Tuesday, July 12, 2011

hate the message, not the messenger

Assalamualaikum dan selamat sejahtera,

Perhatian kepada semua pelajar KMB,


The other day, I met Baki (not his actual name), who told me something which brought me down:

"Mike", he said, "why did you have to make that announcement just now?"

To understand the gravity of his statement, let me tell you a little bit about my job in my college. I am the head of the Public Relations Bureau, which is actually a fancied-up name for a very tedious job – making announcements over the college's PA system. I have been on the job for about 6 months now, and my voice has pretty much become synonymous with announcements.

"Do you know?" Baki continued, "people have become sad at the sound of your voice?"

"Why?" I asked unpretentiously.

"Well, it's just that your voice is always telling us what to do and where to go…imagine how it makes us feel"

Imagine how that made me feel.

Let me get this clear: I am not in love with my job. Yes, I do feel a sense of contentment that my voice is heard, that I have the honour of disseminating info across the college. But the contentment weighs little when compared to the drawbacks of this job.

This job forces me to be "on-call" for approximately 16 hours per day. It is not uncommon for me to be asked to make an announcement just as I am settling in to relax for the day (usually around 6p.m.). Baki himself has asked me to make an announcement calling semi-finalists to his Petanque Club's tournament. That was at 5.45p.m., and I was just settling in for a nap. Instead of resting my eyes, I had to get out of bed, walk all the way to the Warden's Office and make the announcement. At the same time the very next day, Baki asked me to make another announcement - this time for the finals of the tournament.

I would often get messages from people asking me to make an announcement in minutes. No drafts. No rehearsals. Just the announcement. I get such messages all the time. In fact, I would say that 25% of all my messages in the past 6 months starts with the word "Mike, can u pls make an announcement bout…".

But the people who ask me to make those announcements are good people (yes, even Baki). They would thank me, and with a smile, I would tell them: "Don't worry, its my job". As indeed it is. It just saddens me that I am becoming defined by my job. That people look for my face merely because they have something to tell everyone. That, like my namesake, my function is merely to amplify someone's voice, and nothing more.

Today I made a grand total of 6 announcements – which is a record in this college. Maybe that is why I feel the need to unload all my stress here. I am sorry. I realize this job is my responsibility, and I plan to do it well.

But I just want you to remember one thing: that when you hear me making an announcement in the (near) future, you will not gripe at the sound of my voice. Realize that I may not be enjoying making the announcement either.

Try to hear past my voice, and try hearing my heart too.


Sekian, harap maklum.

-work of non-fiction-