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Friday, June 1, 2012

Packets And Prada

No, this isn't the name of a cafe latching on to the renowned luxury brand.

Unlimited supply?
(Courtesy of

It is a tasteful way of regaling events that happened in the most untasteful way.

Taking my caffeine-seeking constitutional to one of my favorite haunts, I placed myself at a corner where there would be the least amount of customers passing by. The only downside was that the station where the cream and sugar packets were available was near it. It was a choice of either that, or staying where the people line up to place and get their orders. (It's a small place, but it has free wi-fi. Cost-benefit analysis. And the coffee is good.)

As with most coffee places, conversation was plentiful but hushed and huddled. There is the occassional loudmouth with their "look-at-me" disposition, and unfortunately for me, this would be one of those days.

A woman of almost 50 entered with her kids (two of them) in tow, as well as a couple of friends. She "casually" announced her new purchase - meaning with no subtelty at all - a bag from Prada. While parading across the entire coffee shop, she loudly mentions that she hates the seats of the only available table, "walang sandalan, mahihirapan ako!" (The chairs have no back rest, it will be difficult!)

As expected, they were a noisy group. She seemed to be the Alpha in this cluster, as they would wait for her to start a topic before giving their commentaries on any subject she tossed. (What a day to forget bringing my earphones.)

After a while, I noticed that she got up and excused herself from the group. She then went close to where I was seated, and started getting numerous packets of cream and sugar, enveloping them with her almost pudgy hands, then proceeds to place her loot into her by-now-well-introduced Prada bag.

The image of her earlier statements professing an air of sophistication was jarring to this recent action, to say the least. The act of trying to get these packets to "take home" when you've practically bragged how much you are spending for a bag is, to put it mildly, unseemly.

And, as is often the case with these kinds of individuals, they manage to eke out an even deeper level of incredulity in myself.

She proceeded to go back and forth to the same station four more times, getting more and more packets with each run, that I was tempted to give her a few pesos to ensure that she can buy an entire whole bag of sugar along with another bag of those individually wrapped creamers, which she obviously adores.

It's disconcerting to see this phenomenon. Unfortunately, it isn't isolated.

I once witnessed a guy of about 30, with his family in tow, in Burger King. This was when they still allowed public access to their vending machine, because they had a policy of "unlimited drinks", where you could just buy a plastic cup and refill your choice of softdrinks or apple juice all you want.

He proceeded to the vending machine with his Coleman container, and filled it up to the brim with softdrinks. He went back to where his baby's carriage was, proceeded to get another Coleman container, and this time, filled it up with artificial apple juice, much to the consternation of the restaurant manager, who did not lack in giving him the evil eye, but was rebuffed by feigned indifference.

Incidents like this must have prompted the management to change their policy on refillable drinks: they now place the machine behind the counter, and you have to ask a server to get you the drink of your choice. In the proper cup provided.

I've also witnessed people in Wendy's when they order the Make Your Own Salad item on the menu. You are normally given a plate for one person, go to the Salad Bar, and put as much items as you want. In this case, some people read it as "as much as you can", so this is what I've seen at least thrice: They get the provided plate, which they then place on a tray. The tray is them lined with lots of tissue paper, covering every available space.

They then proceed to get as much items from the Salad Bar and place these on the tray, not the plate.

Talk about getting more than your money's worth.

That's exactly what this is about: a combination of selfishness as well as nakaisa ako (I put one over you). I've noticed this pride - however misplaced - from these individuals who feel they are "beating the system": Who cares if others paid full price for a set deal, I'm going to fix it so that I "win"!

This extends into almost anything that can be considered "broken" with our culture.

I get paid in full, even if I report late and leave work early, the boss is too stupid to notice, anyway.

I'm in a hurry, who cares about this one way street sign, there are no cops and I have a party to go to!

Since my salary is so low, let me just get this office equipment, and write it off as a "fringe benefit"...what? No one uses this machine anyway!

If you add the "woe is me" view so prevalently ingrained in our culture, it is a potentially dangerous mix of people acting under the misguided assumption that life - everyone and everything else - owes them something because of their "situation" and trying to "beat the house" with a false sense of righteousness.

Yes, I got all that from the woman stuffing her Prada bag with packets of cream and sugar.


  1. It is with this "nakaisa ako" type of mentality that brings the country down.

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