My Boss, My Loss

I love Fridays. So much so I tell myself every day is a Friday. It avoids the blues of a Monday or the dread of mid-week with the weekend still seemingly an eternity away. I love Friday nights, especially. A Friday night is a movie night. There is no longer the need to go to a drive-in or drive to a Video Ezy store for a VHS tape – there just isn’t one anymore, the stores I mean. The VHS tapes I still have – some precious ones in my collection such as the digitally mastered THX Special Edition Star Wars Trilogy and Christopher Nupen’s Jacqueline Du Pre and the Elgar Cello Concerto. There is no need to do an illegal download either, The Pirate Bay and Napster have long disappeared. A long time ago we used to pester family members to buy us VCD’s of pirated movies from pasar malam or night markets in Penang or KL before they come and visit us in Adelaide. All that is history too which may require me to explain what a VCD was – Video CD, usually pirated and sold in Southeast Asia for just a dollar a copy. At that price, no one complained about the poor quality. Yet, I still have the voluminous Winter Sonata collection stashed away. Don’t ask me why, maybe it has something to do with Choi Ji-woo. Giving her up is hard to do. Nowadays we have free online streaming such as iView and SBS On-Demand. Netflix is also free, but only because First Son pays for it. Friday nights offer me the luxury to sit on my sofa chair like how a lord would, outstretched legs overhanging from the recliner chair, the gin and tonic a genuine tonic to lift me up from the pits another hectic and stressful week had banished me to.

My VHS collection, precious only because of the memories

Tonight’s movie is about a small group of immortal mercenaries in The Old Guard. They are led by the very feminine Charlize Theron whose puny arms, slender body and skinny legs are not those you’d expect of a lethal indefatigable fighter who has not lost a fight since time immemorial. Incredibly beautiful eyes, interesting storyline but just a very unconvincing immortal fighter. Where’s Chen Pei-Pei when we need her? Theron is unconvincing, she is no Wonder Woman. There were some fine scenes that resembled martial arts, but her puny arms just don’t look like they would hurt a fly. Her inability to convince me she can be a lethal weapon suddenly made me feel I am as unconvincing too. Not as a weapon but as the boss of my business and the boss of my family. I am no lord. I am no boss of the house either. Theron opened my eyes and forced me to look at my own deception. Look at the way I sit on my own throne. It is no throne. It’s actually a broken lopsided sofa chair with badly scuffed leather that is screaming for a badly needed coat of leather polish. Look at me. I am not even sitting fully spread on my chair. Why? Look at Murray, First Son’s pup. He has ownership of more than half the seat and therefore has consigned me to sit on the side of my backside with a twisted torso. Who is the boss? I am at a loss to tell you the truth.

Murray dislikes me sitting on his brown pillow.

Earlier today, I took him to the backyard, immediately after I finished work. His favourite game is football (we still call it soccer here) – I seldom get the ball past him for he is such an agile goalie. No, no. It is not that I am a novice at kicking a tennis ball. Murray is simply so much sharper and his reflexes faster than the best goalies we see on TV. Please move aside, Manuel Neuer, David De Gea and Buffon. You guys are old and slow by comparison. I hadn’t checked my mobile phone for over an hour. So, whilst Murray was taking a breather, I thought I could sit under the gazebo and read some of the WhatsApp messages that trickle in incessantly. Not a chance. He barked at me as I was checking my phone. Who is the boss, I asked? He insisted I put away the phone. No phones allowed on the football field, especially during penalty kicks. I suppose it is not such an unreasonable rule. As the boss, I quickly agreed to the request, lest it became a demand.

Once upon a time, I was the sole breadwinner for my family of seven. The Mrs very quickly produced us three sons. Her parents lived with us then, all seven of us under the one roof. I remember the innumerable late nights upstairs at my desk toiling away till the wee hours whilst the rest of the family enjoyed their slumber. Back then, I believed I was the boss of the family. And, as the boss, you will do whatever it takes to deliver a safe and secure environment for your family. The boss provides what the family needs. There were no “wants” to satisfy. It turned out to be a good thing. No soft drinks, no junk food and no useless toys that only damage the environment. The boss was like a parrot whenever their “wants” were submitted to him. “Ba, can you get us this?” Baby Son wondered as he pointed to the photo of a packet of Smith’s Chips on special in the weekly Coles catalogue. “GET?” I hollered. “You mean buy, right?” “Buying requires money, Baby Son.” Usually they took turns to deprive themselves, though. Once, Baby Son was looking at the temptations in the ice-cream section. It wasn’t I who screamed but Middle Son did. “PUT IT DOWN! We can’t afford ice-cream!” Or, when Middle Son was about to choose some bananas. Baby Son yelled to him from the opposite end of the F&V section. “HERE! THESE ONES ARE ON SPECIAL!” So, who was the boss? I thought I was. Now, I realise a father’s job in the family was precisely that. A job. To provide and to protect. Did it make me the boss? I am at a loss to answer that.

A fortnight ago, my mum thoroughly enjoyed her first durian for the year. I bought two Musang King durian from Thuan Phuat in Chinatown. They were $27.50/kg. Ma uncharacteristically exclaimed they were reasonably priced. The sweetness of her smiles were enough for me to venture out to buy some more today. When I saw the price tag, the Penang-lang in me yelped “Oh, you have put the price up to $28.50! That was quick!” Penang-lang means a person who hails from Penang. Here, it also means a person who is price-sensitive (to put it kindly) or someone who is extremely miserly (to put it insensitively). Perhaps, it is safer to describe a Penang-lang as someone who is thrifty, one who is forever conscious of prices and therefore is never wasteful. The lady boss of Thuan Phuat smiled sweetly and said she will charge me only $27/kg. Wow. That is how a true boss behaves – generous, equable and congenial. Whereas I am the type who feigns displeasure at a shop-keeper’s price increase. Do I act like a boss? I am at a loss to answer that. Ma again was visibly happy as she helped herself to a second “hood” of durian. The Penang-lang in me counted she had three in total today. She looked so pleased, so I ate less and packed a container for her to take home. She kept saying that’s it, two durian sessions a year will do. I reckon I want to surprise her with a few more.

Out of three “hoods”, this was the best!

Murray also had his before me. I was responsible for opening and serving all three durians. I suppose that makes it clear who the boss is. I know it cannot be me. Let’s ask Murray.

Murray can have the durian but not the seed. It contains cyanide!

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