Coffee Break: Have some neighbourly love

This article first appeared in Capital, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on February 25, 2019 - March 03, 2019.
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At a kopitiam deep in a sunny seaside neighbourhood, two neighbours sit down for coffee to talk about their differences.

Malik: Eh, so how ah? Can we agree on the waterway behind our boat docks or not?

Sim: Sure. I think the boundaries I drew on this map are fair, aren’t they?

M: But you’re encroaching on my waters. How can my boat pass by safely?

S: Come on, I also need enough space for my yacht. There’s enough space for both our vessels. Didn’t we agree on the respective dock limits years ago?

M: Yeah, we did. But not enough anymore lah, that’s why I needed to adjust the line a bit a few months ago. You shouldn’t hog so much water space.

S: Wah, simply change by yourself ah? Cannot lah like that. This affects both our docks. We have to sit down and negotiate the proper limits.

M: Aisey, you’re one to talk. What about the airspace thing you did? Suddenly got new procedures and all — my son cannot fly his toy plane near your yard any more.

S: Eh, that one I already told you in advance what. A few years ago, in fact.

M: Well, I had amnesia recently, so that’s irrelevant. The point is your so-called procedures mean I cannot renovate my garage because of the height restrictions. That’s not fair!

S: Why, do you want to renovate it to be taller?

M: No, but that’s not the point.

S: Okay, let’s put these aside. Can we settle this water problem first?

M: That’s another thing. So unfair. You’re taking advantage of me. How can you do this?

S: But we already shook on this deal a long time ago. How can we break the contract?

M: I know. I get water from the river for both our houses, and you pay me just three sen per tank. But you charge me 50 sen a tank to treat the water for my house. I just don’t think it’s a fair exchange, you know.

S: Of course we can renegotiate better terms based on today’s world … but the contract lasts only another 42 years. We can save ourselves a lot of hassle if we just wait it out, right?

M: Look, we’ve been neighbours ever since we divorced. I know things aren’t always easy between us, but these kinds of contracts are just highway robbery lah.

S: Now, now, let’s not say things we might regret later. You got to keep the big house, while I got a small guesthouse that’s smaller than your smallest room up north!

M: Isn’t that guesthouse now a shiny six-storey apartment complex with luxurious facilities? While mine is still the same old double-storey bungalow?

S: I developed faster only because I had to make a living somehow. And people seem to like coming over, even your children.

M: Well, you even keep taking credit for my recipes you know. All the neighbours think everything nice from our side of town comes from you when in fact they are from me, like the yee sang thing.

S: Hey, that’s not fair. I didn’t take credit. It’s just that people kept thinking it was me. Maybe because I’m more popular than you are.

M: That still doesn’t make it right. Sometimes I just feel that we can never have a harmonious, mutually fair relationship as neighbours.

S: Aw, come on, I like being your neighbour. How about you let the water, airspace and dock limits go and I’ll let you take proper credit for yee sang and all the famous food that they keep attributing to me?

M: What a lopsided, unfair exchange that robs my household blind … Wait, I do like those kinds of deals. Okay lah, okay lah, I accept.

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