Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Day in the Life

I had just simplified a very complicated insurance policy document. My brain was screaming and I needed a break. Of course, I fully intended to get back to work, but in the meantime I needed to skive off.

Anyway, my pal Mary, who had been sojourning up North for the past six weeks was back in town and I hadn't seen her yet. So I called to see if she was free for lunch (she wasn't, this woman has a hectic social schedule) and we decided to meet for tea instead. In the meantime, I finished that document, sent it to the relevant people, packed up my stuff and was out of there.

There was some vague idea of bringing the laptop along in case I wanted to do some work (yeah, right!). Anyway was feeling very tired when we met. We discussed a few situations desultorily, sat down to a coffee and cinnamon bun (OK we had two, and not we, but me) and they were very good indeed.

Then I got a call from my colleague who was off his meeting and already in town to party. We were all supposed to be attending this farewell cocktail tonight.

"Do you think we should bring a gift?" I asked idly, examining my fingers with a negligent and languid grace.

"Um, no, no, I don't think so."

"Oh OK. Speak to you later. I'm with a friend now."


"Huh! Having coffee and cinammon buns."

"You skiver!"

"Better believe it!"

Not 20 minutes later, Chris SMS-ed me. Seems that he checked with the boss, and yes, we should get a present for the dear boy, good idea, and he's given us a budget and could I please do the needful.

Energy shifted. Suddenly I had a mission. I paced up and down the bookshop we had repaired to, purposefully, hands behind my back, forehead furrowed in concentration. Mary looked expectant. Considering that the function was due to start in like a minute, it was obvious that this would be a mad rush around to get the needful. One of our crazy adventures, so to speak.

Remember the search for the cookie cutter? Or finding Skoob? Or (OK I can't remember what our other adventures were, but I do know there are many, scattered among my archives).

"OK, I'm thinking a book, a bottle of wine..."

"Check with the boss first. I mean would that be corporate enough?"

"'re right."

I called the boss: "Hey K. I'm getting the gift. Does Jeff drink wine?"

K: "Yes, yes, I think he does,"

Me: I was thinking wine and a book.

K: Oh good idea, thanks Jenn.

Which is why when Chris called me 10 minutes later to say he was at the Royal Selangor Pewter and a pewter plaque may be a good idea, I could ixnay his idea quite comfortably.

OK, there is only one wine worth getting, if you're buying for a big cheese nice guy kind of person. Cape Mentelle. Cabernet Merlot. Problem is, there was none at Bangsar Village where we were at. And they didn't even have the book I wanted: Shantaram, which I'm sure Jeff would love (now he's moving on to do his own thing, surely he'd have time to read).

No problem. We charged into the car and headed for Bangsar Shopping Centre in after work traffic. I knew for a fact that there was Cape Mentelle at the bottle shop and they were even having a special on the Cape Mentelle Shiraz.

So I clattered in with Mary and we bought the CMCB (Cape Mentelle Cabernet Merlot, in case you were wondering) and asked the nice lady if she would kindly wrap if for me. She put the wine in a wine box, attached a ribbon and suddenly it looked suitably festive.

Mary (as we were hurrying towards the bookshop upstairs): "But the lady said there is no Shantaram in Bangsar.

Me: Aiya, she was talking about MPH. This one here is Times. You must know these things.

Not that it availed much to "know these things". Seems Times the bookshop was short of Shantaram too.

Lady at counter: I don't know what it is about that book. I keep ordering it and it keeps selling out. Old book some more.

I closed my eyes in exasperation. No hope for it, if I were thinking of getting that book, I'll have to go to MegaMall. Problem was, I was already late. The cocktail was supposed to start at 6.30. It was already pushing 7.

We walked around for a while looking at wine glasses. At the wine shop, they had samples of nice ones, which were out of stock. I didn't really want to get the cheap glass ones.

Royal Selangor: Because of the pewter stems a pair would cost RM450. A leetle over-budget. In fact, a lot.

Jeanine's: Only tacky glasses available.

Crown Crystal: Malaysian china unashamed. Very ugly Malaysian china. And the horrific red wine glasses cost RM980 a piece. We lingered not. Leave these ugly expensive monstrosities for the Datins, who would, er... "appreciate" them.

So we headed out for MegaMall. Mary suggested I call the boss to let him know where I was since I was now horribly late already.

I did. Boss said OK no problem. And thank you.

I pulled into the carpark at MegaMall and St Jude got us a place like pronto. On the right floor. Where we got the pair of wineglasses we had been eyeing lustfully at the wine shop, at a bargain basement price. It was on sale.

(In case you want to come visit now, do. It's the Malaysian Shopping Festival. Or Great Sale. Or some such thing)

MPH was next on the list. We struck paydirt. Caressing the golden covers of my newly acquired Shantaram I knew my long tiring quest had succeeded. (OK fine, I only checked four other bookshops, maybe five, but it FELT like a long tiring expensive quest)

I wanted to write a message in it. I wanted the message to be literary and profound. In fact, not like my company at all (though the message was on behalf of them).

Me: What did that Omar Khayyam fler say about a bottle of wine, a book and thou ah? Considering my selection of presents it would be particularly apposite.

Mary: Wasn't it a flask of wine? And I'm sure there was a loaf of bread in there somewhere.

Being in a bookshop we decided to investigate and found the Edward Fitzgerald translation:

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

So I wrote the message in the book with a few well-chosen words of my own.

Mary wondered whether we should buy a loaf of bread, to round off the selection. I thought yes but no but yes but no but yes but we didn't have the time.

Now I had to find professional present wrappers. I was already an hour late.

I wondered briefly why everything I did had to be such a production. Drama queen tendencies. Malayalee blood. What to do.

We rushed towards Jusco, which I knew provided professional gift wrapping services for its customers. Mistake. Even if you bought the gift wrappers from there, they wouldn't wrap your presents. But they wouldn't tell you that right away. Oh no. They would wait until you had been in line for 30 minutes and had worn a hole in the floor with all that impatient foot tapping because the line was 100 people long and there was only one subhuman genetically deficient girl with NEW STAFF emblazoned on her bosom, doing the wrapping as if she were competing for the Slowlympics, to tell you.

So we were off at a run once more. I was leading and Mary, who was carrying most of the stuff (because she insisted), a brave second. When what should meet our blighted eyes but a gift shop directly opposite Jusco.

The two nice girls there dealt with my gifts professionally and I emerged with two very tastefully wrapped presents in black and gold with gold ribbon. Of course, it cost the earth, but since the boss was paying anyway...let us be elegant or die!

Now it was time to rejoin the car. Problem was I kinda forgot where I parked it.

Mary: No, this doesn't look like the right door. It had a glass window remember?

Me: It must be, it must be, hey! Weren't we in G? This is H.

So we ran the length of MegaMall, loaded with gifts, and found the car. I asked Mary if she would mind gatecrashing. After all, she had helped pick the gifts. Followed me all over creation to do so. Carried them most of the way.

"We don't have to stay, but I don't have time to send you home now. Come on, you'll love it."

"But I haven't been invited!"

(She is very proper about these things. I gatecrash anything quite cheerfully)

I called my boss to say I was on my way and asked if it was OK for me to bring a friend as she really helped in the whole gift-buying thing. He said, it's a she? Then sure, of course.

Although it was not his party, really.

He SMS-ed me a little earlier: Where are you? Party looks like it's gonna end soon. I need to leave.

Me: Can you hold on? Please? Nearly there.

Anyway, there was the usual Friday jam in Bangsar so we inched forward sloooooooowly. It was not good for my blood pressure, so I took deep breaths and tried to calm myself.

Once we hit the railway station, traffic thinned out and I could hurtle along like a maniac. I took one wrong turn (because it would not be legit if I didn't take at least one wrong turn). Finally made it to the carpark of Hotel Maya.

A colleague called: "Eh where are yoular? We're all waiting. Hurry up. I want to go home already."


"I'm in the carpark, be up in a minute."

Mary was panting after me as we hauled all the presents up. That and our own two heavy bags made for a lot of stuff. We took the wrong lift up and found we were in the wrong place.

What did that Murphy fler say again? And wasn't he an optimist?

I called Chris: "I'm on the 13th floor and I can't see you!"

"Wait, I'll come out and look for you."

He did.

Called me: "I don't see you anywhere. Can you describe where you are?"

"Yeah, there seems to be offices all round."

"Aiya, you're in the office block lar. Come down to the lobby. Cross over to the hotel side. And get one of them to take you up to the Sky Lounge."

We did.

Finally, finally, finally. I was there. In one piece. Mary hung back and asked me to go on ahead with the gift-giving ceremony. I presented everything to Jeff and the bro, being a little squiffy, caught me up in a clumsy hug and insisted that one of his guests, with a digital camera, capture the moment. With my zit and all.

Oh dear.

I smiled gamely anyway.

I told Jeff that I had a friend along and asked whether she could come. He said, yes, by all means, the more the merrier.

Mary, who was on the phone with the Old Girl when I went to get her, joined the party.

Someone shimmered up to us with two glasses of red.

I took a sip.

And exhaled.



goldennib said...

My nerves are frazzled and I am exhausted. How about you?

Jenn said...

Wine makes the world seem a nicer place. The night improved once we finally made it there.

Jackie said...

Glad to hear your night improved, Jenn. I'm sure I'd have been aware of my blood pressure, too. I don't like gift shopping at the best of times - to be doing it 'under the gun' would have been too much! Bring on the wine.

Susanna said...

Wow. I felt stressed out just reading this. Glad you made it before the night ended.

Jenn said...

Jackie: Yeah it did. Tremenjusly. But I like gift shopping though. When I have time to linger.

Su: I know. I felt stressed out writing it too. :)