Category: Notes.

Thinking about feedback

Some people assume it is out of my social consciousness and natural desire for improvement. The blunt ones say I am nosy and picky. One even exclaimed that I am fortunate to have my day job because I can make judgement and pass comments everyday.

That hurts.

Honestly I don’t know why I do it. Each time it happens, I know I have to. The outcome in my mind is lofty and for the better. Many would disagree.

I grew up with parents who deal with customers and grapple with service standards. I am used to the complaints, praises and often a simple frustration – what do you want?

The feedback channel, in my opinion, is rather misunderstood. It is not a waste of time if you truly want to help them make the right changes for their next client. It won’t be ignored if you are calm and remain factual. It is not abuse if you do not want anything in return.

It delights me when I return to an establishment and I notice the ever so slight adjustments. Maybe it is all selfish1. Even so, each time it makes me believe even more in providing observations and suggestions that everyone seems to think is common sense. When you are knee-deep in daily operations, it is often not so obvious.

“They are most delighted and happy and want to thank you for taking the time to write to us. These positive remarks provide the strongest incentive for us to keep motivating ourselves and refining our services.”

I don’t just criticise. Really. Compliment when it is due. You will feel good too.

  1. Recall when Phoebe in Friends found that there is no such thing as a selfless good deed? []

Welcome to the news, circa 1975

It was 1975. My family had just moved into the current home. Today, we found evidence of that. The oddest feelings washed through the members as we looked into the past through the crumbling, tart pieces of paper.

Lined beneath the flooring, every day, we stand on our history.

Reading from right to left, a refreshing change for the eyes.

In those days, the advertisements were not as fancy. Few photographs, mainly of line art and hand drawn faces. The play with font-type remains unchanged till today.

Wonder how they are now... Maggie and the runner-up.

Tony Judt, man of words

I have never heard of Tony Judt until last month. He had passed away from Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

In the cold hotel room, I stumbled across the recorded interview. Immobilised from neck down, his use of the English language of such deep textures had me prematurely assumed that he was another elite, possibly a bigot. Yet, I couldn’t stop watching the telecast. The raspy voice resonated strength, loftiness, and at the same time, a deep sense of reflection. I was so lost in his strings of words, I could not keep up with the content and context. It was very frustrating. As the initial disorientation started to dissipate, it dawned on me – this is what being inspired feels like.

I know people say that one should always ‘put it simply’. What is really wrong with expressing yourself in an unnecessarily elaborated manner? In an email to a journalist about his Jewish identity, he wrote, beautifully –

More than I sometimes understand, I think, I am both writing in and about the tradition and spirit of Jewish cosmopolitanism: caught somewhere between Marx’s ‘ruthless criticism of everything existing’; pil-pul; zahor!; bearing critical witness; social responsibility; and perhaps a certain davka. I’ve never written about this directly, but I think it informs the tone – and probably the subject matter – of much of my work. It also makes me smile when American ultras accuse me of being ‘un-Jewish’ in my criticism of Israel, etc. It seems to me that, for good and ill, I am decidedly Jewish and in a long and worthy tradition.

In our pursuit of a good/better grasp of English, many people forget the power of the language. They forget that we can morph the metaphorical into reality. They forget that there is no limit to the imagination when words meet the mind.

Putting aside his political views and links, I am so glad that he reminded me of the philosophy of the written words. Like reading Jane Austen, the enigma reigns.

Light up and sit down

I know people say life goes on, and it does, and no one tells you that’s not a good thing. Why is that?

– Betty Draper, Season 1

Get out of here and move forward. This never happened. It will shock you how much it never happened.

– Don Draper, Season 2

You’re not good at relationships because you don’t value them.

– Roger Sterling, Season 3

Long term (professional) relationships

I am not known to be big on social norms. Not challenged but my default preference to keep things short makes it tough to keep to a solid group of professional pals. Most of my friends have good (and close) relationships with their service providers. And they seem so well-adjusted, pampered, and understood. Totally envious.

Today I visited one person whom I wish to develop such a long term relationship with. In the past 12 months, I have visited him three times. We don’t really talk. I will sit still while he works the scissors. Few questions and answers will be exchanged and sometimes, we laugh. He blends into my system very well. Think his assistant likes me too. Good sign. All these despite my innate dislike for salons. I am proud of myself.

This is tough work and I have many more to engage and enroll into my life. I admire everyone who works it so effortlessly.

Commuting rush and style

I am proud to be a fairly tolerant commuter. Toe-stomping umbrellas and shoulder-bobbing heads don’t really bother me. There is one thing that really gets to me – the irresponsibility of allowing children to step on the seats with their shoes on. Most common defence from parents – the shoes are not that dirty. Really?

Then I saw this in Osaka. It must be the norm in that part of town. Almost every child (those who wish to put their feet up) will remove their shoes without being told/asked. It is a small thing, perhaps to most people. But it certainly can be done.

Ever been shoved and literally pressed against a stranger’s back? At least in Singapore, you are not expected to go cheek-to-cheek even during peak hours. Tokyo metro is crazy as it is, the morning rush is something I can do without. I must apologise to the people who had to put up with my laptop-backpack. I never do have the chance to put it down or up!

So before anyone decides to berate Singaporeans and their ugliness while on their way to work, one should realise that such behaviour is not unique. Clustering at the doors is your best bet to getting off at the right stop, and not the one after.

Clean up the bias

This week, I have preached to alot of people to keep an open mind. What an irony.

Like most people (even if they deny it), I do not fancy the mannerisms of the Chinese road users. I used to take more than 20mins to cross 2 streets. I hang on to the seat belt with both hands because it cannot be fastened. Cab drivers in China will actually make one miss our Comfort cabbies. 2 days ago, on my 7th visit, I was told off by a cab driver for boarding his cab. He had just turned in to drop off a hotel guest. Apparently if you are in the hotel taxi stand, you should only take cabs that are in the queue. To my defense, I was ushered into the error by the hotel staff. With a sigh, “It is not right. They have been waiting.” His eyes were still on the queue behind us. I felt an instant guilt and surprisingly proud of him. Shanghai has always been my favourite city in China, it is just getting better.

2 blocks later, he came so close to a car in the next lane that I could actually count the number of fries in the lady’s lap.

Sidetrack – The whole Beijing city smells of antiseptic solution. Taking ‘cleaning up’ a little too far?