Friday, October 30, 2009

More haste, less speed, but he couldn't help it.

This is another of my observations & thinking aloud on the stress of 'civilized' living and how each person handles it.

I looked on helplessly as the Wantan Mee man rushed back to his stall, wild-eyed and panicky, grabbed a handful of raw mee, tossed it into a long-handled perforated container and dipped it into the boiling pot of water.  He then quickly grabbed a bowl, plonked it down on the bench top and shook some sauce into it.  Then he reached out and clumsily tried to grab a scoop from another pot steaming with hot soup. 

There were two other customers standing next to his stall when I came in, so I stood off to one side and told him in the most soothing voice I could master, "It's OK.  Don't panic.  Take your time.  We're in no hurry..."

But he seemed oblivious to my calming words and kept muttering, "Must hurry... quick... no time..." and continued to rush about like a headless chicken.  The other two waiting customers also voiced the same sentiments as they moved aside to give him more space to work.  But the grim-faced guy just carried on with his quick but clumsy movements. 

Just then a friendly lady from a nearby stall came over to help him out.  That didn't seem to calm him down but it at least it prevented him from running into walls... or rather, splashing the soup and hot water all over the place, or getting a heart attack.

A couple of days later I dropped by at his stall again.  He apologized and said not everyone is understanding and patient.  He explained he was once threatened by a very angry customer with bodily harm when he was too slow to serve him.  That was why whenever he got more orders that come at the same time he would panic.

As I stood listening to him I compared him to another stall owner next to his.  The lady owner used to have her elder sister helping to prepare, serve, pack and collect payments.  But this lady was a screamer.  The more customers waiting in line, the louder she screamed.  The poor, soft-spoken, long-suffering, slightly hunched elder sister took it all in her stride.  Years of such verbal abuse obviously took its toll on her and she looked many years older than the younger sister.

One day, the elder sister just disappeared.  She was replaced by another lady who doesn't look like a relative.  The screamer doesn't scream anymore.  I wonder what happened to the elder sister.  And I also wonder what happened to the screaming.  Maybe this 'punching bag' could punch back...


  1. I wonder which type lives longer, the screamer or the one being screamed at. My hunch says the one being screamed at survives longer.

  2. obviously the screamer's the one who can't handle stress... the other just keeps her ears open right through... in one ear, out the other.

  3. Great Observation..
    That short of thing never came up on my mind..
    But I learned something from such circumstance.. :)

  4. great. that's the idea. to make people aware and look at things from different angles before making a conclusion.

  5. the screamer can vent and let go of her stress, the listener, on the other hand, not only has the stress of the waiting customers, but the stress of the screams itself.

    they sort of feed each other - the screamer sees she's tolerated, she screams more. the listener gets hammered by the screams, she shuts up even more. what a toxic cycle.

    screamer needs someone to calm her down, listener needs someone to make her talk. hopefully the new lady is that balancing force.