August 14, 2009

Excuse me?

Filed under: Uncategorized — theinkhorn @ 3:59 am

Its 12.20 and its way past closing time. The floors are filthy, the tables are sticky and the smoking area is in disarray. I’m sweating like a pig as i attempt to get everything done as soon as possible. My back is stabbing itself, my legs are ready to give way and my mouth is dry. 4 british patrons remain in the bar. Well, 3 british and one local tag-along. I’ve spoken to them at least four times and given them four 5-minute extensions. Besides being completely obnoxious, they have ignored every single warning my colleagues and i have given them. They’ve crossed the line.

“Okay, thats it guys. You have to go. I have to close.”

“Come on Alvin, we haven’t finished our beer yet!” Man A looks at me.

“I told you when you came in that you had to finish by 12 and you said it wasn’t going to be a problem, didn’t you?”

“Oh you’re so mean!” The british woman remarks.

“No i’m not. This is actually me being nice.”

“Oh just let us drink and we’ll leave soon.”

This continues for 5 more minutes. The british woman continues to push my buttons. She’s drunk, but it doesn’t really matter. She’s done it for me.

“God, you’re sad.”

Suddenly, a deafening silence engulfs the bar. The british woman looks me in the eye.

“I just went to see Keane in concert. I’m going to see the Black Eyed Peas soon. I work for Barclays Capital. I have a three day pass to the Grand Prix. Are you seriously telling me that i’m sad? I’m ready to walk out of here and never come back, and i’ll tell my friends never to come back, because you are being rude and racist.”

An alarm sounds in my head. This is it. As the woman continues ranting, i clear my throat. My brain is working in overdrive. It tells me to pick on her weaknesses, her insecurities. The woman is in her mid thirties, no wedding ring, out at midnight on a weeknight so clearly no kids, and she’s refusing to leave a bar even after closing time, which means she’s lonely and afraid of going home and being alone.

My ammunition is ready and just as i prepare to interrupt her, i suddenly remember a story the boss told me about how he threw some obnoxious customers out of the bar. “Never embarrass a customer in front of other people”, he said, “and always give them the option of leaving without being humiliated”. I look around. Patrick is cleaning up the bar. Yanty is counting money in the kitchen. Warren is at the table beside theirs. In less than a micro-second, my brain makes a decision.

“Fuck.” I mutter to myself.

“Fine, listen up. I’m going outside and i’m going to arrange the tables. By the time i’m done, you guys should be too.”

“Just go,” Man A says without even looking at me.

Later on i do manage to chase them away. The british woman leaves as soon as she spots me heading their direction. The local woman, heck i didn’t even realise she left. As i explain the licensing situation, the number of extensions i’ve given, and the fact that i’m tired, grumpy and hungry to them, Man A apologises and shakes my hand and Man B cracks a joke about how i deserve to be paid double what i’m getting now.

During the bike ride home, i replay the entire thing in my head over and over and over again. Should i have said something? Did i do the right thing? Could i have handle the situation better? Am i a rascist?  The woman did not intimidate me. Neither did her friends. I knew exactly what i was doing, exactly what i was saying. Why did i let it slide? Why did i not do what i always do, insult, humiliate and dismiss? I’ve ruled out intimidation and confusion. I don’t think i love my job enough to be afraid of losing it. I don’t think i love my boss enough to listen to his every word. I had the option of humiliating her in front of her friends and mine, but i didn’t take it.

The more i think about it, the more i feel like i shouldn’t have let her get away with it. Racism is a very sensitive issue in Singapore. To accuse me of something like that is beyond insulting, and it exposes her lack of knowledge about the very country she is working in. I can’t wait for her to come back, because the next time she does, i’ll make her wish she never met me. Some people just need to learn.


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