Unsung heroes and I
Since I joined CityU in May, 2008, I have led a kind of 7-11 life on campus. When I am not on a business trip, I work 7 days a week and at least 11 hours a day. When I have the time, I go around to explore the campus. On the basis of what I have found out around the campus, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce to you some of the people who, though usually not recognised as employees of CityU, have made considerable contribution to our campus. They are the nameless and unsung heroes.
I often dine in the campus staff restaurant, Shing Hin, and the students' canteen, and I am on familiar terms with some of the attendants working there.
In the relatively formal banquet hall on the ninth floor, the attendants there would take the trouble of finding out the preferences of different customers so as to provide the right kind of food and drink for them. Once, I ran into a chef outside the kitchen, who was only too glad to chat with me about the kitchen things. There is also an attendant working in the general dining section of Shing Hin. She is all smiles whenever we see each other. And, yes, one of the managers who used to work there is named Mimi, but she was transferred to another unit after she got pregnant. Another girl is from Nanjing. She has lived in Hong Kong for a full fifteen years. Because I often have porridge together with a fried egg, she often puts a sunnyside-up egg on top of the porridge, all beautifully placed. She carries out her daily work conscientiously; her dedication to her work is inspiring.
These kitchen hands, managers, cooks, waiters and waitresses, cleaners and purchasing staff are kept busy preparing thousands of meals each day, in addition to the irregular parties held at the dining canteens, dishes and foods that have to be delivered to parties held elsewhere, and many dishes and drinks specially prepared for big important festive occasions. They are busy with their work around the clock. While their salaries are far from handsome, they do not dampen their zeal for work in any way.
I also frequent MacDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, or the other self-serviced and serviced restaurants in Festival Walk.
One day, an attendant at MacDonald's gave me a free apple-pie. I said to her with a smile, "You've put me in a difficult position. You know, I am required to declare all the gifts that I receive. If I declare this apple pie, the secretary in my office has to take a picture of it for the files. The apple pie, too, will go to the file cabinet for safe-keeping, where it will sit and rot sooner and later." Another time, I ordered some food at the food court in Festival Walk, but it appeared that I was not charged for the full price. The cashier, seeing the look of hesitation on my face, said, "Don't worry, for all the staff in CityU are entitled to the same discount."
Several times, I found myself at Food Fest in Festival Walk with a bunch of coins, which I tried awkwardly to count out to pay the bill. The cashier grabbed the coins from me, took out what I owed the restaurant, and changed the remaining coins into notes. With him in charge, to quote a politician, my mind is at ease. Later on, both of us settled on this wordless way of transacting business. I would simply point at the sample dishes displayed in the window, and he would smile, fully understanding what I was trying to say. We need not utter a single word, and yet everything goes smoothly without any mistakes. The same pleasant smile also appears on the face of one of the kitchen hands whose job is to carve out pieces of barbecued meat for the customers. These meat carvers are amazing with their knives; their cutting skill is a sight to behold. With their conscientiousness, I am sure they would be good teachers if they should be asked to teach. The meat carver with the pleasant smiles left Food Fest after he retired at the end of last December.
The helpfulness of the people working at Kentucky Fried Chicken also touches my heart. If I fail to show up there for a few days, the attendants would ask me how I have been, what has been keeping me busy, or whether I have been away for business. They also offer to order the food for me. They say that if I listen to their suggestions, I will have what I would like to eat and at a cheaper price, too. Anyway, I will not go wrong with their expert advice. Later, Kentucky Fried Chicken moved away from Festival Walk and they even asked me to dine at their new shop. Now, please note that there is no exchange of interest between us. By being friendly to me, they do not get anything from me in return, nor would they even think of asking.
In addition, all of us must have noticed how clean, fresh and beautiful the flowerbeds are in CityU. On a day after a typhoon during the summer vacation two years ago, the plants and flowers on campus were blown helter-skelter. With the dead leaves and branches all over the ground, the campus was a sorry sight. I was wondering how long it would take to restore the beauty of the grounds. But within a day, the staff and the gardeners had put everything back together, and the flowerbeds returned to their old glory.
I did some gardening work at home and knew it was no easy job to prune just a few plants to more or less the same height and after pruning, make sure they would grow naturally and come to bloom. The gardeners have to work hard, crouching under hot sun, but they radiate a kind of happiness that touches me, and I believe, others of CityU who happen to walk by them.
On 31 December last year, the temperature dropped precipitously. In the early morning where the thermometer registered 6C, I found the women gardeners dredging the leaves from the pond in the China Garden. That the water in the pond can remain crystalline clear is a result of their hard work. On the fifth day of the New Year this year, a guard stepped out of the guard room, walked up to me and said, "Mr President, it is cold today. Please put on another layer." Perhaps I had lived in the colder climate of the northern land for a long time and do not mind the cold that much, therefore I do not put on as many clothes as other people. That, however, is a cause for concern to the guard.
All the people that I have just mentioned: the shop attendants, guards, flower growers, gardeners and repair workers, managers in the canteens, and waiters and waitresses, are not the regular staff of CityU. However, they live and work right by us. They labour on silently, supported by a meager income, and yet they carry on their duties conscientiously.
They are the unsung heroes who deserve our respect and praises, aren't they?
June 28, 2013