"Impatience waits around for me," Paint You Target by Fightstar.
Going to and from IPGM Penang Campus to go back home to Harvard, Bedong will have you getting on and off the Penang ferries quite a few times. And on these famous ferries, we can observe interesting things, if we only took the trouble to eavesdrop on people and watch them from a fair distance. It's not stalking if you don't get caught. But here I will share just one interesting conversation I overheard and also a random thought while on the ferry. Note that these occurences happened on differing days.
1. The Female Atticus
I was making my way back to the island and was waiting for a ferry to come by. Of course, the time intervals between ferries to dock rarely exceed 15 minutes, so as usual, nobody had to wait long. But while waiting, a jumpy child of, by my estimations, 4 years old also came to the waiting area. I noticed that this wide-eyed Chinese kid was with his mother, who looked to be in her mid-30s. They were speaking English, thus making me bat an eyelid. But I didn't try to spark a conversation with them, as I am not known to start coversations with strangers.
When a ferry arrived, I alongside everyone else who was waiting slowly raided the ferry at the fastest leisurely pace we could manage, as was the tradition for getting on the ferry. Everyone was in a hurry, but at the same time also aware that no matter how fast we get to our seats, the ferry would still depart when it wanted to. I secured a place near the front, and to my mild delight, the mother and child sat just behind me, so I got to eavesdrop on them.
"Mommy, when will the ferry go off?" said the child.
"It'll go off when everyone gets their seat." Said the mother, patiently.
"Mommy, look! The ocean!"
"Yes, I can see. Does it look like the oceans at Perth?"
"No. Mommy, when are we going to Perth again?"
"We'll only go on holidays dear."
"But why can't we go now?"
"Because you have school to attend."
"Then let's not go to school."
"No no, you need to go to school. Tell you what, if you do good in school, we'll go to Perth again soon."
The conversations continued like that for a few moments. Then we started moving, and they wen't to the side of the ferry to enjoy the sea breeze while standing up while I opted to remain seated. After riding the ferry for the umpteenth time, you aren't as excited as you were the first few times to see some bubbles form from the side of the ferry. Then they got back to their seats.
"Mommy, why are we moving up and down?"
"That's what happens when we float."
"Well, when we get home, we can try putting a toy boat on some water and we'll splash the water to see what happens."
"But how can I see it then if I splash the water and then the water gets in my eyes?"
"Then we'll just splash it slowly.."
I have high respect to the mother for answering all her son's questions patiently without retaliating like most parents would with a "Can you just keep quiet??". And that kid's last question made my day. :)
I have this tendency to think about very negative things when I really shouldn't. This is a good example:
While I was staring blankly at the life jackets that were locked up in steel cages on the ferry ceiling, a thought ran through my head.
"What if we actually needed to use them life-jackets? How would that be possible?"
Of course, they ferry would have to sink for some reason, such as a suicide bomber somehow getting on the ferry and blowing himself up. I would quickly pull the lever which released the life jackets from their cages (I also thought of the possibility of the levers getting jammed out of lack of usage, but I decided to be optimistic) and distribute them to everyone on the ferry. Everyone would be in a state of absolute panic, leaving me and the captain of the ship the only calm heads around to take on the responsibility of calming everyone else down and helping them with their life jackets (perasan hero gila).
When we finally reach the water, I would tell the captain to take care of everyone else while I swim a kilometre and a half to get to shore and try to get help. Then I'd swim and swim and swim, being careful not to hit any fish along the way. When I finally reach land, I would go straight to a public phone and get the most important person on the line.
"Hello Bapak! Laptop Abang masok air.."