The two female staff tending the payment counters at the ground floor of a government office greeted them with a warm smile and was very helpful and courteous.
These last few days were moments to the final countdown in preparation for his son's forthcoming wedding.
The man and his second son wanted to settle the cost of hiring a reception hall administered by the ministry. Located by the sea, it was perfect for the wedding reception of his eldest son on a Sunday in a few weeks time.
That was two Fridays ago.
They made arrangements to hire the hall well in advance. In fact 55 weeks before the wedding reception date. The reason behind the very advanced booking was the popularity amongst locals to hire the halls for wedding receptions. He was made to understand that whoever booked first would get to use the hall. They managed to book precisely on their desired date as no one else had made any bookings on the same date. He felt very satisfied.
The booking was made at the reception hall's office with an officer in-charge. The most senior officer at the hall, he was told, was the manager, but he had yet to meet him. He was not worried about not meeting the manager. After all, he managed to 'get' his hall!
The hiring cost came to $2,000, plus a few hundred dollars for the use of two additional rooms. A deposit of $500 was paid as a pre-condition to the hire. Another requirement was that the hiring cost must be paid in full at least a week before the day of the event.
They were at the government office to do just that, that Friday afternoon.
Even though it was still three weeks before the wedding, he wanted to get it done earlier to have a peace of mind.
The security at the compound was very tight, but they were fairly treated. The security guard at the main entrance directed them to where they could park their car, and told them where to report to get their passes before going to the payment office block.
After getting their passes, they then walked some two hundred metres to the office block, arriving about fifteen minutes past three.
"Pembayaran sudah tutup!" The lady staff told him (Payment time is closed).
"Tapi notis kita memadahkan masa kerja adalah hingga 4 petang," he said. (The notice indicates that the working hours were till 4pm).
"Banar pulang tu. Atu masa kerja. Tapi waktu pembayaran tutup jam 3 petang." The lady affirmed. (True. That's the working hours. But payment is till 3pm only).
The man looked bewildered. He then took another look at the notice board. Sure enough the payment period was till 3pm. He was lost for words.
The female staff looked at him with pity.
As he and his son were about to leave, the lady staff said "Kita tunggu dulu. Biar saya check sama ada pembayaran boleh di terimalagi." (Can you wait. Let me check if payment can still be accepted)."Minta surat-surat kita," She added. (Let me have your papers).
She disappeared into a room. A few minutes later she emerged with a smile. He was relieved.
"Ok. Jumlahnya $2,xxx," she said. (Ok. The total is $2,xxx).
"Tapi inda ditolak deposit $500 atukan?" the man asked (But won't the deposit be deducted?).
Even though he was thankful that his late payment was accepted, he thought of raising the matter about the deposit, after all it was about money!
"Kita boleh tuntut setelah selesai majlis," she replied (You can claim after the function is over).
He then enquired the procedures of claiming the deposit. She explained that he has to visit the office of the reception hall after the wedding was over. A claim form would need to be filled and an inspection would then be made. If the inspectors are satisfied, the office would issue a letter to certify that the condition of the hall is satisfactory. That letter could then be forwarded to the payment office, which would then make arrangements for the payment of the deposit.
Later on, he looked at his long list of invitees. One of them was an ex-head of department.
The man knew he lived in Jerudong. But when his wife went there to deliver the invitation card, she was told that the ex-head and his family had moved somewhere else. The man recalled that the ex-head's son was the manager of the hall at the time he made his booking.
"Boleh saya bertanya, dimana PM ah?" he asked the counter lady, trying his luck (May I ask; where is PM?).
"Ia mana lagi di opis dewanatu; sudah pindah kebahagian lain," she replied (He is no longer at the office of the hall; moved to another section).
"Ada kita tahu nombor teleponnya? Saya ani kan menghantar kad jemputan arah bapanya. Dulu dia di Jerudong tapi saya kana padahkan sudah pindah. Jadi saya kan betanya PM," he explained. (Do you have his phone number? I wanted to deliver an invitation card to his father. Previously he lived in Jerudong but I was told he had moved. So I want to ask PM).
The lady searched around the counter. She then took a piece of note and read the telephone number which the man duly wrote down.
Having completed their business, they left and along the way, he sent a message to PM who duly answered with his father's address.
From what he had learned from others, making arrangements for a wedding reception was not an easy matter. Besides booking with a caterer on the food and the tables, he needs to think of how to transport the souvenirs for his guests from his house to the hall the night before the reception. The souvenirs would have to be locked in a room to prevent it from getting 'lost'. Then he would have to make arrangements on how to receive his guests who wanted to drop in before they went off to other wedding functions.
It was normal for many guests to receive more than one wedding invitations. Some of them wanted to oblige those invitations by just coming to offer their greetings to the hosts who in anticipation of such short visits, made available a small room where the guests can have a cup of coffee and piece of cake.
He estimated that he would need at least a full day to make those arrangements.
So it was a bit of a disappointment for the man to learn that the hall was allowed to be used for another wedding reception the Saturday night before his event.
He estimated the last guest would leave by 10.30pm before the caterer began clearing up the place. Thus, he estimated, it would only be around midnight before he and his troop of helpers could move in to make their own arrangements in the hall. On top of that, the transportation of the souvenirs would be greatly affected. The caterers would be more worried due to the short time to prepare the tables that would be set early the next morning.
He hoped for a smooth arrangement. Then everything was hanging on the line.
He then held a discussion with the caterers. They concluded that the best option would be to talk to the caterer of the evening function. But they were not informed of the catering service provider or who was holding the function event. Each tried to contact those in charge but to no avail; the phone was dead!
But he was a person of ingenuity. He had a sense to call another staff who worked at the office and with whom he had dealt with on the use of the hall. She had given her phone number just in case.
The office staff said she no longer worked at the hall. She explained that the phone was unanswered because the officer-in-charge had a new number, which she later gave.
The following Saturday morning, the man called the new number and was thankful it was answered by the officer-in-charge. He explained that the Saturday night function had caused anxiety as they were not aware when the function would end. So he asked for the name of the caterer so that both caterers of the two events could meet and discuss a solution to the problem.
He was dismayed to learn that the officer-in-charge did not know who the caterer was! But said he would find out.
On reflection, he thought there should be a grace period of at least 24 hours before the hall can be rented out to the next user. That will give the oncoming user ample time to make preparations after the current user had cleared out.
The man felt that something was not right. How could an officer in-charge not know the user and the caterer? Was it possible that some other official approved the usage? But then, he said to himself, what's the point of brooding over the issue as it had been done!
He asked the officer in-charge if he could go to the hall to determine the location and size of the two extra rooms to ensure it suited his requirement. He was told that the hall was being used by a bank for its annual meeting but was welcomed to come if he didn't feel he would be affected by the bank's function.
So he and his son went off to the hall.
After arriving at the venue, he asked the officer-in-charge if it was possible to arrange a meeting with the user and caterer of the Saturday night function. He made a few calls and was thankful for his cooperation.
When he entered the office that afternoon, he was surprised to meet a young couple who were going to tie the knot on Saturday night. When he asked for the programme, the young man could not recall as he didn't carry his invitation card with him. His caterer would be coming late as well.
The young man was anxious to leave. He said "Kalau inda apa-apa lagi kami kan bejalan"(If there is nothing else, we'll leave).
That didn't give much hope for the man but that allowed him to say his piece to the officer-in-charge when the couple left.
"Inda patut biskita membenarkan orang lain memakai dewan ani pada malam atu," he lamented. "Sepatutnya ada jarak masa yang secukupnya antara satu majlis dengan majlis yang berikut. Ani, kami yang book awal pula yang mendapat susah," he said. (It is not fair to allow another party use the hall that night. There should be ample time between a function and the next one. Even after booking earlier, we still face problems).
"Saya minta maaf. Sebenarnya penggunaan dewan ani pada malam atu bukan melalui saya."
The officer-in-charge replied, defensively (I am sorry. The use of the hall for that night was not made through me).
The man was flabbergasted. He left.
He was later informed by his caterer that discussions did not work out with the other party.
They had hoped to minimise the period of rearranging the tables if the other caterer would allow his tables and chairs to be used for the Sunday morning function but he was only willing if a rental fee of $1,600 was paid.
So he and his caterer could only hope for the best even if it meant working till late into the night. The caterer said he would have to call for extra workforce and in turn, would have to pay overtime!
"Why should he be at the losing end when he had booked the hall more than fifty weeks ago?" he thought to himself.--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin