Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Boy by the Window

Eric has never eaten at T.G.I Fridays and I have only eaten there once. About 8 years ago. I was not extremely impressed because I thought the food was rather predictable and definitely on the pricey side. The wait staff wearing jester hats shouting 'happy birthday' didn't help either.

So after years and years of Eric lamenting on missing "real" American food, we headed to T.G.I Fridays at the newly opened Paradigm Mall. It was also an excuse to check out the new mall (like people in PJ really need another mall).  It was a Saturday but luckily there was a seat for two by the window on the inside of the restaurant. We took our time reading the menu and finally decided on our order. That was when a family with four young children sat right next to us on the outside. We were separated by the glass window but it was weird trying to ignore each other. So I just smiled at the mom who was trying to feed her baby while keeping an eye on her other children. She smiled back. The dad and their friend were busy talking.   

Soon, the drinks arrived. We casually talked about this and that. Trying very hard to ignore the children playing next to us. After some time, our food arrived. We immediately dig in. As predicted it was okay only. Suddenly, I realized that one of the children, a boy about 7 years old was plastered on the glass window staring into Eric's BBQ Chicken, his mouth gaping and breathing so heavily that vapor formed around it. I laughed like mad at the sight. The child saw the humor and laughed too but was taken away by the embarrassed dad. 

I asked/told Eric, " hon, wasn't that funny?"

"Okay la. That's why I hate sitting by the window" he replied. 

I was surprised by his remark but with him you just never know what to expect. 

"What?! What do you mean okay? That was sooooo funny... even the kid laughed" I answered.


"It reminded me of KFC in Komtar..." he finally answered. 

I was completely lost and had no clue what he was talking about until he reminded me of something I tried to forget from years ago.  

Many years ago, Komtar was the tallest building in Penang with the best shopping and entertainment possibilities. It was in the heart of Penang. Sadly it had one sad feature that Penangites either try to ignore or forget. The children-beggars who roam Komtar asking shoppers and tourists for money. I do not know who these children were, where they came from or if they had families but I remembered they were between five to twelve years old. My parents took this as a teachable moment to remind us to thank God for our good fortunes and also pray for the misfortunes of others. 

Eric told me about his story with these children. He was about nine years old when his family went to Komtar for a fun day of shopping. They ended the day with a yummy meal at KFC. They took a seat by the window with shoppers casually walking by on the outside and just as he was about to take his first bite, Eric saw a tiny face pressed against the glass. This boy who was about nine years old fixed his eyes on the food and was breathing so hard that vapor formed.  He had a look of sadness in his eyes. Eric asked his parents why was this boy alone. They replied that he has no family. 

Eric told me that he remembers crying and feeling so sad because he didn't understand why the boy was alone.

Even from such a young age Eric has a gentle soul. Always kind and considerate. Now a grown man, he looked away from the window trying to suppress that same feeling again. I felt so sad for him but know exactly what he meant. Once, I saw the children running helter-skelter from a man (whom I presume was a plain cloth policeman) because they were becoming a problem for the management of Komtar.

Our dinner at T.G.I Fridays ended with both of us crying wondering what had happened to those children.  Next to us, a girl was standing on a chair while the jesters/wait staff and her friends sing happy birthday to her. 

We made a pinkie promise to return to T.G.I Fridays only after 10 years and sit at the bar the next time. 

Our Sad meal the TGIF.


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