Have you ever been placed in a socially awkward situation where you didn’t know what to do? Met this Chinese-Malaysian fellow and his wife the day we set foot in Kota Kinabalu and they were exceedingly nice and accommodating, to the point that it was irritating and overbearing. Never met people like that before.
Here’s how it began. Upon arrival at the hotel, I found we had no wifi access in the basement. So I upgraded from a “standard” to a “superior” room, explicitly stating my need for wifi access at the hotel reception. Receptionist sends this guy to help me. IT Guy says I need to test out my laptop first with their wifi because not all laptops are compatible with the wifi (especially Windows 7 OS and Intel router – which, um, I have). So I take out my laptop and we proceed to the 6th floor and sit right outside the Palace ballroom and I successfully connect. Then IT Guy now says I need to go my 5th floor room and test again, weird. But anyway I do and again, successful. IT Guy explains, it’s because he has to make sure my laptop first recognizes the wifi at the 6th floor because if I am on the 5th, it might not work. I was a bit miffed at all the “testing” I had to do just to get some wifi (why don’t they just make LAN ports available in the rooms if wifi is so troublesome then???). But still, after all his work, very grateful to finally be able to get online, I profusely thanked IT Guy.
During this time of “testing”, IT Guy was very chatty with me and my boyfriend. He mentioned how his wife is Filipina, and how he and his wife often went to the Philippines, lots of small talk. Asked us where we were planning to go, what we were going to do, etc. He suggested restaurants to eat at, activities he recommended. We engaged, as of course it was very nice and welcoming of him. At one point, he asked us to change our itinerary, because he was free during the weekend and would love to do some of the activities with us (so weird for a hotel staff to act like that!). Sometime at the end, IT Guy mentioned that he knew we were arriving, because he would always ask the hotel staff to inform him of any Filipino guests in advance (creepy territory, but again I let it slide). Then IT Guy gave us his calling card and informed us that he got off at 6 and wanted to show us around the city and have dinner with us at the seafood restaurant he recommended.
Me and Gim, we’re very polite, so we didn’t make any commitments but neither did we issue any rejections. We were very noncommittal, because though we did want to go around, we preferred to explore on our own. Especially me, I’m not as social as Gim and I have little patience interacting with people I’m not comfortable with, let alone new acquaintances. So that was that, I thought.
Come a bit past 6 pm, Gim and I decided to go out. We purposely left later because we knew the guy got off at 6pm, and we didn’t want to chance that he’d be there and offer us again a tour or dinner. We walked to Centerpoint (an old mall near the hotel) and towards the seafood place he earlier recommended. Big mistake. Right before crossing towards the restaurant, we saw him there in the parking lot, seemingly looking for us. When he saw us, he gave a big great wave and jogged – almost ran!! – towards us! Then he told us he had asked the doorman if we took the shuttle and was told no, but that we had left the hotel already. So he had taken his car to look for us but couldn’t find us on the road (we had taken the foot path). So he had gone around (in his car) and decided to wait near the restaurant in case we went there. MAJORLY STALKERISH!!! At this point, he was just IT Guy from the hotel – what the heck kind of behavior was this?? I had no idea how to react.
Since he was there and he seemed so very eager to take us around, we just went along, though we dropped lots of hints like saying “I hope we’re not imposing too much!” or “No, no, you don’t have to, really!” or “We’re OK, really!” but it seemed like IT Guy could NOT get a single hint. He asked us where we were going and Gim said to find a money exchanger. IT Guy then said he knows a place where the rate is better but it’s a bit far so why don’t we take a ride in his car? We really tried to back off but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. So we hopped on the back of his car and he dropped us off at the money exchanger. And since he couldn’t park on the street, he said he would just circle around the block while waiting for us to do the transaction. (Side note: it wasn’t that far but it seems a 5 minute walk is already far for the average Kota Kinabalu resident. It’s a small town, so I understand, but I really hate the feeling of being obligated for something I didn’t need.)
After the money exchange, he drove us back to the seafood place and recommended the good items to order, like lobster. He mentioned many times how much he loved lobster. During this time his wife called him on the phone. After, he said she was at home. We didn’t issue an invite for dinner, though it seemed he wanted us to. Then he said his wife was looking for him already and he needed to go back. Relieved we were going to be left alone for dinner, we bid goodbye and then Gim said – and BIG MISTAKE – “You don’t want to join us for dinner? No? OK then have a good one!” We were just being polite!!! You know Filipinos, we try to be so hospitable, sometimes we say things we don’t really mean. He left us, but 30 minutes later and in the middle of our wonderful dinner, the guy returned and now with his wife!! And proceeded to join us for dinner!!! What??? Ugh.
We had a LONG LONG dinner of small talk. After maybe 2 hours (it felt like 4), we were finally done. Bill came and it was freakingly expensive!!! We knew it was going to be, after ordering clams and lobsters and tiger prawns, but it was even more expensive due to the additional order of our newfound “friends”. They gave a portion of money to cover their order (but not enough!!). But it wasn’t the bill I was regretful about, it was having a lovely dinner and not being able savor it or enjoy it that much because we were with strangers. :(
At one strange point in the meal, IT Guy’s wife tried to make me take her cellphone. IT Guy mentioned he tried to call my boyfriend many times but could not connect. So we just shrugged it off and said, probably a network issue. So then IT Guy’s wife offered her cellphone, saying we should take it so we could communicate with them easily and inexpensively. We declined (inwardly because we did not want any obligations to them!!) saying that we were OK, we had our phones, we could connect to the Malaysian network and all. IT Guy then demonstrated how he could not connect to my boyfriend’s phone and insisted we take their phone. So I then had to whip out my phone to demonstrate I *could* connect and I took his number and made a call, and his phone rang. Ugh, finally! I thought it was over. Then IT Guy’s wife STILL insisted we take their phone, saying that I would rack up such high charges, that it was better if I just use their local phone. I had to spit out that it was fine, I had my company’s phone, if I had to make a call I would not be charged for it. Ugh. That settled the issue. So frustrating to have to decline so many times!
After the dinner, Gim and I mentioned we wanted to go around the mall and look around. That was our exit strategy. But it was 10 pm already, so IT Guy informed us the mall was already closed. They insisted to bring us around the city, and so as not to be rude we let them. For about 30 minutes, they pointed out to us the different areas of interest. We visited Seri Selera (a more famous seafood place that they mentioned was very expensive). Then they wanted to bring us to a fruit stand where we bought some mangosteen and shakes. Then finally they dropped us back to the hotel and we bid (again) our goodbyes. But not with a parting from them of “So, see you again tomorrow for dinner, OK?!”
Needless to say, we made sure the following day to say NO. And spent the next few days at the hotel awkwardly trying not to run in to IT Guy as much as possible (which was hard, since he was often working at the reception desk!). And when we did, we had to ensure to just say NO clearly (but still nicely).
On the very last day, our last “No” to him was to spend New Year’s Eve with him and his wife. What?!
Whew. I think that was the most tiring part of our trip – having to spend time with people we didn’t want to spend time with!
So! Were we just mean / socially inept or was IT Guy very unprofessional?