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Friday, September 08, 2006

The Bouquet Catcher

It’s a real boring wedding party I’m invited into. I came a bit late, and they already run out of food. The wedding singer is terrible, and I can only help myself with a few cakes and a glass of water. If it’s not my ex-classmate in High School’s wedding, I would have left for home at once. But, my friend, the groom practically “begged” me to stay for the photo session, so for the sake of our friendship I consented to stay.

“And now, if there’s any bachelors or anyone among the guests who are young and not married, please gather up because the ‘Bouquet Toss’ is about to begin,” says the M.C. “And you know the catch. The lucky catcher MIGHT be the first to marry after Leah and Herman here.”

Aha, excitement at last. Thank goodness I live in a country where men are allowed to catch wedding bouquets; else it’ll be a total drag, seeing only the girls having all the fun.

So I move forward near the cake, and join a group of young men and women already standing there, with their hopeful faces. And then the M.C. talks again through the microphone, “Well, I guess there are so many unmarried people here. To make things more interesting, the catcher of this lovely bouquet will also get a gift: this beautiful diamond ring. As this ring is designed for women, I must ask the gentlemen to leave the group – unless he’s not sure about his gender.”

The M.C.’s announcement is boo-ed by the men, and I among them. One by one, the men leave the group and stand at the back just to watch. The women are, of course, happier because they now have greater chances to catch the bouquet now the tall, strong men are gone.

“Herman, Leah, stand with your backs to the audience and throw backwards, not forward!”

The M.C. completes all the irritation in this party. He’s really pretty good in making idiots out of people.

“Okay, girls, ready! Bride and groom, on three, toss the bouquet! One, two... three!”

The bride and the groom toss the bouquet as high and as far as they can. The bouquet flies to the back of the group and some hands catch it. Then I see a commotion there, as though some people are fighting for the bouquet. But eventually I see who gets it. It’s a man! The girls are scolding at him.

One even mutters, “How shameless he is! He tripped me to get the bouquet!”

“He overpowered me! There’s no way I can beat him!”

The master of ceremony then announces with an upset tone, “Well, mister. I hope you’re satisfied now. You can go home with the bouquet stem. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s one who doesn’t sure about his gender. Now we’ll toss another bouquet as soon as we find a spare.”

I’m not recovered from the shock of seeing that just now, when I see the man goes away, practically whistling merrily and juggling the ruined-to-the-stem bouquet, ignoring the angry stares and “boo”-s from the guests.

Hey, I know that guy!

With that thought I go after him. He goes into men’s room, and I go in there too. And there I see him, washing his face with lots of water.

“Johnny? You’re Johnny, right?”

The man is indeed Johnny as he turns around and replies,

“Yeah? I’m Johnny, all right. Who’re you??”

“Don’t you remember me? I’m Sandy, your classmate in High School. Remember? Sandman? The skinny boy, the computer freak who preferred playing computer games than dating? Your old buddy!”

“Ah, yes, yes! I remember now. Wow-wee! Sandy! You look... different! I didn’t recognize you!” says Johnny, grabbing my two hands warmly. But through his grip, I can feel that he is shaking all over.

“And you too, Johnny Boy. That’s what happened when we don’t grow taller anymore – we grow broader. Hey, I think you’re shaking, man. What’s going on? I mean, I saw you out there just now, man.”

“Oh, you did, didn’t you? Well, what do you think about that, huh? Are you thinking like them?”

“Well, er... honestly, I was pretty shocked out there, man. That was really out of the line. But I think you must’ve had your own reason.”

“You’re right, Sandy. I was really out of control back then. I let my instincts took me over. I was really irritated by that dumb M.C. and his stupid rules. We live in a country where men may catch wedding bouquets, right? So there I was, at the back of the row, just watching. And swoosh! The bouquet landed in my hands anyway. And all of a sudden the women were all over me, trying to snatch it from my hands. I thought, I won’t ever let go of this! If they want a re-toss, just do it, I don’t need the ring. Just give me the glory of catching the bouquet one more time!”

“Wait, Jon. You said, ‘one more time?’ Does that mean you’ve caught another bouquet before?”

“Yup, I have, four times already and so many attempts. And this one doesn’t count,” says Johnny, casually takes the bouquet stem and throws it into the trash can near the water taps.

“What? That’s... that’s amazing!”

“Yeah, I know. It takes an awful lot of luck and determination to do that, but for me, it’s fun. I should’ve applied for the world records, but as I can’t supply ample proofs or recordings, I buried that thought.”

“But, what made you catch bouquets? I mean, a lucky man only catch one or two bouquets during their lifetime, but this is too much. This must be more than just luck and fun.”

“You’re right, Sandman. There’s something more. You see, I’m still a bachelor now. I haven’t had any girlfriends until I was twenty-seven, and so far I’ve had relationships with three women, but all ended in heartbreak. And this time, I met this wonderful lady, and we are so close together. I think she’s the one I want to marry as soon as possible. But another problem arose. My business is in shambles now, and I’m afraid I wont’ be able to raise enough money to hold a decent wedding party. You know wedding parties are very expensive here. Well, how about you, Sand?”

“Well, I’m just like you – a bachelor with a wonderful girlfriend. I’m now working as a lawyer in a small firm, and things are running smooth so far.”

“Good for you, then. Where’s your girlfriend anyway? Is she with you?”

“Oh, she’s still at work now. I’ll pick her up after this party.”

“Mine is with her parents in another wedding party. Well, I guess I’m a little obsessed with this bouquet-catching thing. See my scar here? I hurt my hand in my second catch, and I once sprained an ankle in my fourth catch. The first and the third went rather smooth, really. You see, every time I catch a bouquet or fail to do so, I pray to God, hoping that I’ll find the right lady, have a relationship which will last through marriage, and grow old together with her. Although things are rough for me, I believe God will show me the way. And I won’t stop looking for it. So, I catch wedding bouquets just to remind myself, even if I’m in shambles, not to ever give up and keep on going. Forget the superstitions, forget the traditions. I’ll keep working hard until I don’t have to work anymore, and I’ll keep catching bouquets until I’m married or not quite young anymore.”

It feels like lightning strikes me. I cannot speak a word. Although he knows that catching a bouquet won’t guarantee him to be the next to marry among the guests here, but I’m convinced that to get what you need, you mustn’t sit and wait, but act and strive for it.

“Hey, Sandman! Snap out of it!”

“Oh? Oh, yeah. Sorry, Jon!”

“Tell you what, here’s my card. Call me anytime you want, maybe we can meet and talk more often. I hope you’ll get married very soon.”


“Well, I must go now. There’s no point for me hanging out in here any longer. See you around, Sandman.”

“You take care, Johnny Boy.”

As I see my friend Johnny goes out from the men’s room and goes for home, I take out my cell phone and dial a number.

“Hi! Yeah, Julie, are you free tomorrow night? Oh, it’s just I want to take you for a night in the city. Oh, yes. Say, how about Empire Grille? Great. Just wear your best dress and we’ll make it a night to remember.”

Six months later....

“Hey, Julie, toss it to up-left, okay? Don’t toss too high or to far.”

“Okay, okay, honey. Want to make it easy for your old buddy, huh?”

“Well, he deserves an easy break today.”

“Okay, here goes the M.C. now.”

“Everybody ready? One, two... three!”

I and Julie toss the bouquet together from the stage. It goes up-left as planned, but it flies too high and too far away. Some men leap high to catch it. The women can’t jump high because of their long dresses and high-heel shoes. Finally one man who leaps the highest catches it. But he loses his balance in mid-air and falls on the floor, still clutching the bouquet tightly in his hands. He seems straining in pain.

“Ah, it’s Johnny! Is he okay?” I say.

“I hope so,” says Julie.

And then shortly we hear an announcement from the M.C., “May our lucky winner come to the stage now.”

Johnny the bouquet catcher walks up the stage limply, and the M.C. gives him the prize. Then I and Julie shake his hands to congratulate him.

“Congratulations, Johnny Boy. You did it again. What a superb catch. This is the fifth, I presume?”

“It’s the sixth, actually. But thanks for the prize.”

“Is your ankle okay? I hope you’re not injured.”

“Oh, that’s okay. Just a little pain, I guess. It’ll be gone in a minute.”

Then, out of curiosity, I ask Johnny, “How’s your girlfriend?”

“Oh, she dumped me two weeks after we met in that chaotic catch and I’ve been single ever since. But I assure you, I won’t stop catching bouquets until I get married or too old for this. See you!”

Julie whispers on my ear after Johnny left the stage.

“It’s rather weird, really, being obsessed into bouquet-catching, but I hope he will find his soul mate soon.”

“Yes, good luck to you, Mr. Bouquet Catcher.”

Written by : Andry Tanuwijaya, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Pseudonym : Andry Chang

June 20, 2006

Starbucks and Me

When somebody asks me to write something about the coffee in Starbucks, I’d write that the coffee is better than average, and actually it’s one of the best coffee I’ve tasted since I can say “I like coffee”. If it’s a matter of drinks, you can try out varieties of coffees and beverages and enjoy the ambience either alone or with friends in Starbucks or any other café and I will add that Starbucks also made variants of drinks we can hardly find in other cafés. However, if anyone asks me to write about what Starbucks means to me, I’d write that Starbucks gives me more than just coffee, drinks and cozy ambience. What are those? Let me explain a few things to you.

As a self-employed entrepreneur, a freelance translator and a wannabe writer, I often use my spare time to write about something or draw cartoons just for fun. To do that, I must find a perfect, cozy place to make myself relaxed and comfortable; and nice drinks to boost my creative, artistic adrenaline and keep me focused to my work. And so, I found and tried Starbucks Coffee, and it’s just exactly the combination of place, coffee and drinks I need. So one of the plus things Starbucks gives me is inspiration to my works.

Time flies by since then, and the more frequent I hang out in Starbucks, the more I feel that to me, Starbucks is like my second home. I’ve had some nice experiences in Starbucks, and some of them are such memorable moments even one is the moment I’ll cherish during my lifetime. And this is one other thing that Starbucks gives me, and this is what I’m sharing with you now.

I met this girl at the gym, and found that I know her since we went in the same university together. She’s beautiful, smart and kind, but I thought I’m just not her type. Several cases of heartbreaks made me thought that all beautiful girls are materialistic and they expect perfect or financially steady boyfriends, which I’m not both. So, I had neither guts nor confidence to win her heart, and we were just saying hellos, greetings, and goodbyes.

She actually works at the gym on the help desk. One evening, I met her when she just finished work and went home. So, for no reason at all, I asked her, “How about a chat?”

She said, “Of course! Where?”

Then I thought of my hangout place and said, “Starbucks, if you don’t mind.”

“Okay, let’s go then!”

Then we went to Starbucks. I ordered a simple, hot espresso for me and a rejuvenating green tea for her. I broke the ice by talking about the coffee, and how inspiriting it is in Starbucks, which she agreed. I talked about the book I was working on, her work and my works. So far it’s fivefold of what we actually talked during our previous encounters.

Usually, iced cappuccino is my favorite coffee. But that time I said I just wanted a nice, simple espresso. She said espresso has stronger taste and keeps us awake better than cappuccino, and our talks about coffee went on. She likes coffee, but she tends to drink it not too frequently and she preferred teas which are also excellently provided in Starbucks.

Our conversation went on to friendly talks, mostly about our student days. Then suddenly I wanted to know more about her, but my negative thoughts came over me again. I lost my confidence again and I wanted to end our talks right away and went back to our own businesses, but as I took a sip from my espresso I felt a new strength and courage awakened in me. And then I told her about how lucky she was to have a definite job, steady income and an inclining career, while I must strive in unsteady income from my small business and self-employed, freelance status.

But she said, on the contrary, she appreciated my being independent and she said, “Actually, you’re an interesting man. I want to know more about you. You like Starbucks cappuccino and espresso, right? Then what more do you like?”

I was zapped. “She… she wants to know me!” I think.

And all of a sudden, my way of thinking changed drastically. At last, I found a beautiful girl who looks at me in a different way! She’s truly one in a million, I thought, and I wouldn’t miss this for a year of free espresso! And I determined not to end our talk before my espresso ran out – at least.

Our talks went on, this time it’s a rather more private and I can’t help looking in her beautiful eyes all the time. And then with the last sip from my hot espresso, we made plans to meet again next time for a date to the movies, and I never felt more refreshed and enlightened in Starbucks like that day.

After that evening in Starbucks, I met her and go with her more frequently, getting to know her family and getting along with them as she with mine, and found more and more things about her that got us closer and closer. And finally, on Valentine’s Day, we declared our love to each other and officially became lovers, and we are still in relationship now.

When she said, “Yes, I love you,” I thanked God.

Thank God for bringing us this far in our relationship. Thank God we’ve made that conversation in Starbucks. And thank Starbucks for being a more memorable place for me now.

Until now I’ve finished several short comics for competition, and a story book with a little help, a little inspiration from Starbucks. And I’ve made some friends thanks to my habit of hanging out in Starbucks. And about me and my girlfriend, I’m thinking if we are to be married one day, I’ll say in our marriage speech that…

It all began with a cup of Starbucks espresso.

Made and sent to :
Starbucks Summerfest Indonesia 2006

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