miércoles, 7 de marzo de 2012

Karaoke party

On August 22, 1990, we were invited to a company party celebrating a special event. The directors of Bukit Asam sat at the head table in front of all the invited guests. It was one of the few company events where the wives were invited to sit quietly to the right of their husbands. The men were formally dressed in the traditional batik shirt. The women wore traditional dresses that covered all but their face. Groups sat at tables covered with white tablecloths. My wife and I sat with Bill, the Bechtel World Bank consultant, who wore his blue batik guayavera.

A bottle of Johnny Walker scotch sat on the table. Drinking alcohol is prohibited in the Islam religion and having the bottle in front of all the guests brought comments and whispers at the tables.

Pak Kuntoro called his managers and supervisors to the front of the room, one at time. Each person was required to entertain the guests by singing, telling a joke, or doing a pantomime. At the end of the individual’s performance, Pak Kuntoro offered a shot of scotch from the bottle. Most performers turned down the drink. It is possible that only Christians accepted the drink, and perhaps Pak Kuntoro was checking names on a list. Maybe he was reconfirming the religious conviction of each guest. No more than three performers accepted the drink!

It was my turn to come to the front. Pak Kantor invited me and my wife to the front of the room and announced that today was a special day for my wife and me. We were celebrating our twentieth wedding anniversary. The guests politely applauded.

Pak Kuntoro said, “Mike, tell us what can you do for the guests.”

I saw a big karaoke screen and decided to sing my favorite song. “Pak Kuntoro, distinguished Directors of Bukit Asam, ladies and gentlemen, I will sing The Great Pretender by The Four Platters.” It was the only song for which I knew some of the words, but did this song fit the occasion of our twentieth anniversary? I realized that I could have picked a more suitable song like Love Me Tender by Elvis Presley. Why didn’t I ask my wife before talking?

The party facilitator handed me the microphone. The karaoke was advanced to the song The Great Pretender. The little ball started on the first word of the first two lines of the song: “Yes I’m the great pretender, pretending to be what I am not you see, pretending …” The karaoke ball stopped on the word “pretending”, everyone was waiting for the words to exit my lips, but only my eyes were moving and following the karaoke ball on the screen.

I had stage fright. I was frozen! I was pretending that I could sing!

Luckily, my wife saved the situation as she took the microphone and sang the song. I managed to get in a word or two and to turn a red face of embarrassment to the audience. The guests all laughed and applauded my wife as she finished. My performance of The Great Pretender turned out to be great entertainment!

Figure 16 - The author and his wife sing together in front of the Bukit Asam guests on their 20th wedding anniversary.

It was the only party I ever attended where a bottle of Scotch was half full at the end of the party. The Muslim guests surely declined the drink offered to them, and like I mentioned earlier, only two Christian and one Buddhist guests accepted the drink. My wife and I were not offered a drink—I did not perform very well and a Muslim man could hardly offer another man’s wife alcohol. The bottle remained half full for another celebration.

It’s hard to believe that twenty years have passed since that embarrassing attempt at singing. I am thankful that my wife has stood beside me on our twentieth anniversary and all the years full of crisis and stress. Being a miner’s wife is difficult and many marriages do not survive the stress. It was a reconfirmation of the importance of having your wife standing by your side, of the importance of her support when the husband pretends what he is not, you see.

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