25 February 2007

Losing Someone Over Small Stuff (2)

(This is a continuation of an earlier post.)

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"


Lam Chun See said...

Wah you also quite sensitive one hor? You must have felt very hurt thinking someone who calls you a friend tried to cheat you.

But still, on hindsight, it would have been better if you had given him the benefit of the doubt and clarified. Could it have been a miscommunication problem? Maybe I heard you wrongly?

But as you said this is on hingsight. At 25, we tend to be more hot tempered right?

Ivan Chew said...

In your situation, if I was younger I would have paid the money for fear of offending the other person but I'd seethe inside over the money. Now that I'm older, I'd have not paid the money but discuss the matter calmly. I'd rather settle the issue and not carry any anger. Even if I end up paying for it, I'd just write it off as sunk costs and take it as a lesson in life.

I may be wrong of course -- but from your post, seems like you still carry a grudge or at least strong resentment over the incident (i.e. you didn't talk to him when you saw him). Why not just let it go? One has to look at the long term. At the age of 20, $450 is a big sum but if we expect to live to 60 or 80, what's $450? Is it worth bearing a grudge all our lives? You don't have to forget the incident but I think you should forgive. Next time you see him, go over and say 'Hi'. If the person rejects you, then it's his loss. At least you've decided to move on to better things.

Anonymous said...

I've only recently stumbled upon your blog and read this with great interest. You lost a friend over a "trivial" amount of $450? Guess what broke up a friendship of mine of over 20 years? Ferrero Rocher!!!! Yup, the chocolate.
Not the amount that it costs that did the trick/break but how i was treated over my request to buy me some IF it was convenient.

Ex-friend was gushing about how cheap it was in S'pore compared to Msia when on sale and that it was simply everywhere. Stupid me asked to "tumpang buy for me please" ie i will pay for it upon receipt.

I was told that I was very ill mannered to have even asked and to top it all "i asked my other friends and they all agree that you are ill-mannered to do so". Huh???!!!!

Goodbye to 20 years of "friendship"

Victor said...

Chun See - Knowing that I am sensitive, you still dare to call me 'hot-tempered'? Luckily it all happened 25 years ago. Haha. I think everyone has some degree of sensitiveness. It depends very much on the circumstances and the timing. I agree that communication is important. Like you said, I should have clarified with him.

Victor said...

Ivan - You gave very good advice there. Too bad that I mature very slowly. Next time I see him again, I will do just that. Even better: CL if you are reading this post, I would like to make up with you. When do you have time to go out for a drink? On me.

Victor said...

Anonymous - Let me guess. You are both of the fairer sex, right? How did I know? Because most girls/women love chocolates. (I didn't say anything about being sensitive hor.)

Chris Sim said...

The way I look at it, Victor, it's a breakdown in communication. You should have clarified with him about the 1-week trial. If you're afraid of offending him, then sad to say, both of you aren't truly good friends for true friends aren't afraid to speak what they feel about each other. That's why I'm always honest with you wat. Right? Proud monkey?

And how insensitive can u get! I lurrvvee chocolate too, u know. Stereotype! Hahaha

I used to have a good pal too. He liked my younger sister who spurned his affection. Because of this, he fell out with me. Can u believe that?

It's always the same old story lah Victor. If it's not money, then it must be relationships. 烦死人了!

Victor said...

Chris - I already said I agree that communication is important what. (See my reply to Chun See above.) That's why whenever you bash me, I always bash you back, haha.

And you are surely one very unusual man - know how to cook, wash clothes, shop for groceries, decorate the house and love chocolates - all of which I consider very feminine traits, haha.

Anonymous said...

what happenned to my earlier reply to Victor??

"i didnt say anything about being sensitive hor" - victor you HAVE matured and acquired diplomacy since the CL/camera incident!!! :-)

And yes, i and the other party is of the fairer sex. The issue was not the choc per se but that a friend of so many decades think so badly of me and so little of me that she can't buy me some choc??!!! And tells others that i so ill-mannered??!!!!

Ivan, i disagree with your perception that Vic was/is bearing a grudge against CL. To me, bearing a grudge involves a certain amount of intention to get back at the other party. I don't think Victor had that intention. I certainly didnt - it is more of the extreme hurt and no longer wanting the other person in your life.

and i was far from my 20's when the choc incident occurred. It was not an immediate reaction to terminate the relationship, at first I thought it was just some nonsense. After some thought and days, i came to the conclusion that i must mean little or nothing to the other person.

I think it was the last straw that broke the camel's back - i brushed asided many prior incidents as small matters.

p/s victor, i love your tagline - "every old dog could do a good blog"


Anonymous said...

One more point to note GD, Chris bakes. hehe..

Now I finally know why you know so much about cameras. Well, you paid $450 for a friendship. If you are handling this issue now, what will you do?

You remember the day where I smsed you about this person (the one out of the 3?) I lost his friendship, and I don't even know why. You smsed me, 'Friends come & go, only some stay a bit longer' too. Now I understand why you say that.

Must let go, must 看开...

Victor said...

Anonymous - You seem to know me quite well and sound like someone I know. Thanks for visiting my blog again. I have a request to make. (Hope it is not undiplomatic to ask. :P) Next time, can type in your initials or nickname?(You don't need to have a blog to do that). The purpose of doing that is not so much to identify you but for me to tell one Anonymous from another. Glad you like my tagline.

Your chocolate incident is really unfortunate and seemingly minor. Know of anyone who broke up over sesame and green beans?(芝麻,绿豆) :P

Victor said...

Etel - Oh yes, I forgot that Chris bakes. He also nags at his son, haha.

No, I paid $450 for pride, not friendship. Frankly, I don't think there was any misunderstanding or miscommunication. In any case, a commercial transaction cannot be deemed to have taken place until payment has been made. I've every right to return the goods even if he was not my friend, don't you think?

You too must let go ya?

Anonymous said...

Most of us also mature 'very slowly'.

If he were not your friend, I think you would have asked him to clarify about the 'one-week trial'. Besides afraid of offending him, you might be afraid that he would deny it and then it could lead to some heated argument....."At 25, we tend to be more hot tempered."

Victor said...

Frannxis, if he were not my friend, I don't think he will offer me a one-week trial. Who can trust a stranger with an expensive camera?

Chris Sim said...

Which brings to mind a friend who offered to sell me his "lao ya" handphone in what he called "friendship price". Come one, what kinda friendship is this? If we are truly friends, there's no such thing as "friendship price". Crap.

Victor said...

Chris, I know who you are referring to. An office colleague, right?

But grow up, will you. There is no such thing as a free lunch either, even between friends. Some friends are very practical (现实) one. You've got to accept them as they are, warts and all.

However, fret not. As I said, nowadays they can easily find other 'friends' (who are mostly strangers) on e-auction to sell their wares at 'friendship' prices. Many friendships probably have been saved this way, thanks to e-auction - one of many good things that has evolved from the Internet.

Victor said...

So sorry, Mr Lam. It's my fault again. That insensitive remark has been "deleted forever" and "it can't be undone". I hope you are alright with that.

(Actually it's not just the whole S'pore know. It should be the whole world know because Internet is accessed internationally. So how should I make it up to you? Buy you lunch? Oops.)

Sigh, looks like in this Year Of The Pig, the Monkey has to apologise a lot because he pigs around too much. Must have some self-control liao.

Kendall said...

I know i am 6 years late to this discussion but i just had to say - since you seem to meet you ex-BFF here and there, why not just go up and say hi? Life is short, your fight 25 years ago is meaningless, i know you have pride, but is it worth letting go of someone who was once so close? I say go up to him and talk. Who knows? He might apologise, or give some explanation and become your new best friend! All the best! Go for it!

Victor said...

Hi Kendall, thank you for your comment. Yes, you are right. I will do what you have advised if I happened to meet CL again.