To Be Magnanimous

This was Christmas Eve.

The waitress delivered the food. The waitress was just a kid, maybe just finished Form Five. She looked like she’s from the Interior, here in KK to earn some money, probably minimum wage at that. The customer—my dinner companion—immediately got upset. Wrong food or wrong-filled order: the pasta was not as-asked. With disdain dripping as thick as goo, the customer let the waitress have it: “How much training have you had? How long have your worked here? Do you know how to take an order?”

Seemed like a kitchen mistake to me.

The food was returned…and came back wrong again: not the right salad oil. The anger intensified; the pontification prolonged; the rants tempias over to me: “I am not afraid of anyone”. Righteous dissatisfied customer started wagging a finger at the general direction of the kitchen chopping section. The kid stood and hovered at our table, quietly taking the barbs.

The food was returned a third time. I dreaded what was coming back from the kitchen. I looked at my plate. I have lost my appetite. I debated whether to eat my food. I have heard of stories of kitchen staff dicking with asshole customers’ orders. They gained their secret revenge by spitting on the food. Once, one guy told me he scooped drain water from outside the kitchen to “sauce” one cantankerous customer’s food.

One time or another, we are all guilty of squeezing the maximum self-righteous juice when we know we are absolutely right, and someone conversely is wrong. Most times, things are shades of grey…debatable and uncertain, but when we know we are right, there is the temptation to be self-righteous and feel entitled. And so, we feel we are in every sense justified to knock the wrong to a thousand pieces. To, in a manner of speaking, cut them to size. To be like God for once: infallible, and so what the heck, let me ride this wrath to the maximum. Perhaps, unconsciously hoarding the wins, for the opportunity may not come again.

We finished the dinner. I paid the bill. (Did I say I actually paid the bill?) We walked out of the door and so did the darkness. The customer was still hitting the upset thread mill on maximum gear: “You know, I am not afraid of anyone; I will tell them my piece of mind anytime.” Right.

Oh, to be self-righteous and angry, or to be magnanimous and happy? To forgive and look forward, for tomorrow is Christmas. Hark now, hear, the angels are not singing right now.

Merry Christmas 😞


No New Shoes or No Legs

We rant. We moan. We bellyache.

Usually about inconsequential things: The 36-Channel Astro with nothing good to see; the clowns at Puzzle Palaces; the minimum-wage waitress who delivered the wrong food; the pesky mosquitoes; the frying pan that got scratched; the weather; the ugly driver who cut you off from the wrong side…the list goes own. Most of the time we complain at things we do not have control of, and we whine because whining is about whining, and anyway, it is of no consequence.

We cry because we have no new shoes…until we meet a person with no legs. Let me tell you about some people I know with “no legs”.

Just yesterday I went to a funeral of a girl whose mum and dad I knew well since young. The girl was born healthy, developed a fever (and meningitis probably) within a few days and her health deteriorated. Her doctors could not bring her health back and she became a severely handicapped baby. She died 34 years later four days ago. I can’t imagine the sadness and anguish, and the supreme efforts of both parents in taking in care of their child—bed ridden, unable to feed herself, and mentally handicapped—for 34 years.

Just 2 days ago, an old friend was traveling from Semporna to Lahad Datu as a front seat passenger when they had an accident. In an instant their Hilux Vigo lost the road, flipped and went wheels up among some oil palms. Thankfully he and the driver were not hurt—just some dented emotions. The Vigo was another story all together.

Life can cut off the legs from under you in the heartbeat moment that a moth flutters its wings.

Last week I went to visit another old friend at KPG Medical Center. He was admitted because of heart problems. Later I found from the daughter that his heart had already been zapped 3 times as the doctors tried to tame his really bad tachycardia. He was literally a heartbeat away from death.

As I finished my greetings, he looked up at me with regretful eyes and said, “I know. You had told me many times.” Indeed I did. He was referring to the numerous times I pestered him to try drag him to see my doctor about his hypertension.

There is no satisfaction in being right. Who wants to be right in a situation like this? I don’t even know I am right; maybe it is all one big nebulous genetic sweepstake. Some have teflon-coated arteries; some don’t. I am happy to know that after going to IJN, he had a defibrillator installed, and stents done, and he is on the road to recovery.

They say, to a bacteria a pin’s head is an Everest to climb. Perhaps rather than whining that the mountain should be lower, we should grow taller instead. I know I would like to. Maybe we should look more inwards, look for a place we find some solace, and apply a speed throttle to that dissatisfaction engine. If every thing fails, let us heed baseball great, Yogi Bera’s entreaty to “take it with a grin of salt.”

God bless.



Reading this. Too long-winded, I say. You know why we like cats (and dogs)? They are the most expressive when carefree, happy and playful. It reminds us—no, it forces us—to think that in life, basically that is just all what matters. No?

Come on, I dare you. There was a time when you did not have: screaming credit cards to pay, cranky spouse, mortgages, bosses-from-hell, kids-to-wake-up-early-to-send-to-school, bills to pay! leaky roofs, and tomorrow horrendous jams to negotiate to work…yeah, that cute kitten happily sleeping near the sofa doesn’t have to put with all that shit 🙂

Pink Chick Story (There is sex here but it’s not what you think)

I once bought my son a coloured chick. You shouldn’t.

Many years ago when my 3 kids were young I brought them to the Farmers’ Day Celebration at Tanjung Lipat, Kota Kinabalu. My young son, Darrien, saw the coloured chicks for sale, and you know, those are irresistible to children. And so I bought one—a pink one.

It became his baby. It was kept in a box inside the house and which he diligently took care and fed. That was the start of the house woes of course. The endless cheeping drove everybody crazy. The chick would be quiet and happy when it could see one human being, but alone, it will soon start its infernal cheeping motor – cheep, cheeeep, CHEEEEEP! Of course the sales hook—the pretty pink fluff—disappeared in 2 weeks, leaving a regular chick. And an older chick that refused to be boxed in or go to sleep without hearing people around. And so it followed us around the house – cheep, cheeeep, CHEEEEEP!

In no time it grew to a size when crapping all over the floor all day long was even too much for the poor kid to go around the house cleaning after. And so it was exiled outside the house but still a well-taken-care-off pet. Still, it thought it was the youngest sibling in the house, always peering into the house trying to get in.

Well, the chick grew…and grew.


And it turned out to be a rooster. A strapping, beautiful white rooster. A strapping, beautiful white and HORNY rooster who thought human beings are its species, and who he have the hots for. This is no surprise as he grew up knowing only people I guess. And so every day he will chase us trying to hump our legs. Marion, my daugher, was always screaming, “Daddy! Darrien’s chicken is chasing me again!” My aunty who lived next door hollered every other day, “Manuk nu Rayn!” I would come out from the car after work, and there he was with obvious lust in his eyes, wings down and dancing sidesteps trying to telegraph sex to me.

My brother, who lives next door, had many chickens. I tried a few times to throw some hens in the rooster’s direction. He looked at them with disdain and disinterest, and then threw me a look with lascivious longing. I could almost see it put out it metaphorical tongue. Bleeeh!

My late mum (God bless her; she passed away last Dec, 16th) took the brunt of the rooster’s amorous, although misplaced, moves. At least we all, having to go to work and school, can escape its intentions for most of the day. Not my mum: she would be putting out laundry to dry on the outside clothesline and the rooster will come running from some bushes (Yeah, it had learned since to hide from my mum and ambushed her when she was not looking), pecked her legs and tried to hump. Then my mum would yell loudly, “Darrien! Manuk nu arat tomod! Mogu’rub!” (“Darrien! your chicken is so bad! It is pecking me!”). I had to explain to my mum that the chicken was not being nasty, and that it was just trying to mate with her.

This went on for weeks until mum, at the end of her long-suffering patience, put out a fatwa, “Kill the chicken. Look at my legs. They are black and blue!” All of us siblings looked at each other. Someone said, “Who dare to tell Darrien? Who dare to do the execution?” Of course no one had the guts!

Of course a fatwa is a fatwa. And so I took Darrien aside and asked him three times if it is ok to get rid of his chicken. Come on, this is serious stuff: you don’t kill a Primary 2 kid’s only pet chicken. He could be scarred for life and turn into a sociopath. Fortunately he said yes. Of course I chickened out (pardon the pun) from actually killing the rooster. And so I called my brother-in-law to get the chicken. Weeks later, he reported that it made for tasty curry chicken.

I did not dare to tell Darrien.

At the Cash Deposit Machine

It has been a long day: the bosses were screaming, errands were many, kids were wild, the home fridge was too bare for dinner, and the horrible traffic jams made you shed more than a few tears. Now here you are at Maybank, about to line up at the ATM, eager to make a cash deposit as fast as possible (because a creditor is screaming too) . You look at the three ATMs and your heart sinks: each one has as many as 10 people lined up.

Decision time: which line to take? You know the choice can be aggravating. And wrong. Like Julia Roberts once said in Pretty Woman, “Big Mistake. Big. Huge!” Remember lining up at the checkout counter of Giant, or checkin counter of Air Asia? How the queues that you chose NOT to take just happened to be faster, way faster, than the one you were stucked with. How you watched as the guy who queued at the same time as you happily sailed through in no time while you felt your miserable life slowly ebbed away while some silly customer in front wasted time with the checkout clerk for whatever reasons. Aaaargh!

And so it is at the CDM (Cash Deposit Machine). A woman spends ages depositing to many accounts. Slow, slow, slow. You wish your eyes could laser in two smouldering big holes in the middle of the slow loris’ back in front of you. You know, like Cyclops in X-Men. You are parked in a bad and illegal way outside because of your rush. Perhaps a mean 6 ton truck has already eaten the ass part of your new MyVi. Aaaargh!!

Finally, it is you, second only in line! In front are two 20-something young men–the way that they are dressed and their haircuts mark them as what a Dusun will call “ongkor” (nakal)–fiddling with the CDM. Whrrrriiillll goes the machine. Note rejected. Young men mumur with each other while reinserting the same bank note. Whrrrriiillll goes the machine again. Nope, note rejected again. Mumurs and discussion reintensifies. Probably their only 100 RM note left. Whrrrrrriiilllllllll! Nope. You look at the floor. You can almost see your life melt away like goo and flow along the shiny tiles of the bank. Aaaargh!!!

You can’t take it anymore. You tell the boys, “Boleh saya tolong tukar tu 100? Mungkin saya punya boleh.” And one of the boys turns and flash a sweet smile, “Tidak bah. Ini duit terlampau baru.” True enough: it is a spanking new note. The boy crumples and rubs the note. Puts it in. Whril. Wala! Success.

My turn.

Thank you, 20-something young men. I learned something new today. Sorry about the mischaracterisation. Cheers, Rayner

The indomitable human spirit

We tend to usually associate or pay more attention to heroics and great human fortitude by big names, celebrities and high-achieving athletes. Like the two guys who climbed the never-before-ascended El Kapitan rock face at the U.S. Yosemite National Park last month. Yet, from the people close to us and those ordinary folks we see everyday, if we pay attention enough, and see with our hearts, we can learn and draw great inspiration and strength from the indomitable human spirit that springs from their beating hearts.

I have 3 little stories to tell.

For some of you who lived or frequented Kota Kinabalu in the mid 80s, you would have met an old (70s) Chinese couple going around the coffee shops selling ma piau (lottery). For years as I was driving to work I would see this loving duo hand in hand walking, and during rainy seasons, brave the rains, towards KK to do their daily round of selling. In time I saw them resorting to using walking sticks, still hand in hand, slowly going to work. Until one day, I notice the old girl did not have her partner anymore by her side. Died? Must have. Still, for many years, she would travel the same route, now bent and leaning more on the cane, going to KK. Can you imagine? If you lost your beloved of 50 or more years—the walks and the journeys you traverse together, the friendship, the warm dependable presence of the Other – would you have the desire anymore?

In the 90s, I drove to work from Inanam to Kota Kinabalu daily (still do) following Jalan Tuaran. Some of you that did this may also have noticed in the mornings at the traffic lights near Basel Church Likas a blind guy alighting from a bus, and in his arms is a small girl in kindergarten uniform. So he would stand ready to cross the (it was already busy then) road, carrying (presumably) his daughter. For two years, every morning passing by the traffic lights I marvelled at the braveness and the unerring belief of this blind man that he can keep his daughter safe. And the love to do right by his daughter. Tap tap tap. The daughter must be mid 20s by now and I hope she is doing right by her dad.

I knew somebody close to me who has a tragic family life to tell. When he got married, as like any other newly-married couple, he and his lovely wife was eager to start a family. True enough, a beautiful child was born to the family. What happy excitement for dad and mom. And to us, close family members. We celebrated full moon birthday. Utterly sadly, baby died a few months old after struggling in and out of hospitals. I can only imagine their deep sadness. And then in subsequent years, as they tried to have a family, this loving couple lost two more babies, the last one a mere 8-months old boy (the oldest of the 3). Congenital heart defects the doctors said. This was utterly tragic and no words will describe the great pain that the parents must have felt. Somebody said that the deepest pain a person can feel is when she/he has to bury her/his child. I agree. Still, knowing them until today, I can draw utmost inspiration from the way that they went on with their lives – to go on living, to smile, to continue to work, to be loving to each other, and to go on trusting God. I sometimes imagined if I was in that situation: I would have turned into the emotional equivalent of blackened unmoving jelly; I would have blamed God.

(Di, if you are reading this, call me anytime.)