Saturday, May 17, 2008

Growing Up Asian in Australia - the Book!

Last week, I cycled to the post office to pick up a parcel: a collection of stories, of which my Conversations with My Parents, is one.

The collection is called "Growing Up Asian in Australia", edited by Alice Pung and published by Black Inc. Books.

When I opened the parcel, and saw the book, I wanted to ride home immediately to start reading it. Instead, I had to ride to work and start work. I was bursting with impatient excitement for lunchtime, but I did not know where to go for lunch. If, as would usually be the case, I had a sandwich, I could just head to the Common and read my book on a park bench. Sadly, I needed to buy something to eat, so I decided to go 'next door'. I did not want to go any further afield, because that would reduce the amount of time I had to read my book. The main problem with having lunch next door, is that other work people are next door. I did not want to talk to anyone.

Luckily, no one I was actually friendly with was next door, and all I had to do was chirp "hi!" to some people, take my own seat at my own table and stick my nose into the book. There, I was transported to a world of stories - some comic, some poignant, some familiar, some less so. I was a bit discombobulated when a work mate said, "What are you reading?" And I mumbled into myself with eyes far away, so unlike my usual work self, "Just a book", showing her the cover and hoping she won't take it from me to flick through, to find me in there, to force me to be pleased about my inclusion in the collection with her, whom I care nothing for, when I have not told most of my friends nor indeed any of my family, except one of my sisters. Thankfully, she says, "hmm, interesting", in a way that indicates she finds it very UN-interesting. I walked off without saying anything else.

I'm not exactly sure why I haven't told many people. I told my sister as an afterthought, at the end of a telephone conversation, about two months after I knew my piece was included. I told friends at random, and I'm not even entirely sure who I've told, and who I haven't.

I wrestled with whether to give my full name to the piece, or a link to this blog. I kept most of the wrestling to myself, although I did precis my thoughts for my partner. As usual, he helped me order my thoughts, and come to a conclusion.

Reading through the book gives me the same odd feeling I have mentioned before, when viewing a migrant exhibition: a depressed sort-of lassitude mixed with urgent inspiration. I can do this, people are interested in my stories. But I don't have time. I'm not good enough. My writing is mundane, imprecise, amateurish. My stories are so similiar to all these. It will bore everyone. I'm just flailing about the place, pulled in a myriad directions. I'm not that passionate about my family. I'm not that passionate about my work. I'm not that passionate about my self, or the struggles I've been through to become happy about being me.

I love my family. But they deserve their privacy.

I'm okay with my work. And not stupid enough to jeopardise it on my blog.

I'm reconciled with my self, and if I'm completely honest, quite happy about being me, and for most of my life have been so. Hell, I never struggled very hard. I had a big, accepting, loving family. I went to school in a large multi-cultural community, where if you called me chink then I called you whitey, and we were square. The cuts never cut much deeper than skin, because I have a reserve of strength, because I fought, because I was me, and I have always been okay about that.

Don't buy the book for my story. You've probably already read it, and if not, just click on that handy link up top. But do buy it for the whole collection. There are some duds - there always are in any collection - and your duds will differ from my duds, because, you know, we're different people and we have different tastes.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

How to get your lawyer off-side

[telephone rings]

Me: My Law Firm, Me speaking.

Client: Hello. Could I please speak to Mr Oanh?

Me: Yep, that's me.

Client: Could I please speak to Mr Oh-arn-huh? I'm sorry, I cannot pronounce the name.

Me: That's fine. It's a difficult name to pronounce when just reading it. It's me.

Client: But I need to speak to Mr Oh-arn, I think.

Me: Yep, that's me.

Client: I've got a letter here from Mr Oh-arn, a solicitor.

Me: Yep, that's me.

Client: Oh. [pause] You're my solicitor?

Me: Yep. [What I don't say: But I sure as hell don't want to be anymore]

I am much less helpful than I could be in this telephone conversation. I have guessed who the caller is, and I know why he is calling. But, because I am riled, the rest of the conversation goes something like this.

Client: Um, well, I've got this letter.

Me: Yes?

Client: And um, well, it's very long.

Me: Yes.

Client: Um, well, um, I think, um.

Me: Have you read the letter?

Client: Um, well, no.

Me: No?

Client: It's very long.

Me: I see.


Client: Hello?

Me: Yes.

Client: So, what do I do now?

Me: Why don't you start by telling me who you are?

Client: Oh. I'm Mr Sexist Client.

Me: Okay.

Client: So, what do I do now?

Me: Read the letter.

Client: Oh.


Client: Hello?

Me: Yes?

Client: The letter is long.

Me: Yes.

Client: Um.

Me: [sighing] Basically, the letter is our terms and conditions for acting on your behalf. At the end of the letter, I ask you to telephone me to make an appointment. I assume that is why you are telephoning me? Would you like to make an appointment? [what I'd rather say: Would you like to instruct some other solicitors? You know, ones who are male?]

Client: Oh. Um, well, do I have to come in?

Me: I could advise you over the phone, but I would prefer to meet with you in person, at least initially. You don't live that far away from our offices. We are easy to find and have car-parking out front and are near a bus stop, if you do not drive.

Client: Can't I just sign the contract, and you sign your part?

Me: No. You could just sign the contract, but I won't counter-sign to say that I have advised you, when I haven't. Either you come in, and I advise you and then counter sign, or you find another solicitor who would be prepared to counter sign when they haven't advised you. I do not know who to refer you to in those circumstances.

Client: Oh. Can I come in today then? How long will it take?

Me: I'm busy today. I'm free tomorrow. It will take about an hour.

Client: An hour?

Me: Any time tomorrow afternoon that you're free to come in?

Client: Okay.

[we make a time that suits us both]

Me: Thank you for calling, Mr Sexist Client. Please read the letter, and see you tomorrow.

Me, after placing the handset into its cradle: Bloody hell. Stupid client.

Smoke starts streaming from my ears, and nose. The pupil of my eyes are probably blood red, and I bet I could whither inanimate objects with a glance. I have to take many deep breaths before I am calm enough to telephone our receptionist to book a meeting room. Most. Aggravating. Client. Ever.

Update: I had my meeting with the client. Usually, I am fairly conservatively and severely dressed, with my hair pulled back into a ponytail. But I decided to go all out for this client: I let me hair down, and brushed it; I wore a blouse and unbuttoned the buttons a little lower than I would normally; and I used a pink highlighter to take my meeting notes. Take that, Mr Sexist Client.

He was, in the end, actually quite nice. But I'm still annoyed.

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