ground covered with newspaper with its feet sticking out. I do however notice that there are many women drivers on the road. This can only mean one thing: The end of my sanity!

I’m late!

An event like this is common for all city folk. Time just flies by when you seem to be stuck in traffic most of the time. No wonder people are stressed out! And are likely to go on a rampage involving machetes and lots of dead rabbits!

Every single morning during my college days was always frustrating. I’d get up early to have my breakfast and leave just before traffic started to crawl slower than an overweight caterpillar. By the time I reached my friend’s place I would park my car, walk to 7-Eleven to get a newspaper and maybe a doughnut. Then I’d wait. And wait. And wait. At the very least—a good 20 minutes later—my friend would finally come down, put on his shoes and off we go. Even though college was theoretically only 20 minutes away from his place, we had to leave at least a good hour to be just in time for class. If I was going to college by myself, I would leave much earlier just to avoid the cursed jam. I’d rather be an hour earlier than to spend the same time inching my way, cursing at all and sundry, and wait for the rest to come. Till this day this friend of mine is still late for most engagements.

If there’s one thing my father thought me well was that it’s better to be early than to be late. It’s something that has shaped my personality. I’m a planner; that is I will set my alarm, pick out the clothes I want to wear and plot the route I’m going to take. All this will be done the night before, so that I don’t need to rush and put my underwear on my head instead. I estimate the time it takes for me to get there and punch it into my internal hard drive and whoosh! I’m there. It is one custom I have no qualms with and is the reason why I am always the earliest. Or one of the earliest, depending on the nature of the meeting of course.

When someone is late we call it a Malaysian thing. I call it being inconsiderate and discourteous. We’re too much of a laidback people I guess. We take things for granted because we have this mentality of since it’s there, it’s there. There’s no need to rush things. Take it easy some may say. And yet these are the same people who are chronically late for everything and the one time you’re slightly behind for a very important engagement, they’ll push the blame unto you in an instant.

Life isn’t always fair but it can make you very pissed indeed.

When my friends are late, especially the usual suspects, we just shrug it off and say, “That’s him all right. The late bastard strikes again.” But when I’m late, even by a mere nanosecond, they say, “That fucker is late!” I am that bad. Where does this blatant apathy stem from? When you’re running late, I’d very much appreciate it if you could tell me. A simple SMS with the words, “Am late,” would more than suffice. It’s the thought that counts after all.

Tardiness is a national disease and while a cure for it exists, none are bothered to take it. Something about not having enough time…

Gute Nacht und Gutes Glück.

PS: I try my best to be not late due to circumstance of any sort. If I am late, that means I did it on purpose. Really.

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Monday, 20 November 2006

Try not to step on my head too much. I may bite. And devour your soul you worthless tadpole!

One day in a shopping mall located in one of the capital’s trendiest suburban neighbourhoods, I had a feeling that that day would be a great day. I saw a couple of girls checking me out (it could have well been curry on my cheek, I was too engrossed in my own vanity) as I was about to get across to the adjoining mall. Before anything else, I went straight towards the loo (I knew I shouldn’t drink too much green tea), and in the interconnecting bridge I had to pass by a group of salespeople or as I like to call them, Ambushers of Wanton Insensitivity (AWI). You see, getting pass these people is like going through a mediaeval gauntlet to retrieve the Sacred Chalice of Paramount BraveryTM. And just my luck I had to encounter one of AWI’s most promising new knights. This was how the crossing of the gauntlet went:

(Me walking rather quickly, face slightly contorted as I forced my bladder to control its already bursting dam)
(Skinny boy with impish-looking features jumps out of nowhere)
Annoying Skinny Sheet (ASS): Hello! Do you have a minute?
(I smile, put up my right hand to indicate that sorry, I’m not interested in whatever it is you’re selling or peddling)
ASS: Are you in a rush?
Me: Um. Yeah. Sorry.
ASS: (in a very sarcastic tone) Fantastic! That’s so fantastic of you!

Of course the above retelling seems a bit tepid. But picture it in your mind, summon the most aggravating voice you can and hopefully you’ll know what I went through. I don’t know why I didn’t go up to him and pound his skinny ass to the wall for such rudeness. I could understand such a treatment if I was being a complete asshole and didn’t acknowledge his existence but I wasn’t. He did it not only in front of other shoppers but also his seniors. I even smiled at him!

I know it’s a hard way to make ends meet, especially when you have to deal with idiotic and downright rude people, but that doesn’t you can treat me and people like me with disrespect just because you’ve been the receiving end one too many times. I could have been a person with violent anger pent up waiting to explode which would have provided some World’s Most Brutal Shopper moments. But thankfully, to him and myself (I don’t want to go to jail for beating a pugnacious salesperson), I’m not of that nature. My mom was the one who wanted to give him the smackdown.

Customer service in Malaysia is a myth I tell you.

Another incident where manners was of the utmost priority, my friend Fill and I were part of a land banking management firm. We had to call up people and beg (of course it wasn’t the on-my-knees pleading to give me 15-minutes of their time because after all, what’s 15-minutes compared to an opportunity? you name the place and time and I’ll be there!) them for a chance to showcase our service. Fill had the misfortune of using, oh blimey, a phone directory for his leads. Seeing him dial home numbers and getting his ear severed to its very tip for having the audacity and flagrancy to inform them of our product made for some uncomfortable silences. It’s difficult to commiserate with someone when you’re laughing hysterically at them.

Dealing with people is an art. Like art, sometimes blatant flicking here and there, a misconstrued stroke there and here, may not be the best thing to do. You have to be scrupulous and deliberate yet not to the point of being cold and brusque. Unfortunately, it’s an art only a select few know how. The rest just butcher it.

Gute Nacht und Gutes Glück.

PS: Quick question: What would you have done if you were in my sandals (I didn’t feel like wearing shoes that day)? I hope it’s something violent related. Till then, beware of the Ambushers of Wanton Insensitivity!

Friday, 10 November 2006

“No son, she’s gone to heaven for awhile. What’s that? Yes, you’ll see someday.”

I hate getting lost only to find out after 30 minutes of circling in the same area and in the pouring rain to find out actually, I wasn’t lost at all. If this were the Amazing Race I would have dragged someone to help me locate the elusive house. Turns out my uncle did give the correct directions, it was only the reverse of it. Left became right, straight became back, and I nearly gave up in the end. When I did finally arrive my aunties, uncles and cousins were all there and other relatives I knew I’ve seen them before but I couldn’t remember their names. The atmosphere was decidedly calm, laughter could be heard and one or two relatives still were slightly shell-shocked from the sudden departing. I’ve met the departed auntie a few times and all of the encounters were full of smiles and she saying “Wah, lu dah beser!” (Wow, you’ve grown!). And all this while I wondered who she was. She was my grandmother’s sister who makes her my mother’s auntie therefore she’s my great-aunt or something to that effect. As well as if you twice remove a certain uncle and further removing an auntie you’ll get my cousins.

Only in a Peranakan family will you hear a myriad of languages. Besides the usual English and our mother tongue, Baba Nyonya, there was Hokkien, Cantonese, Mandarin, Bahasa Melayu and even Tamil could be heard in one corner. The amazing thing is that you could speak a different language yet the whole family has this built-in translator of sorts in which you’ll be able to understand each other. I kept telling my grandmother that I have already eaten in English while she answered me in Baba Nyonya.

I asked my other auntie as to how she died. It seems that she was alone one day and fell awkwardly, landing on her back. Her son came to drop his son there, as usual, and the son came running out telling daddy that grandma is on the floor. When the ambulance arrived, she was declared dead. The little boy was oblivious to the crying and sombre faces surrounding him. He knows his grandma has passed on, yet he knows not what death means only that his dear grandma won’t be there anymore to take care of him, to feed him when he is hungry or to soothe him when he feels ill. But what he does know is that she is at a much better place and will look out for him, always.

The quiet murmurs of the Buddhist priests chanting could be heard amidst the hubbub of people catching up with each other. A short prayer performed by the priests and the immediate family members was done to appease her soul, and to wish her a safe journey into the exalted halls of those who have left their mortal shell. A cymbal rings and a light tap on the Chinese drum told us all that it was time to send the dearly departed mother to the heavens. As is customary in Buddhist tradition, the burning of effigies and paper doll deities signifies that her soul has been released from its earthly bounds. The burning paper ascends to the sky, the moon shining even brighter as though she was smiling at us, thanking us for being good sons and daughters.

As I approached the coffin, I said a small prayer, wishing her all the best in the afterlife. It was the least I could do for a woman who meant so much more to others. She looked calm and at peace. I think that was what she wanted, everyone to be happy and not be sad with her passing. I was about to leave and the little boy ran pass me, happy and laughing. I smiled and went home.

Gute Nacht und Gutes Glück.

PS: This post is dedicated to the memory and family members of EePoh. May her soul rest in peace.

Saturday, 4 November 2006

A man’s not a man when he doesn’t admit his wrongs

A man builds a mansion without the proper authorisation. This same man has a restaurant built on land that wasn’t even his to begin with. It belongs to the government. His family members have been nominated to hold positions of power in the local municipality. This man has also failed to pay assessment fees for his own house—which is an understatement considering it’s now a palace—together with two other buildings under him. Other follies of his include backing a project that would have deprived people a place to have their walks, exercise and other healthy doings and breaching party ethics during political polls. Yet, this seemingly pompous and discourteous man has humble beginnings; he was a former railway gatekeeper and office boy. The Sultan of the state summons him, wanting to get to the bottom of this, but he informs the His Royal Highness he is ill from hypertension. This man was so ill apparently that he had to travel to another state and “recuperate” by celebrating a festivity ironically would no doubt increase his hypertension because of the sumptuous fare that would have greeted him and his family. He lies during a period where sins are severely frowned upon and simply ignores the same people he was entrusted to lead. So how do you respect a man who wears sunglasses when summoned to speak of his actions? You can’t deny the fact that he has done his part, and some good has come from it but going easy on him when a small time restaurateur had his extensions demolished almost immediately because he forgot to submit the proposal earlier on is akin to exonerating the now disgraced politician without even a trial to begin with.

Why do former leaders think it’s all right to berate and tarnish current leaders and do so without the merest hint of regret thinking they’re doing it because in their mind it’s the right thing to do? And I hate when they say, “It’s for their own good,” or “I’m doing this for the good of the people,” when it’s nothing more than a veneer to divert attention from their own insecurities. The people are grateful for what they have done. You could say that without such leadership the country wouldn’t be near where it is now. But it’s time for them to let go and let others lead for they have a job to do. What they need is teamwork, positivity and sometimes a pat on the back; they don’t need constant scrutiny and disparaging criticism. It’ll make the toughest of people even nervous. Let’s also admit that during their time they’ve made mistakes. No one is perfect, hello. It’s okay to admit them, but instead they choose the proud route, why should I admit my faults when I can point someone else’s?

The small people are always the first casualties simply because they have no power whatsoever when those who are above them, who often deign to do things for them, wield their magical wands with an air of extreme derision and smugness. It’s okay for the big guys to take 3 steps out of the line but if a petty person treads even half a step he’ll find himself the recipient of a cruel and senseless punishment. It’s also funny to note that people who speak about “upholding the law” and “no one is above the law” are the ones who flout them unflinchingly and sleep well at night when their actions have caused nothing but pain to those who have to bear the consequences.

Apologising and publicly repenting your actions means absolutely nothing when you don’t follow up by rebuilding your already destroyed image. It is never too late to admit your wrongs and trying your best to regain the respect and love lost. But if you’re going to hide yourself in a corner hoping that it will all go away only makes you a coward. It’s a far worse title for a person formerly held in high-esteem.

We all know that there are always two sides to a coin and he is after all still entitled to a fair trial. His backers and supporters will surely defend him till the end because there’s no other way and it doesn’t make sense if they were to turn around and say that “Oh yes, he pinched my bum once. Very rude indeed.” But when evidence is so against you the right thing to do would be to say sorry. It’s the first step only a real man can do redeem himself.

Gute Nacht und Gutes Glück.

PS: This is by no means a personal attack on any person or organisation of any kind. This is merely sentiments from a disgruntled citizen who’s had enough with double-standards and abuse of power. It’s time we stand up for us.

PPS: My other blog is updated! Check it out! Go on!