Wednesday, April 27, 2005

fossilizing my parents

That brief, touching moment; that elusive feeling that passes under your nose like a whiff of faint perfume; that short-lived nanosecond of bliss, as painfully fleeting as an orgasm; that scathing sorrow which seems to thrive longer than one lifetime—all these would go down the way of the dinosaurs. Unless, by some powerful medium, you consign them to posterity by transforming them into fossils, which, in all its raw crudeness, could still stand as woozy representations of these feelings, thoughts, and emotions.

And that’s exactly what we do. We “fossilize” every event, every ephemeral emotion so as to have something to cling on to when life suddenly gloats at our misfortunes, or when our trusty neighbor spreads a rumor about some stinky shit in our closet. This is precisely why blogging, which replaced the handwritten journals of more genteel, less dizzying times, suddenly became such a craze.

History, itself, has been written (and is being written) to chronicle the life of a civilization, to put down on paper, or etch into stone, the societal undulations of a people. (Although, most of the time, history merely succeeds in immortalizing the twisted perception of the victors’ bloated egos.) That is the only way we could, more or less, hold eternity or arrest time.

I have been into this “fossilizing” thing for quite some time. I am so anxious to the point of paranoia to record every event in my life before they recede into oblivion. The thought of suddenly dying without even leaving a piece of myself scares me. How will the world know that I existed? My bones will probably just want to laze around in my padded coffin than tell tales.

I began where my eldest sister, Sol, left off. She chronicled in a journal all my firsts—first word, first step, and first bath. She even kept my very first artworks. I found this tattered folder containing, among others, several indistinguishable doodles in crayon, which I drew when I was only three. And it gave me such joy to look at stuff I made during a time when my mind was still pure (believe me, there was such a time!), a time when I had yet to experience the sting of cynicism and the stab of doubt.

My life is fairly well documented, or “fossilized”.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same thing about my parents whose long lives deserve a narrative of epic proportions. Except from an article I wrote about my mother’s fear of hospitals, which got published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Youngblood two years ago, I have not written much about them.

They are probably the only living people I know who have such colorful, feisty, contrasting personalities but still manage to get along well. We refer to them as “the oldies” at home because they’re actually old enough to be my grandparents. They are already in their 70s, while I’m still in my 20s. (Yes, I was a menopausal baby and I know what you’re thinking! No, I wasn’t born with three nostrils, five ears, and a sealed up anus. I am as normal as can be, I just turn into a psychotic serial killer every time I hear “Bulaklak,” “Basketball,” “Spaghetti Song,” and other insightful hits of this generation).

If my parents could blog, they would probably eat up millions of megabytes off cyberspace. To say that their lives are interesting is an understatement. And I consider myself lucky that I was able to see them in their best, worst, and well, funniest.

My father is a local town character, much like your typical town idiot, neighborhood clown, and chatty philosopher packaged with a sunny disposition. He knows everybody and everybody knows him. Through his connections and street-smart dealings, he can circumvent any government office’s red tape and procure important documents faster than you can say “corrupt politicians.”

He could give private investigators a run for their money with his uncanny sleuthing skills. Some decades ago (yup, decades!), during the time when courting was still the norm rather than the exception, my sister brought home a suitor. Of course, the guy was properly presented to my father who asked him some basic, I’m-the-girl’s-father-so-I-have-the-right-to-screen-you questions.

After a while, he left my sister and the guy alone.

Exactly one week after, my father came up to my sister and asked her to ditch the guy. Stunned, my sister asked why.

“He has a wife and kids. He’s only fooling you.” True enough, the guy turned out to be very much married.

With an innate talent for singing (nobody can belt those Perry Como and Frank Sinatra ditties better than he can) and a knack for theatricals, he drives around in his old, rickety jeep, pausing once in a while to holler at an equally ancient acquaintance or to make faces at children.

I don’t know how he does it, but he seems to have this weird, charming way to children’s hearts. Everywhere he goes (and I’m not exaggerating here) children call him lolo (grandpa). He would holler (he just loves hollering) “Thank you Lord….” and the children, as if by instinct, would shout back “Thank you Jesus!” Then he would stage his one-man impromptu performance. Encouraged by applause, he does various silly antics, comic magic tricks, and a sing-and-dance number which children find extremely amusing.

Once, while we were on the street, several street children excitedly ran toward him. After the customary Thank-you-Lord-Thank-you-Jesus crap, my father handed out one-peso coins to each of them.

I must’ve gotten my non-conforming attitude from him. Just last Holy Week, he, together with my mother, took part in the community’s Pabasa (raw, throaty chanting of the passion of Christ). I tagged along to take pictures.

With his creamy, baritone voice, he easily gave body to the bland, off-key, and lazy chanting of the other participants. But, a few measures after, he suddenly veered away from the traditional melody and invented his own complicated tune, which further threw the whole group off to some surreal key from Mars. And then, realizing that the whole chanting thing didn’t work, he actually recited the lines like a poem. Why bother with those stupid chanting when your goal is to get understood, he argued.

And then there’s my mother. She is the gooey snail to my father’s hard shell. If my father’s a proud extrovert, she is the coy introvert. At her age, she is still a prim and proper, puritanical maiden who would never go out without a half-slip under her duster or skirt. She walks around in our townhouse grounds every morning to meet with her senior citizen amigas whom my father teasingly calls Samahan ng mga Hindi Matae (League of Persons who Can’t Shit).

Their daily morning conversations would go something like this:

“Hey, how are you doing? Were you able to shit this morning?”

“No, were you?”

“Well, uhh, no. But I was able to shit last night and it was great!”

Then they would proceed to talk about the size, color, thickness, viscosity, or smell of their respective morning excretions. At times, they would even trade phone numbers of great doctors or swap herbal teas that purportedly could scare the shit out of one’s colons, literally.

Despite her malfunctioning intestines, she still has the strength to maintain two houses—our old, ancestral house in Palatiw and our unit along Jenny’s Avenue. All day, she busies herself up, despite our protestations, with household chores. Even if she has a maid who would do anything to her bidding, she still chooses to perform some tasks by herself.

At her prime, she was a great swimmer, having grown up beside the Pasig River when it was still pristine. (Just imagine how ancient she is to have seen those murky waters at its best.) She spent hours washing clothes by its banks. And when she got tired of washing, she would cling to a huge banana tree trunk floating in the water and ferry it back and forth across the whole breadth of the river. A modification of our modern lap-swimming today. If she could still swim regularly now, she would probably be my constant companion at the pool, sans the banana trunk of course.

Even though she walks like a turtle now, she still does not use a cane or a wheelchair. One Sunday afternoon at Rainforest Park, I played badminton with her. And, to my great surprise, she could play well despite her humungous tummy (I wonder if she’s pregnant), her age, and her wobbling gait. It was one of the best badminton games I’ve ever played; I had a blast.

After the game, she came up to me, pointed to my sister who was doing her idea of brisk walking, and whispered, “Look at your sister, she’s only in her early forties but she can’t even reach her toes like I can.”

Incredulous, I dared her to go reach her toes. Without batting an eyelash, she stretched out her arms and effortlessly reached for her toes without bending her knees! Jeez, I’ve taken stretching classes in college but up to now, I’m still hard put to reach my own toes! I shut my mouth about toes and stretching since then.

Her shyness and lack of socializing skills are compensated by her resolute determination. Oh yes, the humble lamb is a tiger inside the house. At home, nobody can lay claim to the title of “Biggest Resident Bitch.” That would just have to be her. She can start bitching about your dirty shirt and somehow end up bitching about the leaking faucet.

When she wants something done, she would harangue you no end until you get to do what she wants. She’s the only one I know who could outtalk my already talkative father. And she does not only holler, she can howl with a shrill, shaky timbre.

I should know; that’s how she inculcated in me the importance of education.

There’s so much to say about my two lovable oldies. I could go on and on about their perseverance, hard work, stubbornness, eccentricities, and craziness. I could draw funny caricatures of them because of the way they argue about trivial, nonsensical things. I could heap praises at how they sacrificed their own happiness and trampled on their own pride just to put their five children through college.

Or I could start writing a book about them.

It’s the only thing I could do to draw out from them decades of pain, joy, bliss, sorrow, triumphs, and laughter. It’s the only way they would be able to communicate to their grandchildren’s children. It need not be published and circulated nationwide. I only wish to print one copy, photocopy the rest and then distribute them to family members during reunions. ‘Just my own little way of honoring “the oldies.”

This would be my new project starting this month. I’d start interviewing my parents at every possible opportunity. I would do what my eldest sister did to me when I was an infant. I want to finish the book before the inevitable happens. I want them to read about their own lives, cry at their past hurts, laugh at their own follies, exult in their own accomplishments, and feel the pride of a son who has nothing but admiration for them.

It’s never too early to start fossilizing one’s parents.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

my pigsty

Not so long ago, feeling all the angst, passions, yearnings, and idealism of a gung-ho, non-conforming, agnostic, defy-all-institutions dreamer was very much acceptable and would not be seen as a fleeting juvenile fixation.

Now, it is regarded, at best, as a dangerous idiosyncrasy that must be tamed, if not totally suppressed. There are just so many rules to consider. You suddenly get knocked off by a massive wall of restrictions. And however hard you try to turn the other way, you just can’t. You’re forced to face it, or rot.

And then, like a cowering animal, you slowly crawl on all fours into the silky folds of conformity, abrading your palms and knees with its nauseating softness and mind-numbing mediocrity.

Everyone looks alike. Everyone speaks the same language. Dissent is gunned down. Individualism is seen as a deviance. Unorthodoxy gets quarantined along with leprosy.

Your wings are clipped to give way to boring feet bound in tight shoes whose leather was the result of murdering poor cattle. You are instructed to follow to the letter a manual of decorum and ethics that wrings the last drop of humanity from your dehydrated body. You are forced to melt your ego and re-forge it into something that is in keeping with their image.

And when you’ve emerged as your new self, dressed, as you are, in a fine suit, you hardly recognize your reflection. You wonder if there is still a soul inside that breathes the same fire that had tempered your psyche ages ago. But no, it is no longer there. In its place is a cold mist that feeds on pragmatism.

Is there a way out of all these? Perhaps you could try flying despite your clipped wings and heavy leather shoes. But you doubt your powers now, because flying requires more than tons of steely drive and determination, most especially in your sorry state. They have mangled you so much that your primal strength would only permit you calculated, delicate movements within the confines of their pigsty.

You think of other ways to escape but find yourself wanting the necessary creativity to execute them; creativity being one of the first things that they had siphoned out of your system. What would you do? How would you prod on?

Don’t ask me. I don’t know the answer. As soon as I get out of my own pigsty, I’ll tell you what to do.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005

yup, sometimes i do pray

‘Was rummaging through my old files last night when I stumbled upon this prayer that I hastily wrote for some program at the Department in March last year. It was for “He Says, She Says,” an informal discussion conducted annually by the Workers’ Welfare Research Division.

Out of desperation, Adie asked me to lead the opening prayer. She very well knew that I’m not into that prayer thing. And neither is she. So, probably to escape a possible fix by leading it herself, she delegated the opening prayer to me and gave me no room to say no. The bitch!

The program’s topic that time was the emergent concept of “housebands” or husbands who take the traditional role of homemakers, which is oftentimes unjustly appointed to women. The topic is already passé and does not merit further exposition. But, since this is an extremely macho and chauvinist society in which males think that taking on anything conventionally associated with females degrades their masculinity, this topic would make an interesting, if not controversial, point of discussion.

So I excitedly sprinted to BY Building to say my first prayer in ten years. Here’s what I said:

“In the name of…

[I deliberately paused for a while here. Juliet later said that she was already about to make the sign of the cross but stopped when she heard what I said next. Hehe. That’s exactly the effect I wanted to achieve]

…political correctness, our invocation this morning will not be centered on any particular religion.

“Let us all bow our heads and invoke whoever or whatever god we worship.

“Let us ask for the guidance of the spirits so that our program would become a success. Let us seek enlightenment rather than divisiveness; tolerance rather than bigotry; and open-mindedness rather than parochialism. May we open our eyes to the realities of our time, and consequently, discard ancient, obsolete gender roles. May we accept the evolving and increasingly inter-changing responsibilities of both genders and strive to discharge them without prejudice. Let us supplicate to our respective deities so that we may be given the strength to understand that taking the responsibilities of the opposite sex is not tantamount to self-degradation.

“May we learn to think critically on our own and not be clouded by the myopic dogma of powerful religious institutions. May we learn to accept that we need to change our perceptions first before we could aspire for true gender equality.

“And, finally, let us invoke whatever supernatural being we believe in for guidance so that we may arrive at a higher level of moral progress that would afford us to regard every person not merely as a woman or a man, but as a human being.

“That is all.”

After that, I was never asked to lead a prayer again.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

the good is NOT oft interred with the bones

On the day the Pope was buried, the wind in Vatican City was frosty; the sky overcast. Millions of mourners in dark habiliments were weeping and applauding at St. Peter’s square, under the icy, blind gaze of grossly gigantic stone saints lining up the basilica’s roof.

Here at home—at the Rizal Park to be exact—the tired sun was still unforgiving even in its last dying rays. The wind stirred the dust into grotesque swirls and the heat was enough to make your armpits stink like a dead rat.

With white flags saying “We Love You John Paul II” and families sitting on picnic mats complete with picnic foods and big bottles of distilled water, the mood seemed too festive for a funeral.

The expressions on the mourners’ faces ranged from mildly concerned to totally indifferent. There were stalls selling cold drinks, potato chips, tacky trinkets, clothes, mats, and Vishnu knows what else.

There was a flurry of buyers around multi-colored balloons being hawked to kids who had no idea why the whole world was fussing about the death of this old man in funny robes. They might have been thinking that this festive ambience was the standard in mourning trends. What a cool send-off!

I wouldn’t miss that send-off party for the world. That’s why I whisked my heretic ass to Manila’s funeral gathering for John Paul II to be among the faithful and the fanatical; the devout and the hypocritical; the holy and the holier-than-thou; the mourners and the simply curious.

After combing the DVD stalls of Makati Square to buy pirated art films, I, together with Oliver, rushed to Rizal Park to catch the last rites for the dead pope. The ceremonies were broadcast live from the Vatican through big screens that had been set up in front of the Quirino Grandstand. Up onstage, Bishop Bacani was stoking the passion of the crowd through a rousing speech that I didn’t care to listen to. I heard the papal nuncio, the Vatican’s ambassador to the Philippines, was also there. It must’ve been really sad for him to get stuck in this scorching tropical country and not be able to attend the burial of his big boss in Rome.

I was mainly interested in the high mass in the vast St. Peter’s square. In an impressive showcase of ritual, drama, and style that only the ossified Catholic Church could deliver (actually, it’s the only thing they deliver best), the pope in an unbelievably simple casket, bade goodbye to a world that loved (and, to some extent, hated) him.

I must admit it was hard not to notice the guy’s charisma and drive. Even a non-Catholic like me was awed at how this untiring pope circled the globe to speak boldly against social injustice, corruption, and all forms of inequities. He even rebuked Marcos personally in 1981. He should be lauded if only for bringing the highbrow office of the Holy See to the common person. That, alone, is enough reason for hordes of faithful and faithless to mourn his death.

Although he was not as bold as one of his predecessors (sorry I forgot his name—he’s probably one of those Pauls, or Johns or Sixtuses, whatever) who let fresh wind into the musty cloisters of the Church through Vatican II, he still had his own way of reaching out and, to use the hackneyed phrase, “touching lives.”

Just hours after his death was announced by the Camerlengo, everyone who, in one way or another, had contact with him was quick to recount how the man changed his/her life. It was as if there was this mechanics-less, free-for-all, weep-till-you-drop contest on who could outdo each other in telling Pope John Paul II stories.

There was this woman who felt like she had already attained eternal bliss because the pope smiled at her, forgetting that the Pontiff smiled at the crowd in general, not to anyone in particular.

But such is the effect of a famous man. His tiniest friendly gesture can be interpreted as a magnanimous offer of heaven’s bounty to which we, lowly humans, swoon and rejoice in gratitude and deference.

Unfortunately, he only excelled in that department. His doctrinal conservatism made his image akin to that of an archaic, totalitarian archbishop straight from the Dark Ages. At a time when the Church was struggling to make itself relevant in a world of increasing commercialism, capitalism, modernization, and globalization, John Paul II’s medieval views on women, gender equality, homosexuality, divorce, and contraceptives stifled the growth of the Catholic Church and flung it back to Neanderthal intellectualism.

But alas, all these have been forgotten, having been washed off by tears from profuse weeping. A person’s value appreciates after death. Good qualities become magnified a hundredfold; the bad ones are discreetly swept under the rug. Shakespeare was wrong when he said that “the evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.”

When we die, the evil that we did gets buried in the collective subconscious of the people; the good gets enshrined on a pedestal.

In much the same way as history is written by the victors, our personalities get re-invented by our loved ones after our death. In the case of someone as well loved as Pope John Paul II, it is easy to underscore his good qualities (which, in fairness to the man, really made a difference in the way many Catholics regarded their faith) and forget about his sickening conservatism. This early, he’s already up for sainthood. In a Church that desperately protects itself from the hurtful lashes of change, I don’t doubt that this conservative pope will become saint and be one of the Church’s role models.

His doctrinal constipation notwithstanding, he still was a great religious and pop icon. For that, I laud him. And for that, I went all the way to Rizal Park to watch his funeral on a big screen along with thousands of mourners, hawkers, and pickpockets.

Toward the end of the three-hour long ceremony, Eastern Catholics also gave their last blessings to his body, a fitting tribute to a man who had a proclivity for ecumenism. This was the part that gave me goose bumps. Their unadorned chanting (as opposed to the refined swelling of the Sistine Chapel’s boys choir) was raw, painful, and moving. It was almost like wailing.

Amid cheers and riotous applause, the pallbearers then ushered the wooden coffin into the darkness of the massive basilica to bury him in the crypt underneath. By this time, the sun had already set. The mourners at the Rizal Park were already holding lighted candles.

While the choir at the Quirino Grandstand was singing “Hindi Kita Malilimutan” (I Will Never Forget You), we made our way out through the still thickening crowd. I could only hope that the next pope would not be of the traditional mold. A female pope perhaps? Ok, maybe that’s asking too much. A non-Italian, non-European, non-linear thinker pope would do. But one has to look outside of the College of Cardinals to find that person.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

counseling a friend

If I were in her shoes, would I have done the same thing? Sure it is easy for me to dish out advice and to view the situation from afar. But an armchair analyst’s ruminations can never really claw at the flesh to minutely scrutinize the tendons and ligaments. It merely takes in the body as a whole and passes judgment sans the inconvenience of anxieties that could only come from personally experiencing the ordeal. It is this anxiety, however, that compels one to think hard. It is this anxiety that may salvage a life that precariously flounders in the sea like a flotsam.

Sure I have had trysts with married women before. But these were devoid of feelings, merely urges of the flesh. Can these compare to what she is going through? Am I clear-headed enough to give her a piece of my mind regarding her situation?

Would my advice be as valid as what she herself will have figured out after some serious self-introspection? Perhaps not. Perhaps she could do better. Her mind is just blurred with passion and fear. Being at the verge of jumping into an unknowable abyss, she hangs stubbornly onto the thought that her love might not be enough to cushion the fall, or to heal the wounds that she will sustain from it.

As she drank her calamansi juice across the table at Nipa Hut last night, I knew that, whatever I said would just probably be saturated with a million other feelings, thoughts, and fears that are currently tussling in her head.

I’ve done my part. I will just wait until she does hers. And we will both proceed from there.


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

i can't smile without you

It probably was the hottest party I’ve ever attended. I mean that quite literally. It was nearly midnight but we still felt like slimy, blobby chunks of pork being grilled to perfection for some backyard barbecue party. You’re right, Joven, nothing describes it better than, well, HOT!!!

It was Louis’ birthday bash at his place in Bel-Air, Makati last Saturday. I, together with friends from French class, trooped to his stuffy two-storey house to celebrate with him. As usual, it was such a hilarious night.

The food was great (but then again, almost every dish tastes great for me). Having arrived early, Lu, Dax, Michelle, and I helped out Rose (Louis’ girlfriend) in mincing garlic, chopping beans, and cutting leaves whose names I don’t know. These were supposed to be the ingredients for the pancit which I never got to taste, c’est dommage!

The ever-talented Dulce who always has something unscrewed up there (‘love you, brod!), took centerstage with her guitar and sang songs, sometimes even making up lyrics as she went along—such a great stand-up artist, that woman! After a while, Julien and Veronique and other French guests, who seemed to have sprang up from our Forum 2 textbook (Christophe Weiss n’est pas là?) joined our group, and Dulce regaled them with her songs.

Of course, the undoubted star of the night was—drum roll please—Marc…and his winner smile (peace Marc, hehe). After a tiny accident in Australia, which left him with a slightly different grin, he is back with a vengeance and with a brand new theme song (Everybody now: “You know I can’t smile without you, I can’t smile without you…”).

Years from now, when Marc is already our Secretary of National Defense (which is not impossible to happen considering his penchant for anything military and his love for Napoleonic tactics), don’t fail to visit one of his most treasured landmarks down under (in Australia, stupid!), a framed, cordoned off area of gym parquet with bite marks. (Once again: “You know I can’t smile without you…If you only knew, what I’m going through…”)

While Louis was passing around gin tonic, which he mixed himself, we delighted in posing for Dionne’s cam. But of course, no one can beat Dax, the ubiquitous, ready-for-my-close-up-direk, cover boy of Paris and Rome. Like a beach bum, he had his pic taken on the hammock at the garage.

If ever our plan of coming up with a French class calendar pushes through, Dax would be our January boy so his pic could appear prominently on the first page. Then, we’d also put him in February, March, April, May, etc. He can also be our image model for our latest advocacy project: Wax Dax, a move to wax off all of his excess hair.

As if the ruckus wasn’t enough, an insufferable, attention-deficient, hyperactive cockroach kept on getting into the scene. It crawled, flew, hung around, and danced to the shrieks of Michelle and Dionne.

Dulce eventually gave me her shoe with which I vainly tried to squish the damned thing (a little later, Dulce herself squeezed it with flying colors). The screams attracted the attention of this French kid who went out to see what the fuss was all about. I told him, “C’est une carafe” He just gave me a half-bewildered, half amused stare. Weird kid, I thought.

Later on, I realized I was the weird one. I should’ve said “C’est un cafard. (cockroach)” instead of saying “C’est une carafe (glass flask).” The kid must have thought those Filipinos were nuts, screaming like crazy because of a glass pitcher. So much for trying hard to speak French.

After the cockroach incident came Michelle’s “centipede jokes.” Too much gin tonic really affects everyone’s sense of humor, hehe.

We decided to call it a night around midnight (the last time we partied at Louis’ place, we went home at 3 a. m.). We’d surely miss partying at Louis’ when he finally leaves Manila for Japan.

I still had a party to attend. Jonj had texted me that the old Lingua Franca gang would be meeting up at a bar in Quezon City to get drowned in booze. But I thought it was too late to catch up with the guys. So I just took a quick shower and slumped on my bed.

In a weird dream, I heard a faintly familiar song: “You know I can’t smile without you, I can’t smile without you.”


Friday, April 01, 2005

job interview in a glamorous sweatshop

Despite having this weird feeling that I shouldn’t be there, I still stayed and waited for my number to be called. I was inside a Makati call center’s lounge area, a sleek, carpeted waiting room filled with fifty or so applicants waiting for their turn to be interviewed.

It was Holy Wednesday. No office. It wouldn’t hurt to give this job interview a shot, I thought. I didn’t actually remember having sent my resume to that company in particular. In a fit of depressing ennui, I fanned out my résumés to several companies whose ads I saw in the papers several weeks ago. I was not seriously considering changing careers. It was just a case of the blah (which I’ve been feeling quite regularly these past few weeks) and somehow I wanted to feel that I was still in control of my life by proactively doing something. So I emailed away my résumé.

That’s how I ended up in that lounge. As soon as I was given my number, 72, I felt that my time would be better spent somewhere else. Working for a call center isn’t exactly my dream job. I have this feeling that some of them are merely glamorous sweatshops (no offense to call center agents). Aside from having a prepared script for nearly every possible question a client could ask, you have to continually kiss ass even if you are already being ripped apart with insults. Patience and humility, unfortunately, are not in my short list of virtues.

But still, I stayed on and waited. It’s holy week anyway; I could pretend I was one with Christendom in commemorating Christ’s passion by subjecting myself to self-mortification by way of going through this stupid interview.

We were interviewed two at a time. It can’t get more unflattering than that. I came in the cubicle with a nervous-looking girl who merely laughed whenever words failed her. Oddly enough, the interviewer laughed with her. Was I in the right room? Or did it say ‘Hospital for Nutcases’ on the door?

The interviewer seemed fresh from college. Obviously, he was one of their prized call center agents. I was under the impression that he was more interested in the way we pronounced our words than in what we actually said. He asked us standard, boring questions to which we—the girl and I—replied alternately. After having sufficiently heard both of us speak, he turned to the girl and said “Miss So-and-So, thank you for showing interest in our company. If I don’t call you tonight, you know what that means.” He then shook her hand and told her to leave.

After which he faced me and continued the interview as if nothing had happened. I felt sorry for the girl. How cruel can you get? Why would he turn down a girl who was obviously eager to work (albeit her accent was quite off) and choose a guy like me who doesn’t give a shit if his call center met its quota or burned down?

“How soon can you start working?” he asked.

“Uhhm, buddy, you haven’t even told me how much you’ll pay me. Honestly, the only thing that would attract me to a job like this is the money”

Of course I didn’t say that. You all know how job interviews go. There are always things that are taboo.

So I just said if ever they’d hire me, I can probably report for work one month after as I still needed to resign from my job. That seemed to satisfy him. We chatted for a while and then the bomb came. He was visibly shocked when he learned how much my desired salary was.

“Would you be willing to accept a lower starting salary?” he asked. I said if I’m sure of a promotion after a few months, then I probably would. I found out that they would pay me way below my present salary. He must’ve sensed that I was disappointed. I can be so transparent at times. Seeing that we could not settle the remuneration at that moment, he mumbled something about calling me up so we could arrive at a compromise regarding my salary. Short of saying “Fuck off, you arrogant prick, we can’t afford you!”

Well, I can’t afford to leave my job for them either. It’s not worth it. Not unless they could pay me twice as much as my salary right now plus the money I make for my work on TV. But then again, money is not everything.

I’m back in my little old blue cubicle again. So much for call center interviews.