White (really white) Shirt

*Originally written in Shah Alam High Court, 14 august 2009*

You know you are a permanent fixture in court when everybody looks younger than you save for the judges. Courtroom is about waiting in vain. If today you are number three in the list of cases; tomorrow you could plunge to number 45. I kid you not. I saw a lot of things and struck many conversations while waiting in court.

The late Yasmin Ahmad used to say, “there are no creative people, only sharp observers.” Some lawyers – I have no inkling about their creativity though – are really sharp observers.

As I was tapping the soles of my battered Mary Jane onto the pathetic looking dark green and grey tiles flooring of the court’s corridor, I felt a soft tap on my shoulders.

“Kak, can I ask you something?” A young lawyer in her 20s was speaking to me in a conspiratorial tone.

Okay, ‘Kak’ is much better than ‘Makcik’. I could live with ‘Kak’.

“Of course, what’s up?”

“I saw you here last week…”  She replied with a pause at the end.

“Okay.”

“And on Monday…”

“That’s right, that’s me too.”

“And today…”

Elviza, patience is virtue, please do not snap at this poor girl.

“Yes, that would be correct and your point being?” I asked her – nicely.

“Every time I see you, I notice that your shirt is really, really white. I mean bright sparkly white. Not yellowish, not off-white, not creamy but white.”

At this point – please forgive me – I burst out laughing. The girl looked perplexed, then she continued:

“I mean how do you wash your white shirt? What did you use?” She pressed on.

I thought of pulling her leg by telling her I wash my white shirt with Luqman’s baby formula or something, but the innocence on her face put an end to my evil idea.

“Sweetie, I wash mine exactly like you wash yours.”

“Then how come mine is not as white as yours?” She confronted my statement.

“This is brand new, kiddo. The moment it turns off-white I buy new ones.”

She looked aghast – probably with the way I spend my money.

“No, no, no, no… the trick is to buy your white shirt as cheap as possible, so when you throw it away you won’t feel guilty.”

How’s my skill in economizing? Brilliant huh?

Stairway to Heaven

I have not been writing; I have been practising law. I don’t like it but I have got to do it. My soul is dying an untimely death. I found the picture at Sharon Bakar’s blog, Bibliobibuli, last night. 

Wish I could sit on this stairway to heaven forever. Will be right back when things die down in the office. Selamat menyambut Ramadhan Al-Mubarak. 

Court’s Anecdote

Pssstttt! Let me tell you what happened to me in court this morning. 

“Where’s your common plan, counsel?” The judge asked. His face – well, let’s just be kind and say – ‘unfriendly’.

Great, now is the time for you to just evaporate into thin air, Elviza. Harry Potter ‘s scenes came flashing to mind. 

“Errr, I haven’t filed it in Yang Arif. The office has a bit of backlog with the valuer.” Brickitty, brickitty, bollocks

“Let’s see… you manage to publish your column every week without fail, write your blog like there’s no tomorrow but you have no time to file your common plan?” He furrowed his eyebrows closer, the glasses perched on the lower part of his nose bridge, the eyes bored into mine. 

Gulp! Die, die, die!

Hang on a minute, it’s bad enough I have to face judges in the morning, now I have to remember they read blogs too?

That, my friend, is what we call ‘occupational hazard’. Err, Judge, if you are reading this, I’ll do as you asked immediately. 

Lake Club do: A very late entry…

Last Monday, I rushed off from my client’s office – leaving him gagging in confusion – to go to Lake Club for dinner hosted by Puteri Kamaliah. Puteri and her other half, Pak Abu, love feeding people with excessive food. Just take my word for it, they did that to me twice! Worse, they never let me pay. I don’t know where to hide my face sometimes. 

The moment I stepped into the Chinese restaurant at Lake Club, a revelation smacked me cruelly on the face: everybody dressed up. The only other guest in jeans and and shirt was Rocky. Noooooo! Imagine the horror? I mean Rocky looks fine in jeans but I, on the other hand, cannot pull off any sense of style at all in the denim. 

Of course, ladies like Ida Hariati walked around the dinner table like supermodel. Why do I even bother then? 

Anyway, it was a magical night all right. The guests of honor, Kak Teh and Awang Goneng, were as pleasant as ever. I still shy away from talking to Awang Goneng. He is so soft-spoken and gentlemanly, I am sure he will faint of shock every time I open my mouth to speak. 

The food was good. I don’t think anyone really care about food for they only want to talk, talk and talk. Kings and Queens of karaoke box serenaded us all with songs after the dinner. Kak Puteri sang like an angel. But of course, the best performance of the night went to Aishah whose performance of Dancing Queen got the ladies on their feet. Fun, fun, fun! 

No comment on the poco-poco though, for its mathematical steps are still a foreign concept for me to grasp. 

And this blog has indisputably crossed the line of being boring as it is already. So let’s take a peep at some pictures of a very, very happy moments – well, to us all at least. 

By the way, the highlights of the night for me: I got to sit next to Dalilah (yeay!); meeting the lady whose smile is so intoxicating, Mammasita Mammamia and Dato’ Sakmongkol; to share few lighthearted moment with the crazy cat lady, Cat in Sydney; to meet Kay Leeda, Tireless Mom and Fatimah Abu Bakar of Akademi Fantasia’s fame in person; to meet Dato’ Jaff other half. 

The best of them all… I finally met Anak si Hamid in person whose writing I adore so much. I read her blog all the time but dare not leave of comment with my crass English. But it was such an honor. 

Enough of your inane blabbering, woman!

Mambang Hijau, Darling (Raden Galoh) and yours truly grinning like an oyster. Tak maintain habis!

Standing from left: Darling, Tireless Mom, Kay Leeda, the Host, Kak Teh and Datin Mammasita. Seating from left: Cat in Sydney and mua. 

Teka mana satu Anak si-Hamid? When I told her my age, she shoohed me away with: “You are a baby! What are u doing here?” Huhuhuhuhhuhuh!

Dato’ Sakmongkol & Datin Mammasita. Check out that award-winning smile of hers. 

The ladies rocked the house. Check out the Mak Aji singer. Nak kena frown upon by the Majlis Agama for conduct unbecoming of Mak Aji. LOL!

The shot of everyone taken by Pak Abu. He claimed he’ll snap the picture since he is not a ‘global’. 

Special thanks to Kak Puteri and Pak Abu. To everybody, I had a ball that night, you guys rock!

Everybody is a specialist

(Click here for Malay Mail’s online version)

SOMETIMES, some signboards just jump out at you, grab you by your belt and won’t let go.

This was what happened to me last week when I was driving somewhere around town. Bold as brass, right before my jerebu-irritated eyes, a signboard proclaimed, “Specialist in repairing all kinds of Continental and Japanese cars.”

Not much further down the street was another one that declared the insurance agency was a “Specialist in all kinds of general and life insurance.”

This got me to thinking: how can anyone be a specialist in ‘all kinds’ of anything? I suspect I wouldn’t trust a doctor who claimed he was as “specialist in all kinds of medicine” as far as I can throw him – which isn’t very far at all. This is probably why doctors (and lawyers, for that matter) refrain themselves from claiming to be specialists if in fact they are not. Besides, the law forbids this as well.

But what is behind the business community’s obsession with the word specialist? After giving this some degree of serious thought, I came to the conclusion that we, the consumers, are at fault. How so? At some eep-rooted psychological level we, the consumers, are enamored with the word specialist. We associate specialists with superior service.

To a certain extent we are right. But do we really need to have a specialist change the oil in our cars? Does the person who we buy our Coca Cola from have to be a specialist? In fact, whenever we fly, we hope that the pilot is proficient in as many aircraft types as possible rather than just in one.

But the fact remains, the word specialist sells. And the business community knows this. This is why it has latched onto the word like a baby would its mother’s breast. Whether or not they are specialists is secondary; what is important is that they are perceived as such.

Taking this a step further, does a specialist necessarily occupy a higher rung in the food-chain as compared to generalists?  Personally, I don’t think so. More often than not, the so-called specialist ends up working for the generalist anyway.

Take for example your typical high-tech company that is packed to the brim with all sorts of specialists. Chances are the PHP-expert, the JAVA-guru, the database-sifu and the myriad of other specialists all answer   to one guy: a general manager who is an MBA (the mother of all generalists).

Need another example? Take your local specialist hospital. Guess who is the head honcho there? The consultant cardiologist? The consultant endocrinologist? The ENT specialist? I don’t think so. The CEO of that hospital is likely to be another generalist who is not even medically trained. So, despite the perception of superiority, specialists seldom (if ever) make it to the top of the food-chain.

This isn’t a ‘generalists are better than specialists’ rant; far from it. My point is that we can go too far with our admiration for specialists, and at the same time, overlook the importance of the generalist. It is not a question of which one is better; they are just different sides to the same coin.

The trick is being able to differentiate which one is called for in which circumstance: the generalist contributes with his all important wide-angle, broad spectrum perspective while the specialist adds value with his detailed and much focused field of vision.

What has happened is that, in our mad rush to put Malaysia on the world map, we have focused on producing more and more specialists – people who know a lot about very few things. This has served its purpose and has made Malaysia what it is today. As a result of our preoccupation with specialisation being ingrained in our psyche, we may have collective lost our sense of perspective; we now probably lack the kind of people who can truly see the big picture and show us a more panoramic view of things.

So, should a youngster ever ask me, “What kind of specialist shall I be when I grow up?” my answer will likely be, “Become the rarest of all specialists; become a generalist.”

In this last column of mine I beg you not to put much emphasis on the word specialist lest you have millions to spare; and if I have ever ticked you off in this space, that’s probably because you need to loosen up a little. Until then, c’est la vie!

Elviza Michele wrote this piece without malice to her soft-spoken gynecologist, Dr Gunasegaran. She will continue to write at http://www.elviza.wordpress.com.