Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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Location: Singapore

A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

''Little Soon Forgotten Gestures''


The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little soon forgotten charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment, and the countless infinitesimal of pleasurable and genial feeling. (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)

Last Friday, I met a journalist with whom I have lost touch for many years.

How he has aged. Time is not kind to men, not just to women.

When I first met him about 17 years ago, he was good looking, polite and soft-spoken, almost shy.

He had ‘’hopped’’ publications – from the morning Chinese paper, to being editor of a Chinese gourmet magazine, to finally a Chinese evening paper. I used to swoon over his beautiful Chinese writing, especially for his gourmet magazine. Till today, I still feel that he deserves more than working in an evening paper.

I think the first time we met it was on a race day at the Turf Club where I was hosting journalists. At the end of the race he offered to give me a ride in his car – from the deep end of the Club to the main road so I could catch public transport home.

But he got hopelessly lost within the maze of the Club compounds and actually almost drove onto the race track – and the security guard had to guide him out of the circuit. All the while as he drove in circles, he mumbled ever so apologetically to me, ‘’so sorry, I am really sorry…’’

Now, as I recall this, I want to keel over with laughter. But at that time, I was pretty tense! Especially when I worked at the Club and should have at least directed him out of the tangle. But alas, I have never been great with my sense of direction ….

And so last Friday, while waiting for the guest of honour to arrive for an event, my restless eyes wandered to the press section of the auditorium. I had wanted to see if there were any journalists that I could recognise and approach after the event to ‘’sell’’ my company’s side of the story.

I spotted him, but was not sure if it was really him. He looked so tired and haggard.

At the end of the event I went over and asked if it was him and he recognised me, even though I look very different now (both in size and appearance).

We had a very brief exchange of cards and greetings, so as not to hold up part two of the morning’s event.

Back in the office, I dropped him a note - both to catch up and to give him details of my company’s involvement in the project that had just been feted in the morning.

His reply was really something: ‘’ what a big surprise, I’ve been wondering where you are… I look different right… am getting old already… aging rapidly…. Now people call me X, those who call me Y (the name I address him) are those who worked with me more than a decade ago (ouch!)….’’

And then he mentioned something which really moved me, ‘’it was nice to meet you again, you know I was so thankful for the book from American Express, always remember it.’’

I have actually forgotten having sent him that book! But his mention of it brought fond memories and a great sense of pride. It was a lovely large book written to commemorate the 150th anniversary of American Express. Each and every of the 80,000 employees got a copy, together with a heart-warming note from the CEO. I had requested for additional copies, to be sent to key customers and the media, together with my own cover note.

I am glad that my little gesture has been well-remembered. Sometimes you never know when someone would say little things that make you so proud of something – be it the company you work for, or the action you have taken.

I remember last year, my former PR consultant asked if I still had the Gemplus leather name card holder that I had given her long ago. She had lost it and would like to have the Gemplus one, because ‘’it has great soft quality leather’’. She went on to say, ‘’I have used so many others but my favourite is the one from Gemplus – not many companies take the trouble to choose their giveaways carefully; it goes to show how you don’t compromise on quality’’.

She did not say this to bribe me into giving her another name card holder – I told her that we have long run out of stock and have not re-ordered it.

The next time your company asks you to cut cost mercilessly for the sake of ‘’shareholders’’, think again.

True, impressive coffee table books or nice corporate gifts will not help you sell more cards or increase your revenue, but the goodwill remembered is immeasurable. And it makes reunions and memories all the more sweet.

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