Still Reeling

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

I can't recall the last time I felt so... Enraged. Used. Stupid.

Here's what transpired this morning.

After I dropped the kids off at their respective schools, I headed over to the kopitiam near my office--upbeat about having a nice quick breakfast and beginning work on a custom order for a client. I had 10 litres of palm oil to lug up to the office in addition to the other ingredients, so I made sure I brought some containers and my hand truck with me.

I sit down for my breakfast at 8:45am, aiming to be at the office by about 9:15 so I'd have ample time to complete the morning's work. Just as I was about to pack up, this lady whom I hadn't met in years came into the coffee shop and we said hi. I invited her to sit with me for a while, thinking that she'd also have a quick breakfast (she said she was in a rush for a meeting down town at 10am) and that we could catch up a bit. She's kinda like family, but very distantly related.

She starts by asking how's business, how's my dad... The usual banter. Then she mentions that she and her hubby have retired, and recently got involved in 'offering a very safe savings plan' by a banking institution.

Ah, a sales pitch, I think. That's alright, let's just hear her out.

"To be honest, I never liked insurance. I don't like sales either. But I wish I had paid attention to this kind of thing when I was younger so I'd know how to manage my money better."

I pay her full attention, because it's the proper thing to do. And everyone has to make a living, right?

I let her go on about all kinds of things and stories of poor relatives who found out too late that they were ill-prepared to pay for a heart bypass. I've heard this all before, but that's okay.

Somehow the conversation gets diverted to religion. I think it was because we were discussing the issue of domestic help (I mentioned that we are really blessed to have Chanrany with us), and she felt that Filipinos are 'better' servants because they are more 'spiritual' by nature. "They're all Christians mah." I didn't quite know what to make of that statement, but I just let her continue talking.

She mentions that she has a relative who has a habit of beating her servants. If I'm not mistaken, she was also referring to this same relative when she said that she and her husband used to attend bible classes hosted at their home to understand Christianity better. "We are the only Buddhists in our family," she explains. "Our faith is strong."

"My husband reads the Bible and the Quran. He can quote from them both. When we attended those bible study classes my husband had to explain the meaning of the texts to the rest of the people because they  didn't understand what they were reading. We wanted to understand Christianity better, so we would know how to deal with them."

"How to deal with them"? That sounds like a mildly aggressive stance to me.

"Our faith in Buddha never wavered, even when we went to bible study classes. We just want to have a better understanding of all religions."

Coming back to the issue of the abused domestic help, she cited that as an example of why she can't accept Christianity. "They don't behave the way that we understand that they should, based on reading the bible. It doesn't make sense."

Granted, her viewpoint is valid. That kind of behaviour towards domestic help is uncalled for and unacceptable.

But aunty, why are you telling me all this in the first place?

I can't remember exactly what else she said, but she had so much Stuff that she had to get out of her system, so many opinions she wanted heard, achievements that she wanted to share (she's very proud of her daughter who's now working in London). And I let her. Throughout this entire time, I only spoke once or twice. The rest of it, I spent giving her all my focus and empathy as best as I could.

It was, I felt, the right thing to do. Some people just need someone to listen to them. But I think I somehow gave too much of myself in the course of her holier-than-thou tirade, which she brilliantly cloaked in smiles and looks of amazement.

The monologue continued until her mobile finally rang, and she announced that she had to leave. She paid for our breakfasts, said it was such a treat to be able to catch up with me, and rose from her chair.

"So you think about the savings plan, and give me a call if you'd like to hear more about it okay?"

I said I would. We said our goodbyes and she left.

My phone's clock display told me it was 10:10am--I had lost a whole hour of work time. I could have finished the order already! Shit. I rush over to the car and start loading up the handtruck with the oils and other things.

After I finally lug everything up two floors to my office, my phone rings. It's Han. "Do you have the Macbook with you?"

I did, because my recipes are in there. I also forgot that he needed it for his Webcamp presentation this evening, and he was to leave the house soon to go to work.

Cursing under my breath at my stupidity, I locked up the office and headed home--work unfinished, feeling utterly drained and frustrated. And cheated.

Maybe this whole thing seems worse than it really is because of my hormones. I feel particularly tired today. But I came home and cried into Han's shoulder anyway.

Why did my day start with someone trying to sell me a bank product, AND also inflict their spiritual viewpoints on me when I didn't ask for it? I laughed through my tears at the absurdity of the scene, but I still felt angry.

And worst of all, I didn't manage to keep my promise to my client, whom I had told yesterday that I would be working on her long overdue order this morning.

I'm still trying to convince myself that I was right where I was meant to be this morning, seated at the kopitiam having my breakfast at 9:05am. God, I was, right?

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