Saturday, May 17, 2008

How To Win Parking And Influence Guards

A few weeks ago, my colleague alerted me of an apartment that had just opened downstairs of my office. It was spanking new, it was still resident-less, and most of all...

It had parking lots!


Now, you would be forgiven for wondering why I'm making such a big fuss over simple parking lots. After all, everyone has one at home, right.

HAH! Try paying RM6 daily for parking (or RM50, for the really expensive lots owned by DBKL with attractive yellow line designs) and you'll emphatise.

The first few days of parking in this new-found haven was sheer bliss - too good to be true. When I first laid eyes on the sprawling parking lots - absolutely empty - I couldn't believe my eyes. Miles and miles of neat yellow boxes just nice to fit my car. I could park sideways, diagonally, upside-down, any way I wanted.

Unfortunately, all good things, as they hatefully say, must come to an end.

Barely a week after Parking Heaven opened its gates, a horrid parking machine sprouted at the entrance. It couldn't function properly yet, so an equally nasty guard was stationed beside it.

The guard's job was simple - grunt at any car trying to enter, and shove the driver a sheet to fill out his name, time of entry, vehicle registration number, block number, signature etc. Should he find the particulars satisfactory, in the car could go.

Things worked well initially, as the Nepalese guards were unable to communicate properly in Malay or English (OR Chinese, if you must). Hastily scribbled details sufficed. However, I deduced, eventually the guards would grow familiar with my face and realise that I wasn't a resident. And heaven forbid that I would pay RM6 daily like everyone else.

So came the masterplan of brilliance.

Once upon a time, this humble soul read in the aforementioned How To Win Friends And Influence People that the surest way to win a person over is through calling him or her by name. It reaffirms their importance and conveys care.

So such would be the idea:

a) Smile and greet the guard on duty every day, as I enter and exit.
b) Look at his name tag.
c) Memorise their names.
d) Eventually, call all the guards by name, creating the impression that I was a familiar-face-cum-resident.


A splendid plan it was. Except for the fact that almost none of the guards wore name tags, making me having to resort to asking them verbally.

Now here's the heart-warming part of the story. Though I was asking their names for a supposedly ulterior motive, I started noticing how happily surprised they always were. They would be standing there as stereotypical grim guards up till I asked, "What's your name?". It never failed to tickle me, seeing them grin like schoolboys after school, answering in broken English.

Even on the countless occasions I forgot their names or - horrors! - called them the wrong name, still they smiled and corrected me. One even told me, "No, no...that one brother." Goodness. Guard Brothers?

Another one spotted me out of the parking lot today. He came over and asked me my name. A dark Nepalese lad, perhaps no older than myself. His name was Asoh. I accidentally called him Siva, of course.

It's nice calling guards, cleaners, gardeners and other members of society's wallpaper by name. It reminds them that someone still cares. It teaches us that they're just as human as we are.

Have you greeted a guard today? It could win you some free parking. Not to mention a friend. =)