Friday, April 28, 2006
The Missing Lunch Pack
‘What? What? What? I was just asking to SEE your son’s lunch pack because my son’s is just like that and his is missing! Don’t you talk to me like that! NO, I DO NOT want your son’s lunch pack, my son already has one!’
Well, at least, that was what I think I will say, if the situation ever so annoyingly should repeat itself…if ever, I will be prepared…this time…hopefully. Instead of being so nice and courteous and smiling all at the same time.
I hate it when people bully me. In the havoc that is children and parents picking up their kids after school, never forgetting to bring along every younger preschool sibling and senior citizen that are alive in their extended family into the classroom, I hear my son shout, ‘Mama, my lunch pack is missing!’ You see, I have never had the experience of my child schooling back home in Malaysia, simply because my son was too young to be sent to school while we were still there. But, I certainly do not remember my grandma and all my other siblings following me into the classroom while I was in school. In fact, I distinctly remember my dad waiting alone and bored in that old white Volvo to pick us up from school.
That was when I went looking for my son’s lunch pack. It’s a common one – I’ve written his name on it but I’ve seen other children's with the same design so somebody might have taken it, mistaking it for his/ her own. They’re children after all – you can’t put it pass them to be careless about their things. So the first boy I saw holding a similar lunch pack, I went straight to and asked him very nicely, with a smile, whether I can just look at the lunch pack he’s holding, just in case he has mistakenly taken my son’s. But what do I get for being a good mum, a good wife (I don’t want my husband wasting his money on another one for our son!) AND a courteous and friendly person? Too late I realised that the boy had a big size, intimidating looking father, quite brutal in appearance and on top of that, he looks like a bully. And that was when this conversation occurred;
Man: Do you want it? (lunch pack).
Me: No, no..I just want to look at it.(Smile..) My son’s lunchpack looks…
Man: You can take it if you want. Take it! Do you want it??
And it was not a friendly question. It was a sort of challenge. At this point, I was feeling a little surprised at his reaction to my innocent request. His son was looking at me too, looking equally surprised, but definitely interested. However, my nature has always been that of a pacifier and I backed off, saying, very nicely and again with that smile, ‘No, no…that’s alright…thanks.’ And off I went, a little flustered, but just a little. Thinking that it's too late to look for it now since the classroom is nearly empty and the person who has taken it will probably realise his mistake when his mother looks into his lunch pack at home, I went to inform the teaching assistant in my son’s class in case somebody returns the pack tomorrow. But what does it look like, she asked. And I pointed to the boy’s lunch pack. My reaction is really very slow as too late I realised that she was also going to ask to look at the boy’s lunch pack. And the same conversation ensued. This time, even more accusatory and more offensive. He was probably getting ready to hurl the lunch pack at us. And I gave him that same reaction. A smile, a courteous ‘no, no’ and a flustered face.
At home, I realise I have offended the man by suggesting that his son might have taken someone else’s belonging. Although the request to look at the lunch pack was made apologetically and courteously, with the assumed ‘understanding amongst adults’ that children do make these types of mistakes, his ego/pride was bruised. And then I began to understand why their people react so (almost too) passionately to the slightest offense, killing many of their own in the process of protecting ‘honour’. They are very passionate people and they value their pride and honour more than their blood. They are perhaps descendants of warriors and a past civilisation whose pioneers’ blood runs in their own. And like their ancestors of old, they too will demand retribution for any attack. And so I sort of, sort of understood his reaction. What can I say, these people are just like that.
But I still cannot make myself fight over such a thing (a missing lunch pack, for goodness’ sake!). I realise I may be acting a little cowardly by letting him talk to me in such a way but I cannot ‘stand up’ for something so trivial, something to me that only requires some civility amongst humans. But there is still that feeling of hurt. And THAT induced me to glare at that boy every time I see him and whisper ‘beruk!’ to that man each time I pass him by.