An Unwanted Encounter at the Supermarket

Or otherwise known as ‘I Should’ve Gone to the Supermarket the Day Before Like I Planned Instead of Procrastinating

I love supermarkets and grocery shopping. I find it calming to systematically peruse each aisle looking for the items on my list. For me, it’s an activity that helps me find my zen.

Yesterday though, my experience at the supermarket was furthest from calm.

I’d done my systematic combing of the aisles and got everything I needed for dinner, I was ready to go. I chose the checkout line that seemed to be moving the fastest and waited my turn. While I unloaded my ingredients for dinner onto the conveyor belt, I heard my name being called. I looked up and two checkout lines away was Aileen. I hadn’t seen her in ages! I can’t even remember the last time I saw her. These days we ‘kept in touch’ only via Facebook and even then, all I did was ‘like’ her cat-related posts.

I gave Aileen a half-hearted wave as I took out the last item from my basket for the cashier to scan, hoping she’ll return a half-hearted wave too and stay in her checkout line. Unfortunately, my luck has never been great because Aileen rushed on over to the checkout line I was in where we exchanged an awkward side-hug.

“What a surprise!” I exclaimed, injecting as much joy as I could into my greeting. I don’t like bumping into people I know at supermarkets and so far, she’s the first person I know that I’ve bumped into after all these years of shopping there. “What are you doing here?” I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“I hardly come here,” she revealed, “but I found out that this is the only supermarket now that stocks the one and only cat litter that my cat will use.”

“Oh, really?” I replied absentmindedly as I handed my credit card to the cashier.  I collected my bag of groceries and moved out of the line. Aileen came with me.

“We were just talking about you last night!!!”

“We?” I stopped and faced her, confused.

“Yeah! Felicia and I!”

“You and Felicia?” Yes, I was beginning to sound like a parrot.

“Yes, last night, during Aaron’s wedding dinner. Felicia and I sat next to one another and we were talking about you!”

Aaron’s wedding dinner??? Okay, I was not liking where this conversation was going. I desperately needed to not hear anything else about this topic but I didn’t want to let her see that I was bothered by it so nonchalantly I said, “I’m surprised that I came up in conversation at all, I don’t meet any of the old gang anymore.” I stepped back hoping she’ll get the hint that I needed to go.

“Oh, we were just talking about all our friends in general, where they were, what they were doing now. Alfred was there too, with his wife and two kids but they sat at a different table. And Tat Mun flew back just for the dinner!”

In my head, I was screaming Why is she telling me all this??? But before I could stop myself, I asked “Where was the dinner?” I gave myself a mental smack.

“Oh, somewhere in KL, near Imbi. It was mostly his Singaporean friends who attended. There was just a few of us there.” I looked at my watch, pretended to be shocked at the time eventhough the time didn’t register with me and said to Aileen “Hey, it was nice to bump into you but I really have to go.” I felt no guilt about lying but I didn’t want to hear any more because I could feel my heart started to race and I was feeling very annoyed at myself for being here when I could’ve avoided this entire useless conversation had I gone to the supermarket the day before as planned.

“Oh, okay, I think I have your number,” she took out her phone and scrolled through her address book. I was already at least three feet away from her, ready to dash to the parking lot. “Here it is! I’ll give you a missed call!”

“Yes, I can feel my phone vibrating.” I didn’t bother taking the phone out of my bag and I couldn’t feel if it was vibrating or not because I didn’t care. “Keep in touch!” With a quick wave, I ran away from her.

I reached my car, got into it, rested my head on the steering wheel and took several deep breaths. I truly didn’t expect the day to turn out the way it did. I wish I could un-know what I just found out. Un-learn the fact that every year, on September 3rd, he’ll be celebrating his wedding anniversary. I wished (again and again) that I’d gone to the supermarket yesterday. I looked at my bags of groceries and thought that perhaps I should learn to find my zen in online grocery shopping from now on.

Daily Prompt: Fierce

In response to the Daily Prompt’s Daily Post: Fierce

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The sea was fierce the day we made the attempt but we were on a schedule. “Moderate waves with fairly frequent white horses,” the Offshore Installation Manager told us, “My guys will monitor the sea conditions. If it gets worse, I’ll instruct the boat to turn back.”

It was early morning, we stepped onto the transfer basket, our bags and safety helmets secured in the designated space in the centre. We clutched the ropes tightly, positioning ourselves on opposite sides for stabilisation. The bosun’s walkie-talkie crackled. He lifted it to his ear and gave us the thumbs up. The crane lifted us up above the platform, swung us out gently so that we hovered for a minute above the South China Sea. My hair tied into a ponytail was whipping back and forth. The smell of exhaust fumes from the crane seemed out of place here, far out at sea. The both of us looked across to one another and grinned as we savoured the view. Then we were lowered, the basket swaying slightly, to the tug boat waiting below which was bobbing a little too much for my liking.

The basket landed on the boat with a soft thud and I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. When we stepped off the basket and onto the deck of the tug boat, I asked her why she was grinning earlier while we dangled probably twenty stories above the rough water. I licked salt water from my lips while she re-arranged her tudung which had gone askew. “I looked at you, and then thought to myself how in the heck I ended up here!” She exclaimed, laughing. I joined her in laughter, nudged her shoulder and told her I was thinking the same thing.

Then we sat back, held tight and let the wind snatch away our fears and worries that day.

How to Get Noticed by (nosy) Relatives at a Wake

We entered my Uncle’s house. The Uncle who’d just passed away the previous evening. My father’s sister-in-law saw us and immediately went to my father, clutched his shoulders and wailed. My mother and I excused ourselves as we walked pass the relatives who were already there, sitting cross-legged, on the kasah that was scattered on the floor of the living room.  We sat in a corner of the room furthest away from my Uncle’s body.

I’d gone back to Kuching that weekend to spend time with Auntie Jenny and Uncle Steve, who’d come all the way from England. The possibility that I’d be on the way to Simunjan, a 2.5 hour drive away, that hot and sultry Saturday morning with my parents, was unplanned for. Truthfully, I was reluctant to go. I didn’t know my father’s relatives and the customs. I was afraid that I’d accidentally say or do something inappropriate. After mulling it a bit, I decided not to worry about it though because surely everyone would be busy planning for the funeral and I’d just be another face in the crowd.

Unfortunately, despite trying my hardest to be unobtrusive, relatives descended upon me mainly because

…of my tattoos. You would think that coming from an ethnic group that prides itself on its tattoos that having them would be commonplace. Apparently not among this group of Ibans. Except for me, no one else had visible tattoos. I kept catching the older relatives glance not too discreetly at my tattoo-adorned wrists and ankles. The younger relatives were just outright staring as they sat on the wooden benches chain-smoking.

…I barely speak the language. Growing up, I learnt the native language my mother spoke, not my father’s. The only thing I knew how to say in my father’s native language is makai (eat), ngirup (drink), jalai (walk) and aku enda mereti (I don’t understand).  Thankfully, Iban and Bahasa Malaysia have similar words so when one of the relatives spoke to me in Iban, I tried to catch any Bahasa Malaysia-sounding words and extrapolate the conversation from there. Even then, the relatives tended to speak to me three or four at a time and this made following any conversation difficult. In the end, I smiled and replied au (yes). I had some weird looks when I kept repeating au, but I was overwhelmed.

…I am still unmarried. My relatives (and even strangers, unfortunately) love asking about my marital status. I didn’t think this question would even come up though since it was a wake and the last thing anyone should be talking about is who is married and who isn’t. I was wrong. Again. A grandaunt asked my father how many children he has and was I the oldest, youngest or middle child. She then asked him if I was married and when he replied that I was bujang (single), that’s when my ears perked up. She followed up with asking if my younger siblings were married and when he responded in the affirmative, her eyes widened with surprise (I suppose). This discussion between the grandaunt and my father attracted the attention of the other relatives and the word bujang kept coming up. I inched away from them as stealthily as possible and went outside where no one was talking about my state of singlehood (I hope).

Maybe next time, at another gathering of relatives, I’ll cover up my tattoos and get a quickie marriage so that the relatives will notice someone else instead.

The (U)ncircumcision Revelation

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, during a steamboat dinner with the clients, I accidentally found out that one of them was uncircumcised.

I was in Si Racha, Thailand. The clients brought me to one of their favourite restaurants, Zab Restaurant, which was famous for serving Northeastern Thai cuisine, a type of steamboat/ spicy sukiyaki cuisine where you were given the broth and raw meat/ seafood on a platter and you’d cook them yourself.

Two of the managers I was with decided to do the ‘cooking’ which consisted of mixing a raw egg with the raw meat and then dropping it into the boiling spicy broth. Two men cooking for lil’ ol me. It felt surreal.

Of course, what came next went way, WAY beyond surreal.

The managers were regaling me with stories about their family. One manager was asking the other if he’d get his son circumcised. The other manager was expecting their first baby boy. He said he wasn’t sure whether it was necessary or not since he himself wasn’t circumcised and everything was working fine.

I almost spit out my beer but didn’t. Too. Much. Information. How in the heck did I get into situations like these?

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What did you accidentally find out about your clients/ associates that you wish you didn’t?

The (K)yrgyz Encounter

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, I’m watching government officials from Kyrgyzstan frolic in the sand and water at the beach.

The officials were here for a week-long visit and The Boss agreed to their request (well, not a request since they paid us) that we accompanied and introduced them to their counterparts in the country. Easy and interesting, I thought.

Yep, spoke too soon yet again.

We traveled through several states by chartered bus because the government officials didn’t have the budget for flights and they complained the entire time about how long the journey was even though they were aware beforehand that the trips would take several hours from one destination to the next.

The head of the delegation told us that she wanted to arrive on time for the meetings but when we arrived earlier, she got angry and said she didn’t want to be early, she wanted to be ON TIME.

The weirdest thing though was that they insisted (not a request since they realised they paid us) we bring them to a beach because apparently, some of them had never seen the ocean. I assumed The Boss would say no since this was not part of our job scope AND we’re not tourist guides but The Boss was concerned that they’d be offended if we weren’t being “helpful” and said yes. We arrived at the beach and the ladies insisted they change into their bathing costumes IN the bus because they were worried the public changing room was below their standards. Then the Boss asked me if I wanted to swim. “No.” I replied not liking this at all. Then she told me that we’d have to stay and watch them because she was worried that something would happen to them. I’d thought this would be a drop-off but no, we had to babysit them while they tried to stay afloat and took selfies while they rolled around on the sand.

Seriously, how in the heck did I get here?

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Have you ever wondered how you got yourself into some strange situations at work? Elaborate 🙂