Monday, August 13, 2007

The Day

The day before. I have to collect the robe. Since it was a Friday and we have extended lunch hour on Fridays, my plan was to drive over to campus during lunch, collect the robe, and that's it. My friend and fellow graduate, JK, who drove all the way from Penang, reached about 10+am. At 11am, he called me. "The line is very long!" Gosh. I forgot to take into account the super important parameter - the crowd - in my plan. JK informed me that there were FOUR (4) separate lines we'd need to queue: 1) to register for the robe, 2) to get the robe, 3) to get invitation cards and 4) to register and test our smart-cards. I nearly fainted. He'd been queueing up for item (1) for some time now, and was getting near to the front of the queue. A quick check with the guard confirmed that he could register for me on my behalf, if he had my smart-card with him. "Can you come over now?" It was another hour to lunch, but I couldn't risk having to start from the end of the super long queue myself. I told him to wait for me at all costs, I would be rushing over. I practically ran up to my manager, told him about the situation, and ran down to my car. I got to campus, called JK "Where is the FIT building ar?" (It's a new building, newly-erected, never before visited by us) He told me to walk pass FOE building and the library, and on until I see a big, white building. Well, OK - if I can't see it, I will ask my way around till I find it. Once I made past the library, there was no more mistake which one the FIT building was - the queues from the building had extended all the way out of the building, into the open area, all the way to nearly the lecture theatres. *gasp* I followed the lines of people and eventually reached the front of the incredible queue for item (1). I called JK, passed my smart-card to him and 5 minutes later, we're both registered for the robe collection. Next step - robe collection. There were several queues at several different locations of the building. I asked a girl in one of the queues "Excuse me, what is this line for?" "The invitation card" The line went all the way out of the building until the library! *yikes* So where do we collect our robe? We asked a few people, giving the "room number" printed on the slips, and were directed upstairs and downstairs and front and back, and finally, found the room, hidden at the back of the first floor of the building. Luckily, there weren't so many people, and we didn't need to queue. *phewww* We got our robes and mortar boards in about 5 minutes or so. JK wanted a studio photo of him in his graduation robe with his parents at "official" photography service set up on campus. "Please don't tell me this is the line for that..." "Yes, I think it is" *oh my sky* After some inquiring, he decided not to have the photo taken then, since it could take forever, judging by the size of the queue. Then we got out of the building and stared at the lines out there. "I think I better take half day off work" I said. "Yeah, I think you should" JK agreed. "I better call my manager" And I realised... I don't have my manager's phone number. *haiyoh* Then, I remember I got a card from my colleague with his mobile number on it just days before, and it should still be in my bag - I found it, called him, and asked to speak to the manager. So again, I explained the situation to him. "What should we do now?" looking at the hoards of people in the lines. "One of us queue in the line for invitations and the other in the line for registering and testing smart-cards; settle the things for each other at the same time." "Good idea, except I think we need the smart-cards in both places." @#$%*&. "OK, the person in the shorter or faster moving line hold the smart-cards, and once done, runs over to pass the cards to the other person in the slower-moving line." "Wow. Great!" We figured that the line for taking the invitation cards would surely be the faster-moving, since smart-card registration and testing involved using computers, card-readers, network and database. We found the end of the line for invitation cards (about 25m at least from the front of the queue) and "enqueued". JK then ran off to check on the line for smart-card registration and testing, and in a while, came back saying that there was only about 15 people in the queue and it seemed to be moving fast. He then took our smart-cards and managed to get them registered and tested about 10 mins later. In another 15 mins or so, we obtained our invitation cards and the "ordeal" was temporarily over. It wasn't so bad afterall, given the initial scare. I even bumped into an old karate-mate whom I had't seen in ages (he's graduating as well). In the evening, my bestfriend came by and gave me a lovely bouquet of pink African Daisies with purple Forget-Me-Nots, some hugs and many good wishes. (Thank you, girls!)

The day. I woke up at 6am, and it wasn't early enough - I forgot I had to spend some time painting my face in the feeble attempt to conceal my ugly pimples. I had planned to start driving by 6.45am, but we ended up leaving at 7am. Walking towards the car, I realised my heels were killing my feet (which were already sorely injured from the-day-before-ordeal) We had to stop by 7-Eleven to get plasters, effectively further delaying the journey. We reached campus at 7.30, and managed to park about 10 mins walk away from the convocation hall. On my way there, I made a toilet-stop. By the time I reached, the postgrads were already in the hall, and the undergrads were pouring in. I wandered in lost and aimless. "Why are you late?!" a lady frowned at me. *oops* She found me a seat in the front row, and I found myself sitting next to a former coursemate, D. JK was also seated in the front row, several places away. The ceremony was supposed to start at 8am, but of course, it didn't start till about 8.20am or so. *normal lar* After the hall was filled, the Academic Procession began, followed by more academics filing in, followed by our honored Madam Chancellor. Next came the National Anthem and another song which I didn't know. Madam Chancellor gave a lengthy speech which impressed many of us, for she was able to recite whole lists of items and technical terms without seemingly referring to her notes or anything. Her eyes were on the audience for most of the time she was talking, and despite her apparent throat irritation, she kept steadily on till the end. Bravo, bravo - everyone clapped heartily for her. Then, it was time to hand out the scrolls. We were ushered to the side of the stage and made to line up - the few postgrads with permanent head damages went first, followed by the rest of us. At the first point, we scanned our smart-cards and our names appeared on the computer screen. Then, we move towards the edge of the stage where a staff stood, letting one go forward while the rest stayed behind. From that second point it was to a third, marked by yet another staff on the stage itself, several meters away from Madam Chancellor, who stood at the center of the stage. Once the previous graduate had received his scroll and walked away, the staff at the third checkpoint would signal the waiting graduate to walk forward, towards Madam Chancellor, with a low "Go!" As each graduate walked out, his / her photo would be projected onto the screen, along with name, degree and a short dedication message; at the same time, the name would be announced. It was a very exciting moment for me, to receive my scroll from Madam Chancellor herself (we didn't have that the last time!) After receiving the scroll, we had to walk down the other side of the stage, to the floor, through the rows of parents and other graduates back to our seats - but there were staff at each point, showing us where to walk. On the whole, it was very neat and efficient. *clap clap* There were so few of us degree-mates that I don't think anyone of us managed to witness each other on stage. The total number of postgrads were not large, and the session concluded soon. Then, two guys came on stage and sang two songs, and several members of the faculty (yes, brilliant academicians with permanent head damages) sang "Sejahtera Malaysia" (and they sang it brilliantly too). D said "Wow... live concert!" Yeah, quite. After that it was time to hand out scrolls to the undergrads - which were extremely numerous. Fortunately, Madam Chancellor was seated while she handed them out. There were so many Engineering grads we sat there till we were stiff and ready to faint. And then, there were twice as many Management grads. @@ JK sent me an SMS just before the end of the Engineering group, and told me to get out of the hall - go to the exit, go toilet. I showed D the message, then said "I'm going now, you come in a while" Several minutes later, the 3 of us were hanging out on the corridor outside the toilets. The guys complained that they cannot breathe. Well, of course - they were wearing shirts, ties and jackets underneath their robes. We lingered around and tried all the doors to get out of the building but they were all locked *sobs* So we took a couple of photos, wandered around a little more and then went back into the hall to our respective seats. We were out for about half an hour but still, the Management graduates were only half-done. I had to admit I was extremely restless and impatient for the rest of the time until the Management grads were all done. Before the convocation was announced to be "postponed" by Madam Chancellor, two more members of the faculty (two pretty ladies) sang another song. Then, it was over and the stampede began. I was stuck in the hall for quite a while because of the jam at the exits, and when I finally got out, I lost my bearing and didn't know which way I should head. I circled the building and when I finally knew where I should walk to, it started to rain. The stampede got worse. By that time, Bee Ree and her JS (who very kindly came all the way to be a part of my convo), and my loukong were already waiting in front of the library for me. I was desperate to get out of the building. I tried a few doors, went upstairs and down again, and ended up where I started. Fortunately, the rain mellowed down to a subtle drizzle in a while, and I was able to walk through it to the library. There were so many people all over the place that I had to shove and elbow my way through but at last, I was there, and there were Bee Ree and JS! *woohooo* Bee Ree & Shell2 (though Shell2 couldn't make it that day) gave me a delightfully beautiful bouquet of fair lilies with a cutie pie teddy bear in graduation robe and mortar board *thank you, thank you, thank you!* We had a few words, some hugs and kisses, several photos, and then they had to leave. There was still such large crowds all over the place that I'd decide not to fight with them to get the rest of my convo stuff (the on-stage photos and scroll - yeah, the real scroll, what we got on stage was just an empty case) A few more photographs with a couple more degree-mates later, I was on my way home.

The day after. The plan was: get to campus 9+am, return the robe and get my deposit, get the on-stage photos, get my scroll & transcript, get back home. Easy. (yeah right) I went first to the counters for collecting scrolls & transcripts (loukong and luilui trailing behind). They were empty *oh good* I asked to have mine, only to be told that all counters are closed until after the convocation session (yes, there was another one in progress) *what?!!* Grumbling and growling, I made my way to the robe returning counters. Thank goodness they were up and operating, and I was able to return the robe and get my deposit back quickly. Next, the photo-collection counters. There were many people and we had to wait a while, but still everything was settled within 20mins or so. It was just after 10am. I went back to the scrolls & transcripts counters and asked what time they would start operating. They said their system was down because the it is in use by the convo party, and will only be up after the convo session had ended, which would be at about 12pm. That was just terrible. Well, since there was a "ConvoFest" there, we walked around, passed the time. By 11.30am, we went back to the counters and hovered around it. The systems were up at close to 12pm and I rushed in immediately (but several more kiasu persons got ahead of me). When it was my turn, I handed my smart-card to the lady behind the counter, only to have her tell me that I am "marked by Finance", and I had to go to Finance to clear the matter, then only they will give me my scroll & trancript. "I have settled EVERYTHING with Finance some weeks ago!!" "We don't know what the problem is - it's not stated here. You have to go to Finance" *$#&@!* Gurgling and hissing, I strode all the way to Finance (it's at almost the other end of the campus!!!) At the front-counter, I explained the matter to the lady there with as little irritation in my voice as I could manage. "You still owe RM1,000" "That RM1000 is to offset my deposit which should be refunded to me. When I made my last payment, I was told I can pay RM1000 less." She hmmm-ed a while. "The deposit... ohh, RM500 for library and RM500 for..." "Yes, yes. So I DON'T owe you anything!" She whispered something to the person next to her while I rolled my eyes, and then sent me to an officer inside Finance. FINE. I went and repeated the whole thing to the lady officer again, at the same time took liberty to grumble about how far I had to walk to clear this problem, how come their system was not updated, bla bla bla. She very much ignored me. She prepared a slip for me to show to the scroll & transcript counter people. "Are you sure this will clear all up?" "Yes" "Sure no more problems?!" "Yes" I made my way out of the department and ... IT WAS RAINING! Again?!! *ARGHHHH* I strode all the way back to the scroll & transcript counters with rain splashing on me, pushing and shoving whoever and whatever was in my way and made it there half-soaked and messy-haired. I grumbled non-stop while the slowcoaches looked for my scroll & transcript. A couple was there at the same time, and after the girl had her smart-card scanned, was told that she still owed the library some fines. She insisted that she'd settled the fines, but could not produce the receipts because she left them at home. I was thinking, wow, your turn to go fight through the crowds and rain to the library (not as bad as to Finance, because the distance to library is only a small fraction of what I had gone through) However, the counter person, after having her assure him that she had indeed paid the fines, simply handed her her scroll & transcript. *what the ... %&$#* After I got mine, I said out loud "Wait, let me check to make sure it's RIGHT" After that I waited outside for my loukong and luilui to fight through the crowds (they were waiting elsewhere) and a few more crowd-fightings later, we were on our way home. *I survived!*

For the girls who presented me bouquets, thank you! For those who sent me congratulatory messages, thank you! For those who had the patience to read this post from beginning to end, thank you! Despite all I had written above, I am very happy...

... see? Really very happy!

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