“So, what do you do?”

In the company of strangers, my friend would say that he “works in a hospital” when asked that all important question – “So, what do you do?”  

He will then proceed to nail that well-practised game face all evening. That blur look which gives the impression that he is anything but a doctor. 

He tells me that it was the best lesson learnt from early in his career because if he were to reveal that he is a medical doctor, he would have to spend all evening listening to folks relating their long list of ailments – imagined or otherwise – in the hope of getting free specialist advice over dinner.

“I can’t dish medical advice without proper diagnosis, you should know that,” he would complain later. I would obediently agree.  I mean, what else can I say? 

Hence, whenever I am caught in similar situation, I frequently say “I am a broker” in a nonplussed way with my shark-like smile for added effect. Somehow, the word “broker” inevitably conjures images of hungry rent-seeking scheming agents. 

Like my doctor friend, I have learnt the hard way that to hold oneself out as an private equity investor is like being doused with honey before entering a roomful of bees. You’ll be swarmed. Transformed instantly into the life of the party. A minor celebrity. Suddenly, everyone has a business proposal or knows a friend of a friend who has one. The more opportunistic ones will persuade you to take a we-fie, before asking for your personal phone number so that they can sent you the photo (of course!) and shortly after, their business proposals.

Ideally, a person is not defined by his job title nor judged by it because work is just one of the subsets that makes up a whole personality.  Unfortunately, we don’t live in that ideal world. Rant all you want and philosophize till you turn blue, the bottom line is this:  your answer to that seemingly casual question -“So, what do you do?” – is like the key  the real world uses to plug you on their food chain pyramid.

Occasionally, I would answer, “I am a retiree.”  It would certainly guarantee a quick dismissal – after all who wants to hear about a has-been.  But it is an efficient way to get rid of pushy social climbers and aggressive self-promoters.  Yup, those ones who hand out business cards like Santa before dominating the conversation for the next hour; telling you how great they are, how qualified, how awesome his business is. 

So, what do you do?

 

 

Queen of wishful thinking

I was lounging on the lazy chair playing time-wasting games on my phone when my husband returned from his morning jog. It was a sweltering 37deg C in Kuala Lumpur.

“Isn’t that like too hot to be outside, trying to outrun your equally unfit buddy around the jogging track?” I asked, eyes fixed at the screen while my fingers tapped frantically to save the wobbly avatar.

Instead of giving me some smart-assed quip, he leaned forward and wrapped his sweaty body over me. Then, he rubbed his oily stubble against my cheek. EEEEeeeooowwwww! So gross!

Attempting to move away, I misjudged the space between me and the edge of the lazy chair, rolled over and promptly fell clumsily onto the floor; with the chair tipping precariously.

Unfortunately, my husband thought that was the most hilarious sight in the world and he has not stopped reminding me of it since.

“Hey! just that frigging one time and you make it sound as though I fall all over the place all the time”, I protested, only to have him re-enact my fall by twirling his index finger in a downward spiral. Totally juvenile!

After lunch, he asked me what I would like to do for the rest of the day —apart from falling off chairs? I pretended not to hear the last part of his question. To be honest, I wished we could what other families would normally do on weekends: Drive some place off the beaten track for interesting foods. Catch a movie. Go window shopping… instead of catching up on sleep/work/emails which was our weekend routine.

“Let’s go to the pasar malam,” I proposed, referring to the night market at the town square where one can get everything from fresh vegetables and local delicacies to clothes and fake branded handbags to traditional medicinal herbs sellers guaranteeing “the ultimate in conjugal bliss.”

I can picture him going to the pasar malam. He would probably spend his time training his eyes on the floor, trying to avoid puddles of water formed by melting ice dripping off the makeshift fish stalls; or covering his nose at the rancid smell of food rotting in the nearby stagnant drains; or shielding his eyes against the burning diesel fumes coming from generators used to light up the stalls at night. And the crowds…shoulder to shoulder … intruding into his personal space. Arrrgghhhh! I know how much he hates that. LOL

“Sure,” he grinned.

“Seriously?” This was too good to be true.

“This evening?” I asked again, making sure that I was hearing the right thing.

“Yup. But first, you must do that roll-from-the-chair-onto-the-floor trick for me again”

“And I am the queen of wishful thinking,” I sighed.

 

Caution: subconscious at work

Sometimes one’s subconscious does funny things, like:

first, you innocently pick up to read Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen, before finding yourself propelled to Anne Tyler’s A Beginner’s Goodbye. By then, you would have decided, what the heck! let’s make it 3 out of 3; and you finish off with Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking.

What’s the common thread that binds all three? you might ask.

Grief, I would reply. Grief and mourning and moving on without really moving out.

That’s the subconscious at work.

A mischievous little fella he can sometimes be.