You know you have crossed over into that troubled state when great big banners declaring ‘Daulat Tuanku’ (God Save the King!) and ‘Rakyat Perak dirompak UMNO/BN’ (The people of Perak has been robbed by UMNO/BN) greets you at the state borders. In the towns, flags of political parties lined the roadsides, while in coffee shops over hushed whispers, you would probably catch scraps of conversation centering on the present political situation in Perak.
There is no doubt of course that people here are angry at what’s happening to the state and thought the protest at the Ubudiah mosque in Kuala Kangsar was 2 weeks before, you can sense there is a quiet fire burning. Little did I know as I mused about all this, driving along the side of wide open paddy fields, that I was going to feel some of the 'heat', though of a totally non-political nature of course. :)
It all started with my 'mission' to go to Lumut and conduct a so called 'close out meeting' for our commissioning works there with the client. Sounds simple right? I thought so too. I had been looking forward in getting out of the office for while.
After a 3.5 hour drive down scenic country roads, I finally reached Kencana ship yard and immediately hooked up with the team working there for the last 2 weeks. Got a brief introduction on what's going on, listening to points for improvement and recommendations for the next commissioning works that is to be done in the next 2 months. (*Yawn) All rather standard project engineering work if you please. :)
Meeting started on time at 2:00pm and after some initial confusion with who is to chair the meeting (duh! it should be the one calling for the meeting of course, me!), we went on with the first agenda.
That was when it started to go to hell.
As I was requesting my team member to give a 'brief' explanation of what went on at the yard during the last two weeks, this 'gwei lo' suddenly interjected me claiming that he already knew all that and wanted to just 'move on'.
I was mildly surprised, more from his abject lack of manners than anything else. "Who the heck is this guy anyway?"
I reasoned that whether he knew everything already or not, perhaps it would still be ok to give a brief description of the work done so that it can be formally incorporated into the minutes of the meeting.
To this, my American commissioning team member agreed and continued with the brief.
The meeting went on normally for a while before it became my turn to talk again. This time enquiring the yard management on how the jig built for the commissioning job is going to be stored and who is it going to be charged for it to be built.
Before the yard manager could respond, once more, that same 'gwei lo' interrrupted, this time with a hint of irritation that he did not want to discuss about 'commercial issues' and that 'he didn't have time to waste talking about it'.
This is beginning to be irritating I thought, "What's wrong with this guy anyway?"
Hoping to salvage the meeting despite the outright hostile attitude displayed by this man, I gave in, allowing this 'gwei lo' to rattle about future production rates and all that, probably trying to impress the crowd with his 'vast' operational knowledge while I sat there, the devil within me wanting to 'interrupt him' in return by asking what is the relevance of all this useless prattle.
The straw that broke the camel's back finally came when as I tried to explain the condition of the second package and what would be expected of the teams in terms of commissioning time frame, this gwei lo barged in again, looking me with the beady eyes on his hog like face and quite rudely told me off.
"I have had it with you talking about commercial issues! If you want to talk about it, talk in a different forum."
Well, EXCUSE ME! "What is your beef man?!" I thought. What's with your problem talking about 'commercial issues' anyway? What exactly is 'commercial issues' to you anyway? How come everytime I open my mouth, you scream 'commercial issues'?
Not wanting to be talked down by this arrogant 'gwei lo', I explained to him that the issue we were talking about was important, not only due to the fact that it will incur some cost on the client, it will also incur some extension of time which I am sure everybody in the room needs to know.
"You're wasting MY time."
"I see," I replied. "Then perhaps it's best I keep my mouth shut."
That's it. The meeting's shot. This balding, overweight gwei lo (nine months pregnant perhaps) just hijacked it, thinking in his self centered, self serving mind of his that perhaps the meeting is all focussed on him without thinking what others might contribute or need to find out.
Parliamentary decorum would have required me and my team to stage a walk out but I chose remained instead and tried to calm my raging heart. The meeting went on, but not really for very long.
When somebody asked "Any further issues?"
My response was, "Nothing, since you probably knew EVERYTHING already isn't it?" and that was it. Meeting over, if you could call that a 'meeting'.
There was really nothing to gain from being mean to people. In all his arrogance, perhaps he might have forgotten that he had severed one critical line of information and help for a very important package on the platform. I don't necessarily need to deal with him. There are hordes of people like him in that hydra-like organization of his. He on the other had to deal with me.
I resolved to forget about this petty and mean, 'little' (what the Chinese say 'siew yan') man. Because if there is anything this guy wants to achieve by being mean to someone else is that the someone else takes it to heart and 'feels' it.
Bottom line is, we pick the fights we want to fight. The bait is useless if we don't bite.
You are only as miserable as you allow yourself to be, don't give them that satisfaction and keep that smile on your face.
And that applies everywhere and everytime. Not just in this case.
Despite the failure of the meeting, I managed to fulfill most of what I came there to do. I don't know about this guy though, perhaps the ONLY achievement for the day is to put somebody down and for that I guess, I pity him...