web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: Oh, I will Broil in Hell
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Oh, I will Broil in Hell

It's such a bummer to come back to real life after a holiday, especially when you have to deal with post-vacation finances. (Or the lack of it)

When you're on your own, you'll find that the hardest thing to do is not pinning down jobs, but to collect payment. Because to many companies in Malaysia, good cash-flow management means delaying payment to your subcontractor, in the hope that the said subcontractor will forget; or more likely, give up. In many instances, the client treats the subcontractor or consultant as if the former is already doing the latter a favour, and so no disbursement is necessary. I am ashamed to note that Malay companies are notorious for this robbery of services, and the likelihood is almost certain when it is a small, badly managed, politically linked Malay company.

And so it is with my husband. Before our trip, two clients who had been delaying payment for months promised they will pay as soon as we return. It's a done deal, they assured him. It turned out to be a done-in. We've been back for almost a week, and still no show of money.

Naturally, I am agitated. There's guilt for taking the trip at such a bad time, but we had little choice because we bought tickets during the MAS sale early in the year, and not going meant forfeiting 3 thousand ringgit. There's the worry, -- the what if--, I won't be able to rely on my own clients, to see us through Hari Raya. Default on our loans have backed up since the last two months, and the banks are getting impatient.

I apologise, it's boring to talk about money. I'm just trying to explain my state of mind because over the weekend I did something I should'nt have.

It was Sunday, and my husband and I were buying groceries at a huge hypermart, trying very hard to keep to our scrawny budget. We felt really poor, and my husband was cursing his clients with every breath that he took. I tried to be philosophical about it, telling him it's a test of your iman (faith) and that in due time God will reward you and your clients with what's due. There's no point in both of us being mad, and I thought myself the designated stoic.

We wheeled our trolley to the check out counter, and typical of this particular supermarket, the lanes are really narrow, just wide enough for the trolley and one other person. Under no circumstances should you enter through the check-out lanes, unless it is to perform a Heimlich on a choking child on the other side. Afterall, they have a huge entrance, just a few steps away.

Nevertheless, as the cashier punched in our purchases, this tall, dark, idiot came through, brusquely pushing aside our trolley, which was, naturally, in his way, and growled :

"Kalau nak keluar tu, keluar je lah" ( If you want to get out, just get out)

Ms Stoic? Maybe next time. I saw his back disappear among the crowd and felt my head swell with anger. Then I saw him, and his meek wife, turn round to look at a promotion stall. I wasted no time marching straight up to the man.

"Hey, itu bukan pintu masuk!" (Hey, that is not the entrance) I exclaimed, pointing to the check-out lane.

He didn't get me at first, and when it dawned that I was the one he chided earlier, he screwed up his face and brushed me off.

"Suka hati aku la. Aku kira apa!" (I can do whatever I like. I don't care)

I thought : oh, what a boorish ignoramus peasant you are. So I left him with this remark :

"Babi!" (Pig!)

I have to say this : even though I still think the epithet was thoroughly justifiable, calling him a pig was not a civilised thing to do.

He came after me, as I went back to my husband at the cashiers.

"Hei, apa panggil panggil orang babi?" ( Why did you call me pig?).

He was quite large, and I should have been quite afraid. But I was in the threshold of a major blow-out, which I have to admit, was only partly due to him -- so I had no qualms squaring myself up to the goon, and stared him in the eye. With one arched brow, of course.

"Nasib baik kau perempuan, tau tak?", he shook his finger in my face, " Kalau tidak dah lama aku tumbuk kau. Kau, dengan laki kau sekali"

( It's a good thing you're a woman, or else I would have punched you. You and your husband)

He mumbled something about this being the fasting month as he walked away, but I wasn't about to let him have the last word. So I employed the age-old, standard finisher :

"Eh, awak yang mula dulu!" ( You started it first)

I turned round to see my husband grinning, and other people just-about looking away.

"Well done, Mummy!", he beamed. I started thinking about how bad an influence my husband really is.

Less than half an hour later, violent regret spread within me : one, I shouldn't have called anyone, not even a boorish ignoramus peasant, any names; and two, I should've thought of a better parting shot. In the meantime, I could almost see the angel on my left shoulder furiously writing everything down and the angel on my right deducting my puasa points.

But you know, in the heat of the moment? It felt really, really good.


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