On my regular road trips from Kuala Lumpur back to Johor Bahru, I would normally stop for a break at the Pagoh Rest & Service Area of the North-South Expressway because this spot is located about halfway. Last Thursday night however, I deviated slightly from the usual when I stopped at the Air Keroh RSA instead. I decided to take an earlier break because I was already feeling hungry.
As I walked from my car to the food stalls, I noticed a group of a dozen or so men, lorry drivers from the look of it, intently watching the overhead television. I couldn't yet see what was on the screen but from the wide-eyed excited looks on their faces, I could easily guess the programme they were watching. It was wrestling.
I have never been a fan of wrestling, at least not the American WWF version anyway. I consider it more of an entertainment show rather than a sport. I do have a friend however, who is a die-hard fan. As I watched the wrestling on TV, I am reminded of this friend who was also a housemate during my early bachelor days.
It was sometime in 1985. I was still in my first year of holding a job after graduating. I was sharing a house with three other friends in the Larkin area of Johor Bahru. When I first moved into the house, there were hardly any furnishings or appliances. We had no television or refridgerator. There wasn't even a gas stove.
Life without a TV was dead boring. As soon as I received my salary the following month, I bought a small 16" television set. The evenings became a bit bearable then. The programmes we watched would be decided on consensus. When there was a tie, I would cast the deciding vote, since I was the owner of the TV set.
The housemate who was a wrestling fan is named Saini. The other two housemates and myself do not like to watch wrestling, hence Saini is always outnumbered. We had fun arguing with him that all the actions in the wrestling match are bluffs or play-acting. He would defend the game in all seriousness. It's real, he would say. Not acting.
Sometimes, on nights that wrestling is on, Saini would rush to finish eating dinner so that he could park himself in front of the TV early, hoping that he would have control of the channels. No such luck. Once the three of us have seated ourselves in front of the telly, the channel would change to our liking. Saini would end up disappointed and frustrated. Although not serious, having an unhappy friend in the house was becoming a problem.
One night, before we took control of the TV channel, Saini pleaded to us to let him watch the wrestling show. He said that his only request was to watch wrestling once a week. For the other nights of the week, he would gladly agree to watch whatever we decide to watch. Hearing him appeal so passionately, we decided to give in. And so from then on, one hour of Tuesday evenings would be reserved for a friend who wants to watch burly men grappling with themselves in a square ring. If that's what it takes to keep my friend happy for the rest of the week, then so be it.
I learned a valuable lesson from that episode. Sometimes, enforcing majority rule or exercising veto power is not necessarily a good decision to make. Making a small concession could sometimes yield long term gain.
Footnote : In this year's Oscars, Mickey Rourke is a Best Actor nominee for his role in The Wrestler.