Monday, May 23, 2011


Sometimes I feel like someone has thrown up a wall between me and the rest of the world. None of my words get through and I seem to be existing in an alternate universe. I watch others through a glass, darkly, through a mirror, but I reach out and touch the hard surface, something impenetrable between me. And them. So many thems. All singing on the other side. They do not see me. It's like in a dream. They do not know I watch.

Being Zen is easy when you're in a spa, or in your room, sitting cross-legged on a meditation mat, chanting OM over and over again and observing your breathing. It's not as easy when you've a meeting to get to, and although you've arrived at the toll plaza two hours early, you've gone straight into a road that resembles a parking lot.

From the emergence of ambulances, you know there must be an accident up ahead. But the traffic continues to arrive and it's been 10 minutes and you have barely inched forward. 20 minutes. Half an hour.

Finally, you manage to get out of there, double back, try to find another way. To no avail. You arrive at the meeting you could not miss, 40 minutes late, to face a very pissed off client.

Try to remain Zen through it. Try to do it as every car on the road misbehaves, and you nearly get into a dozen accidents as the panic level rises. When your bones feel funny and creaky and injured as if there were hairline cracks on all, and you think, no, I cannot fall apart now, I have to make this, I cannot fall asleep now, I have to make this...

Funnily enough the first part of the journey, at the later part of four in the morning was as peaceful as the night. Some fog, a few car lights, quiet, quiet, sounds only of the MP3 plug-in, and the early early morning, caressing you with its knowing, its certainty. Yes, we were early. We would be on time. No problem.

So the traffic started to pick up around Seremban. So what? We were still early. Masses of time. So there were signs that said, traffic is slow after toll. So what? Traffic is always slow(er) after the toll. Masses of time.

But there's a difference between "slow" and "not moving at all".

And when we manage to turn back and go through Kajang, getting onto the LDP, the traffic is crawling. Another accident. And guess what? It's not only the police and ambulance that's out. There are people standing outside the IOI Mall.

"Fire drill," says Chubs, who is the one late for the meeting. I am the one trying to get him there on time and getting more frantic with each passing moment. I breathe in and out. Tell myself that this panic never got anyone anywhere. And panic a little more anyway.

Then he looks more closely. There is smoke billowing out of the mall. There are firefighters shooting jets of water into it.

"No, not a drill, there's a real fire."

And the traffic continues to crawl. A road I was following which said Petaling Jaya/Kuala Lumpur suddenly says, no, I'm heading towards Cheras. Which is not where I want to be heading. And as traffic on both sides is chock a block, I cannot inch my way into the right road. But which is the right road? The signs seem to be confused. After I change roads the signs ahead tell me that I was originally on the right road after all.

Anymore of this and I am going to hit someone real hard.


We arrive at Chubs's house and he rushes to iron a shirt and perform his ablutions. I help him with the shirt. We rush out of the house post-haste and he decides to drive because my jerky emergency braking is not helping matters any.

"Wow. This is such a strange day. We seem to be blocked every step of the way," I say.

But we take only 15 minutes to get to his office. I'm tired. Real tired. But I take over the wheel and head on home. To take a nap. Before my assignment. A few minutes at least as I'm feeling quite shattered.

I wake up to find all the veins in my eyes have popped. I have seriously red eyes. And I have to go interview these women about a national form of art. I arrive too early, so go off by myself and have a very very oily bowl of aglio olio that I don't finish. Make a mental note never to eat in this place again (OK I was giving it a chance, but apparently, it didn't deserve the chance, good to know) and then, cross the road in the midst of a thunderstorm to get to the house I have to conduct the interview in.

They're lively and engaged and nice...I'm struggling to keep awake (which sometimes happens) and after...I come home, this time to sleep. For real.

It's five hours later before I emerge from the mists of Morpheus. Chubs is supposed to call me to come pick him up as I have his car. I give him a call and he says, yeah, I'm still at the office, I'll call you when I get onto the LRT.

But it's two hours later and he hasn't called and he isn't answering his phone or texts. I feel a sliver of worry, mixed with the knowledge that Chubs regularly misplaces his phone, leaves in the car, the apartment, the office. But it's late. And he is likely very very tired. And unlike me, he had to hit the ground running. No five-hour nap.

I hope he's OK.

Still not feeling very Zen.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like an awfully trying day, I do hope you're both okay. I absolutely detest dense traffic, it does seem to bring out the very worst in people. Fortunately, the population out here is sparse enough that I can generally be across the city in about 30-40 minutes. No comlaints on that count. Still wish we had decent commuter rail, like they have in Europe.

Jenn said...

Hi there! He simply didn't hear his phone. I kept trying (forcing myself to not go into full panic, breathing in and out for all the good it did) and he finally answered and said...oh, I didn't hear the phone.

If you hate traffic, just for fun, you should come to KL on a Monday morning, after a big big will sit in the car, fume and get nowhere fast.

But even by KL's standards yesterday was surreal.

Anonymous said...

(sigh of relief) Excellent.

I have seen pictures of traffic in Hong Kong and Singapore, and it makes me shudder. I recall one afternoon in Paris, watching in horror as neither the cars nor the pedestrians seemed to pay any attention to the traffic signs. Yet somehow, smash-ups and traffic fatalities were not an everyday occurrence there. I suppose it all boils down to what you're used to. You would probably have to blindfold me (after slipping a sedative in my tea) for a morning commute in KL! :)

Jenn said...

Yes, but then you'd miss all the heart-stopping moments. As well as me hitting the steering wheel and screaming like a banshee. And that would be a pity.

Anonymous said...

Well, I guess I wouldn't want to miss that! =)

Since I'm usually very polite, my friends are often quite shocked at the things they hear me say while driving, cursing like the proverbial mad sailor that I guess I am, ha...

Jenn said...

Oh glad you told me. I will subcontract the cursing out to you then. So I get to concentrate on driving. Badly. It's the only way.

Jenn said...

It took me a while but I finally got your mad sailor quip, you Mat Salleh you!

Anonymous said...