14 February 2012

Choogs, Log Books and the Brother Lolo’s Grumpiness

So, alright! Maybe I should have learned to bring my log book with me a little sooner to these weekly one-on-one meetings that the Brother Lolo used to call when I worked with him in top administration just over a decade ago. These meetings were regularly scheduled on Mondays and lasted roughly one hour. Don’t get fooled. Some Mondays the one hour could feel like an eternity multiplied many times over!

The Brother Lolo was – as he himself loved to tell anyone who cared to listen – an ‘ideas man.’ His mind was like a fidgety little butterfly that flitted from one flower to another and never seemed to stay for long on just one. Ideas to him, therefore, flowed like an eternal spring.

Thus, an hour’s meeting with him could sometimes feel like one was trying to catch rainwater from the eaves with the condition that none of the rainwater was spilled. It was quite impossible.

This is not to say that all the ideas were workable. Like my fellow administrators, I quickly learned to categorize the ideas that I could catch into ‘immediately doable;’ ‘one for the future;’ ‘has some possibilities, for further exploration;’ and ‘totally bogus, allow time for him to forget.’

The last, needless to say, carried with it an element of risk – one just never knew if and when he would somehow one day surprisingly and unexpectedly recall that he had given me the totally unworkable idea to work on. Naturally, I would be roasted in a fully deserved ‘choog.’

Let me digress to explain.

I was assigned the 10:00-11:00 slot every Monday morning. By the time I came to sit outside the Brother Lolo’s office, already inside was Human Resource’s Ces Quigley, who was assigned the 9:00-10:00 slot. I would make small talk with the Brother Lolo’s Secretary, all the while anxious to examine Ces’ face when she finally walked out the door. It was always the best gauge about what the Brother Lolo’s state of grumpiness was for the week.

If her face was bright and her eyes shining, then the Brother Lolo was in a good state of humour. The thing with the old man was that he rather tended to carry on the mood he was in during his meeting with Ces on to his meeting with me. So, if he was in fine humour with Ces, in most likelihood he would also be in fine humour with me.

It goes without saying that if Ces came through the door with a scowl on her face – and it was not unknown for her to leave in tears – then it was certainly one of those days. Ces herself had learned to warn me simply by uttering the word choog – short for the Tagalog slang natsugê.

So, if she passed by and said choog, I immediately knew that the Brother Lolo was being a grumpy old man that morning and would in most probability find fault in anything and everything. I knew I had to brace myself to take my own choog.

The most common source of a choog was when he suddenly recalled something he had told me to do months before which I had not done because I thought that it was just ludicrous. If you are thinking that perhaps I should have told him, that is because you have never tried to argue with the Brother Lolo. Nobody had a chance, full stop!

There were even days when I got choog-ed for things that he had not told me at all but thought he did. Or, perhaps things he had told somebody else to do but thought he had told me instead. In time, though, I finally learned to bring my log book with me; and while he delivered his soliloquy, I became his stenographer and tried to transcribe every word if I could.

The log book’s value was immeasurable; and it became the source of some really funny dialogues between us. Typically, these dialogues would go like this:

“Rex, ‘di ba sabi ko sa ‘yo sunduin mo ‘yung guest sa DLSU…?”

I would reply, “Hindî pô, ang sabi n’yo pô ay hintayin ko na lang sa Chez Avenir…”

He would look doubtfully at me and say, “Sinabi ko ba ‘yun?”

Ah-ah… Ang Brother Lolo… Duda pa eh! I would not say that, of course. Instead, I would browse through my log book and refer to my record of the week when he said so in a meeting. And read this out to him…

Or:

“Rex, bakit hindî mo pa pinupuntahan ang Nasugbu Institute. Kayâ hindî natin mabuo ang NOCEI kakauntî ang mga schools natin!”

I would reply, “Galing na pô ako, Brother! Nai-report ko na pô sa inyo last week.” And I would read from my log book all over again…

The log book saved me from countless undeserved choogs – and probably Ces as well. Truth be told, it was Ces who advised me to record our meetings because, indeed, the Brother Lolo could get confused at times; and it was never as though it was ever going to be his fault. It was always somebody else’s fault.

Just in case you are getting the wrong idea, it was never as though we ever held it against the Brother Lolo that he could get grumpy at times. It was always like trying to get along with one’s own grumpy grandfather. That was exactly how we all treated the Brother Lolo: like our very own grandfather. He could get us to feel upset at times; but none of us could ever stay mad at him for long. And nobody certainly held any grudges even after an eternity of choogs

In fact, I remember after one particularly long meeting when I had become totally germ-free after an hour of intense soaping, when I was dismissed, before leaving I told him, “Brother, punta tayo sa Vigan… ‘Dî pa ako nakakarating…”

Notwithstanding an hour of sermonizing, the Brother Lolo’s reply in his low voice was, “O sigue… Tawagin mo si Racky at ipapa-book ko ‘yung sasakyan…”








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