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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Overflowing with durians

The recent spell of hot-and-cold weather had made me feel rather unsettled. To comfort myself (or was it to pamper myself? ha), I decided to treat myself to some durians. So I made my way to my favourite durian seller to buy some durians.

Was I astonished to see his stall! There were baskets and baskets of durians everywhere! They were in his shop, on his tables, along the corridor, outside his stall. There were baskets of durians stacked upon other baskets of the fruit. In fact, the whole market was flooded with the thorny fruit -- to the point where even his neighbours' stalls were filled with durians!

As to be expected, the odour from the King of Fruits was quite unpleasant and it raised a stink in the neighbourhood. Fortunately, years of consuming the fleshy yellow fruit had made me quite immune to it, so I carefully wade through the baskets of fruit to get to the durian stall.

Inside, I could see my durian seller guiding his assistants impatiently. His arms flailed and his voice boomed as he directed them to move the durians here and there. Some of his assistants were already outside, recovering the durians as quickly as they could. Others were inside the stall, where they transferred the baskets of fruit out of sight as quickly as their tired arms could.

Just then, my durian seller saw me approach him. He barked another order to a hapless assistant, then walked towards me. He was clearly exasperated and I didn't know what to say to calm him, or if I should even say anything.

"Look at this mess!" he exclaimed. "How to work like that?"

"What happened?" I asked gingerly.

"Over there, lah!" he said, pointing into the distance. "Got traffic jam, so the lorries all cannot carry their durians out. In the end, the durians all kena dump here."

I looked into the distance but could not see the lorries that he spoke of nor whatever was blocking the roads. "I've never known the roads to be this badly jammed," I remarked.

"You don't know," he drawled. "This place always got jams. But my assistants always help to direct vehicles away. My assistants are very good. Tell them to check every six months, they check and clear the jams. That's why always no problem."

"I didn't know your assistants have to check the roads for jams."

"I am the landlord here, so it's my responsibility. Some more, this is premiere shopping area. If nobody check, and the roads kena jammed, then customers disappear, then we all lose big money. So of course I get my assistants to check. Then confirm got durian to sell and got customers to buy. And everyone is happy."

I nodded in understanding. "But that doesn't explain this situation. How does a traffic jam cause this overflow of durians?"

"You never read the durian forecast in the newspapers? Got flash bumper crop! As if all the durians trees start dropping their durians! This only happen once every 50 years!"

"A bumper crop should be good for your business," I noted. "You can sell more durians and satisfy your customers' thirst for it."

"You say lucky, I say sueh! The durian farmers must move the durians before they all get rotten, right? Their drivers all drive very fast, move the durians quickly, they also very good workers. And then what happened?" He gestured at the distance again.

"A traffic jam," I replied.

"The drivers got no choice, dump their durians here, then go back to collect some more." He stared at his shop, and I noticed that he was giving his workers his classic evil eye. "They all, lah! Never check the roads for jams. Now I must make sure they work double hard! Check six months, not enough. Check three months also not enough. I tell them: check the roads every month!"

He mellowed for a moment and shook his head in despair. "The impact and disruption to customers and business -- all not acceptable one."

Then, just as quickly, his rage returned. He stormed back into his stall. "Next time better not have any more traffic jams! Otherwise you all know what it means to die!" His assistants all cowered in fear and moved even quicker.

My durian seller was clearly not in a selling mood today, so I left the market quietly. While leaving, I surveyed the damage. At one of the nearby stalls that was filled with durians, I saw an old uncle drinking his kopi while avoiding getting swamped by the thorny husks of the durians.

This was truly a disaster.