Friday, 31 December 2010

Time to move on...

I have been mulling about posting on this subject for some time now... the reason being that it touches on something that makes me feel a bit sore. But I decided that it may actually be good for me to write about it so that many years later I can read about it again and recall that being knocked down once in a while is part and parcel of life. And since this is the last day of the year, it seems a good time to close the issue and move on for better things.

Regular readers of this blog may recall an earlier post in March about my job transfer from my hometown in Johor Bahru to the head office in Kuala Lumpur. I wrote about that change and my hope that it would bring me some good. Actually, it didn't.

After only four months working in KL, I was told by my boss that I wasn't needed anymore. To put it in crude terms, I was fired. The official reason given was that the company was feeling the economic pinch  and the directors have decided to downsize the staff. But I wasn't born yesterday... the real reasons are not that difficult for me to speculate.

What really disappointed me was that my move from JB to KL was at the request of the boss, purportedly on the need to have someone of senior experience to lead the team of young engineers and also to represent the boss at high-level meetings with clients. I initially declined to be transferred, preferring to be released from the firm so that I can look for another job in JB itself. I have been on the move for so many years in my career and I thought that the time has come for me to stay in one place. The boss pleaded with me a few times and I finally decide to accept the transfer because I believed that it would be good to share my knowledge with the young engineers. I made the move to KL in February this year but my family was left behind in JB. In my first day at the new office, the boss expressed his deep appreciation for my decision to come over. His words of thanks were so superfluous that it embarrassed me a bit to think that I am that valuable a staff to him.

Not even half a year in my new post, in June I was given a letter of termination. Although the termination comes with some monetary compensation, the principle of it is entirely wrong. You don't retrench someone whom you asked to join just a few months earlier. Now tell me if that doesn't leave a sour taste in your mouth...

So that is why my friends, I have been taking a break from blogging for a while, just to cool my nerves so that I am not tempted to type posts that would contain nasty words.

Many friends who knew of my situation came to give words of support and encouragement... you know, the standard stuff of : things happen for a reason, you'll be tougher after this episode, God has planned better things for you etc... But the real considerate friends are those who are willing to sit with me over a glass of teh tarik and simply listen to my grumbles and rantings. Listening to my grumbles won't change a thing... but it helps release the tension in my mind and body, and allow the calm to return.

Perhaps as a means to pacify myself, I say that this event is the thing I need to push me to do something on my own and to pursue that unfulfilled ambition. And that someday, I would probably thank my former employers for giving me that push.

Well.... as it is for now, I am on my way to chase that ambition. But until I do achieve what I hope to achieve, any words of gratitude will not be forthcoming.

Happy new year to all friends and readers. Selamat Tahun Baru Masehi 2011. May the Almighty grant you all your wishes. Stay healthy and happy always...

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Close call on the highway

I was driving from my home in Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur late last night. It was just past 10pm when I left the Kempas toll plaza heading north on the NSE. About 1km from the Skudai interchange I heard a bang and saw that a car in front of me had stopped and smoke was coming from its engine. I managed to slow down in time and as I passed the stalled car, I realised it had run into an accident with a bus in front of it.

The bus slowed down and stopped by the shoulder and I did the same. I got out of my car and walked back towards the accident scene. The bus driver was already standing at the rear of his vehicle examining a huge dent on the right corner of his bus. I asked him what happened and he said that something hit the bus from behind. I looked back towards the accident spot and to my horror, the driver was still in the wrecked car that had stopped on the left lane of the highway. This stretch of the highway is unlit and the car’s lights were all dead. Anytime another vehicle would be speeding up the lane, spot the stationary car too late and crash into it.

I immediately made a dash to the car and saw that an elderly gentleman in his 60’s was in the driver’s seat. He appeared to be talking on his mobile phone and does not look injured. Fearing for his safety, I knocked on the window and shouted at him to get out of the car…. but he did not seem to hear me. Either he is to engrossed in his call or maybe he is trapped and could not get out.

I had to make a quick on-the-spot decision : do I help him out of his car or do I signal to oncoming traffic to avoid further collision? I decided to do the latter. I have a torchlight in my car but I fear that running back to get it may be too late. The only other available source of light is my mobile phone. I turned on the phone screen and started to frantically wave at the oncoming traffic. It was one of the most dangerous things I ever did. I wasn’t sure if the tiny light from the phone is visible enough to other drivers but I had to try something. I stood by the edge of the road trying my best to warn other drivers, jumping out of the way at the last minute if they do not spot me. A few times, there were cars driving too fast…. I had to jump out of the way, heard the tyres screeching and was expecting to hear the loud bang of cars smashing into each other… but somehow they manage to swerve and avoid hitting the stationary car.

I was already praying… Dear God, I really need your help right now. Please don’t let anybody die here tonight. As if in immediate reply, the next vehicle that came by was a lorry whose driver manage to spot my frantic waving in time and slowed to a stop. The lorry driver switched on his hazard lights and helped divert other oncoming traffic to change lanes. Under this cover, the bus driver helped the old man out of his mangled car to the side of the road. Unfortunately, the lorry driver did not stay for long. As soon as the old man was out, the lorry switched lanes and moved off, leaving the smashed car still on the path of oncoming traffic.

I walked about 30 metres further up the road, still waving the tiny light of my cellphone, hoping to at least give earlier warning and increase the stopping distance. In between, I managed to squeeze in a call to Plus helpline on their 1-800 number to report the accident. Being a regular customer of Plus Expressways, their helpline number is already stored in my phone. I told the person on duty the location of the accident and stressed the need to get help fast because the area is very dark and there’s a high chance of a secondary crash.

The next few minutes waiting for help to arrive were extremely nervy. I continued to warn the oncoming traffic as best as I can and there a few more occasions of near misses. The sound of screeching tyres of cars braking hard can be quite traumatic.

I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I spotted the flashing beacon of the Plus patrol truck. The Plus personnel quickly deployed road cones and arranged for the crash debris to be swept off the road.

I made my way back to old man and asked him, `Are you okay, Uncle?’ Yes, he said. I told him that I was worried when he did not get out of his car and my fear of another vehicle hitting him. He said he was in a bit of a shock then and his first reaction was to call his friend. It didn’t occur to him that he should’ve gotten out of the car first.

He then took my hand and shook it. `Thank you,’ he said. `Thank you very much.’

By that time the traffic police had arrived and wanted to ask him questions, so I slowly slipped out of the way but not without snatching a pic of the damaged car.

Luckily the old man was driving alone. I dread to think if there was someone with him in the front passenger seat.

 Close call for the driver of this car

Friday, 24 December 2010

Three reasons to be proud

Whenever there comes a need for me to reflect on my achievements in life thus far, I always fall back on the fact that I have three smart and responsible sons. I may not have hit my ambition of making my first million by forty. I am not yet a big tauke and I still have large credit card debts to settle. But despite all the problems and struggles, I can still look at my three sons and say that I have at least done that part of it right, the raising of them I mean.

My first and second sons did very well in their studies and are now pursuing tertiary education overseas. Both are taking up medicine.

Yesterday, my third and youngest son Imran Azizi showed that he is as clever as his elder brothers by scoring in the PMR exams. My hope is for him to continue to study well and proceed to the highest level. He has indicated that he is not interested in becoming a doctor but that's okay by me. He can be anything he wants to be as long as he puts his skills and knowledge to good use.

When my son was taking the exams a few months ago, I decided to be the one to drive him to school everyday. This was after hearing advice from a close friend who said that being there for my son would be the best support that a father can ever give. By coincidence, two situations abled or perhaps forced me to carry out the task. Firstly, I was without a steady job at the time and secondly, my wife was still recovering from ailment which caused her to be hospitalised the week before. So like it or not, it was something that I had to do... and I wanted to, anyway. So everyday on exam day for almost 2 weeks, I drove my son to school, dropped him off at the gate, got out of the car, say a short silent prayer before hugging him and wishing him luck. He may not have required it but there's nothing to lose and it feels good doing so.

There was even one day where there was another exam paper in the afternoon which meant he couldn't come home for lunch. On that day, my wife and I bought him his favourite nasi ambeng, brought it to school where we had lunch together. I enjoyed doing that and hope I can do it again some time in future. Pretty soon he'll be all grown-up and there's no more child of school-going age left in the house.

I am sort of going through a rough patch on the workfront since a few months ago but the good results from my son yesterday really brightened up my day... so I hope readers can pardon me for this post of self-gratification. I am pretty confident things will become better for us in the coming days. Thanks also to my better half for helping raise three lovely boys. Most of the credit should go to her...

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Effbeeing... a new word to add to your vocabulary

A few weeks back, some of the commenters suggested that I have been away from blogging because I probably spend more time on Facebook. Hmmm.... to a certain degree I guess that is true. Although I have been an FB member for more than two years, the appeal of logging online to this social networking website is still not lost to me.

Effbeeing is different from blogging.... yeah, I know there is no such word as `effbeeing', but I'd like to use it anyway. It is an alternative way of saying `FBing' or `facebooking', i.e. the action of spending time online on Facebook. Some of my friends even use the Malay version of `berfb' (pronounced ber-eff-bee), so go figure.

I'm sure many of you have read or heard stories of addiction to this latest online activity. It has been blamed for non-productive employee hours to the extent that some companies block the connection from their office computers. I am not quite an addict but I admit that I do spend time effbeeing because I like to be connected to friends. And thus the likely cause of me spending less time on blogging...

Blogging really appeals only to writers... because that is what it essentially is, putting thoughts, stories or ideas in the form of words onto paper, or in this case, on a computer screen. And since I consider myself a writer, I don't think I'll stop blogging any time soon. Only that my writing is now a bit sparse compared to when I first started... and to justify this, you'll expect me to say that it wasn't about quantity in the first place. Hehehe... excuses, excuses.. Actually though, there is a more valid reason why my frequency of writing has dropped of late... but I'll write about it a bit later, next year perhaps.

Ok back to this phenomenon of effbeeing... apparently there are more than 500 million users of Facebook today and the company is estimated to be worth USD35billion. Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of FB is the youngest ever billionaire. I recently watched the movie `The Social Network', about how it all started. Quite an interesting film actually, because it does not have the documentary style that I sort of expected. One lesson I remember from the movie is this : When it comes to money (especially when it is a lot of money), loyal friends can become enemies.

The question in my mind now is, after FB, what next? For those of us who grew up with computing from the days of punchcards, writing in BASIC and working with DOS, there have been many revolutions in the IT world. IBM, Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Windows, Internet, dotcom explosion, Yahoo and Google. Some have survived this far while some are now but distant memories. Will Facebook last or will there be another phenomenon after it?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

May her patience be rewarded

It was on this day last week my wife received a telephone call from someone at her hometown. It was unexpected news. My mother-in-law has passed away while seated at the living room. Her death was discovered by a neighbour who had come to visit my ailing father-in-law.

I say that her demise was unexpected because it is my father-in-law who is the weaker of the two. He is now 95-years old and has been bedridden for more than 4 years. He suffers from most of the ailments inherent of old age but the primary affliction is prostate cancer that I previously wrote about two years ago, here -> Internal plumbing.

My mother-in-law, on the other hand, was still able to move about on her own and except for her history of hypertension, was comparatively in better health. Actually she was not exactly my mother-in-law... because my original one passed away in September 1998. After a year of her passing, my father-in-law remarried another lady because he felt that he still require the companionship. At that time, my new stepmother-in-law, if there is such a term, was already a widow of more than 30 years. It actually puzzled me a bit why she agreed to marry my FIL, because it was quite clear that the ensuing years would entail difficulties. My FIL is not a young man anymore, he can hardly be called wealthy and he is known to be short-tempered.

Over the years of this new marriage, she tried her best to take care of my FIL. As the old man's health deteriorated and his need for attention became more demanding, the challenges became tougher. There were voices of dissatisfaction from both sides of the family. At one instance, some of my wife's brothers even took the drastic attempt of trying to separate them.

But the will of the Almighty is great... the old couple remained together despite the troubles and my stepmother-in-law did her best in carrying out her duties. She may have grumbled a bit, here and there... but that's to be expected. Taking care of an old and temperamental man is not easy work by any means... but she stuck to the job very well. Only Allah swt can repay her for her patience and kindness.

Hajjah Satirah Bt Omar passed away on 2nd December 2010 at the age of 74. May Allah swt bless and protect her soul. Ameen.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Okay, that's fine too...

I read with interest the news in today's The Star Online about the government's offer to traffic offenders who have outstanding summons. A 50% discount is offered to those who pay up within the first half of this month. The offer then drops to 30% if the fines are paid in the second half of December. After that, there's no more mercy.

On the way home from work, BFM radio station invited telephone calls from listeners who wish to air their views on this matter. A number of those who phoned-in, disagreed with the discount offer primarily because they believe it will make traffic offenders more complacent. Some even suggested that the fines should be increased, otherwise we would never see a reduction in our accident statistics.

We can argue about this issue both ways but personally for me at the present moment, I am all for the discount offer... and I am sure all of you can guess why. I have two outstanding summonses to my name, amounting to RM450. Half of that amount is not an insignificant value by any means of measurement. While I appreciate the reduction, it does not mean that I condone traffic offenders. I seriously believe the reckless drivers should be penalised heavily and this discount offer apparently does not apply to those in that category.

In my case, both my summonses apply to speeding but my gripe is that they occured so long ago and I never received any written notice from the police. The first offence was recorded as happening in 2005 while the second one presumably took place in 2007. I never had any trouble renewing my road tax from 2005 until this year... and that's a 5-year period. I only knew I had unsettled summonses after registering with the MyEG portal two months ago.

The police are probably right about those occassions they caught me speeding and probably I deserve to be fined. But what I am not quite satisfied about is the time and method they took to issue the summons. Actually, if I had not registered at MyEG, I wouldn't have known about it. It shows a lack of urgency on their part for not following up on an offence that was committed five years ago. Alternatively, we can argue that speeding offences are not a priority on the police list and therefore not serious.

Anyway, everything is fine now... I'll just settle half of my fine and then I'll be fine.