A satellite photo of the bungalow which CL lived in.
One day some 25 years ago, CL said to me, "My brother has a Canon AE-1 SLR camera with 28-85 mm Vivitar lens which he doesn't use anymore. He would like to sell it for $450, complete with camera bag. He bought everything new for over $800 a few years ago. You can try out the camera for one week. If you don't like it, just return it to me."
As instructed, I took the camera home and tried it out for one week. One week later, I was not so sure about buying the camera so I brought everything back to CL.
"But I already told my brother that I have sold it to you", CL said.
"What!!!???" I exclaimed. ($450 may seem paltry now but in those days, it was two whole months of my NS pay!)
I took everything back home and thought about the whole incident seriously for one whole day. The next day I went to see CL again at his bungalow. I had with me a wad of $50 notes. I handed to him 9 pieces of the notes. "Please count the money", I said. CL did as told without saying a word. After he counted the money, I turned and walked away, also without saying anything further. In actual fact, I was trying hard to control my emotions. That was the last time I spoke to CL.
Many years later, I saw a photo of CL and his young son in a Lifestyle magazine (published by NTUC Media Co-operative Ltd). They won a 'Like Father Like Son' contest.
I hope that it is only in looks the son took after his father, not his scheming ways. One Sunday morning a few years ago, I saw CL again together with his son who had grown much taller then as compared to the little boy in the contest photo. They were eating the famous prawn noodles in a coffeeshop in Onan Road. (The stall has since moved to Carpmael Road nearby.) My father-in-law and I were also having the prawn noodles for breakfast. Since the coffeeshop was quite small, CL should have noticed my presence just like I noticed his. However, we both pretended we didn't see each other. It was a case of two look at two but with eyes that cannot see. (My dear blogo-god-daughter Elaine told me that she had a similar experience a few weeks ago. Dear, I can understand how you felt then. And now you'll understand why I know quite a bit about cameras too.)
It has been a quarter of a century ago since this unhappy incident happened but I could still remember the details very clearly. It is as if the details were permanently etched in my memory. Perhaps, it was just unfortunate that e-auctions were unheard of 25 years ago. Otherwise, I don't think CL would have been so desperate to force-sell the camera to me and I wouldn't have been an unwilling owner of my first SLR camera. If Yahoo Auctions and Ebay were available then, CL could have easily found another
victim willing buyer for his brother's camera.
It was a sad story, at least for me. It hurts me even today to think that CL was prepared to sacrifice our close friendship just to get rid of a camera. As for me, I unexpectedly gained a camera as well as a valuable lesson. Yet, I consider it a lose-lose situation for both of us because I too lost a good friend in the process.
Now, looking back at this incident, I think that our friendship would have ended anyway. If I had insisted on returning the camera to CL, he would have ended the friendship anyway. The difference is that by paying him $450, I could claim the
dubious honour of being the one who broke off the friendship. For me, it is a matter of principle and pride which a monkey has full of.
I recall a memorable quote from CL: "Friends come and go. Only some stay a bit longer." How true! What would be my rejoinder to that quote? "Friends are by choice. Relatives are by chance."
What would you have done in such a situation? Now don't tell me that you wouldn't have accepted the camera for a trial. After hearing how the story panned out, you have the benefit of hindsight which I didn't have at that time.
I would like to end this post with the meaningful lyrics from Glen Campbell's song, Friends:
"Friends are never earned they're a gift from the loving God
And they're precious beyond human evaluation
But you dare not take them for granted or they'll lift away like a smoke
And the warmth of their caring will vanish into the chill of the endless nights
Most of my friends are unknowns they probably won't even rate an obituary
Unless they live and die in a small town
Somewhere where nothing much ever happens
But a few of my friends are big people
They'd made the word ring with laughter down to this string of court
They're famous sensitive talented and their names are household words
And yet they're no more precious in God's eyes or in mine
Than those wonderful nobodys who live and die in small towns
Who is your friend he's someone who warms you with a nod
Or with an unspoken word in hard times when you're hurting beyond words
Who is your friend he's someone who holds you to her breast
And sighs softly into your hair when no other medicine could possibly stop the pain
A friend is someone who clings his glass against yours
Or answers the phone at three in the morning when you're lost
And with a few words of encouragement and concern
Makes you realize that you're not really lost at all
Friends come in both sexes in all shapes and sizes
The most imprtant thing they have in common is their ability
To share with you your most sky splitting joys
Or your deepest most spelling ol' some sorrows for they're all your friends"