Friday, May 01, 2009

On opposite sides

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He looks at the prominent red LED clock on the wall. He contrasts the numbers displayed with the one printed on his tiny slip of paper. 42 minutes and he is still waiting. He stretches his shoulders awkwardly, trying not to bang into the frail lady sitting on his left and the squirming kid on his right. The back of the plastic seat is too low to support his now aching back. He undo the first two buttons of his shirt in a vain effort to cool down the unattractive concoction of impatient and frustration that is starting to boil in his body.

He glances up at the girl sitting on the other side of the counter. She wears a constant smile, laughing and joking with the young man she is serving. Damn, he thought, there she is, taking her own sweet time swooning over a hunk while he is festering here, waiting ages for his turn. He looks at the red LED clock again and grimaced. Damn, his parking ticket will be due in another 5 minutes. He needs to pick up his son from school in half and hour, and there’s still a heap of papers he need to tackle before he can afford to take forty winks.

At long last, they say goodbyes and the guy is gone. He looks at the number under the clock. 1431 it flashed. Still 3 more numbers to go. He glares at the girl again, he sees her chatting to the girl on the next counter. He groans as the frail lady next to him stands up and shuffles to the counter. This is going to take long too. He sees the girl getting up from her seat and opening a door next to the counter, inviting the old lady to come in. They disappear from his view, and he is left staring at a big blue empty chair behind the counter.

He drabs the perspiration forming like hot water bubbles on his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt. He feels dizzy in the afternoon heat that was left encountered by the malfunctioned air-conditioning. A baby cries somewhere in the sea of waiting people. Some kids resort to treat the place as their playground. running and shrieking around.  

1434 the number flashed. His turn. He walks angrily to the counter. What kind of attitude is this, he demands in a raised voice. Do you know how long I had been waiting? Do you know I have other important things to do? He raves and he rants. His anger spills like a flowing river, and it is silently absorbed by the girl on the other side of the counter.

She looks at the man when he finally run out of steam. She offers him a smile, and apologises profusely for the wait. She has a soothing calm voice, a melodious chime in her voice even. She gives him his medications, explaining what they are for. She looks concerned as he spells out his difficulty in remembering when to take his medicines. She nods and inform him the best way to take them, giving simple practical advices. She smiles and she cares. She is the epitome of niceness and he feel a prang of guilt over his own behaviour.

He leaves the place a contented man, with the medicines and a piece of priceless happiness to treat his high blood pressure.

Out of sight, the girl heaves a sigh and shakes her head. This is a hell of a frustrating job. What had she done in her past life that merited a punishment of meeting with a slew of  angry customers everyday, she wonders. Only her self-discipline and work ethics stopped her from yelling back at the man. Whoever coined the word the customer is always right should be shot, she thought angrily. Somehow in the last five minutes, her happiness had flowed to the man and in return, his angriness had filled the void inside her.

1 comment:

Galahad said...

magnum opus! the last sentence nailed it all. Customer is always right is a wrong. People identified themselves as "customers" always carry with them a sense of sacred superiority that defies company rules and respect for others as a human being. For how many times people yelled at us about the cost of their medication, demand refund for a box of tablets that "do not work", or launch full on personal attack, forgetting that we, are just another innocent being that deserves no less human dignity and respect.

It is part of our life, not many people want to work long hours, being treated badly, and don't get paid enough. Call it reward or challenge, I have been over the agony and earnest will to change the world.