Random Prompt

Write about something you got for free.

Although I can’t write about anything I got myself for free, I can tell you that I got some coworkers a free dinner at a Max’s restaurant in Laguna back in 2013. Phrasing it that way does answer the prompt, but it can be a little misleading. Let me tell you what happened.

Three coworkers had dinner at Max’s one night, paid their bill, and returned to work the following morning with the same story: All three of them suffered diarrhea after their meal. They said that it might’ve been because of the buko pandan dessert that they had. According to them, it was cold but not chilled.

When I heard the story, I just had one thing in mind: email a customer complaint and hope we (yep, including me this time! Haha) get something from Max’s!

Having handled customer service for a food retail chain a couple of years earlier, I knew and understood the power of a complaint. Back then, we were instructed to offer free goods not just whenever our staff did something wrong. We had to give free food to people who simply didn’t like our products or our personnel or our store lighting if they were either important enough and/or vocal enough about it.

So that’s what I did. With my friend’s blessing, I emailed a complaint to Max’s. In less than half an hour, she got a call from one of the restaurant chain’s officers. According to her, the officer asked for a few details about their visit and offered medical assistance. My friend politely refused, since all three of them had already recovered. So the officer asked for a bank account number and deposited a full refund that same day.

So that’s the story about the one major thing I “got” for free. For someone who used to face fussy customers and apologize about nonexistent reasons, there was some sort of vicarious pleasure in what happened. I wasn’t the one who got sick. I didn’t ask for any kind of share of the refund. Just being on the other end of the complaint email thread this time around was satisfying enough.

…Which reminds me of the time I cried because of my frustrating conversation with a Globe customer service representative earlier this month. But that’s another story.

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When Were You Most Frightened?

My most frightening experience was when I was in labor with my son.

I was admitted to the emergency room around 6:30 PM on November 2, 2012. The doctor who performed the internal exam said I was dilated by around 3 cm. They said that the usual rate of cervical dilation was more or less 1 cm per hour. That meant the baby should be ready to come out early the following morning.

It was business as usual at the hospital. Nobody besides me was freaking out. Of course, they had seen it all before. A major, possibly life-and-death event in my life was unfolding on one of their beds as they continued to type away on computers, scribble on pads, take other people’s blood pressure, and squeeze in jokes and gossip every now and then. My case was ordinary and uninteresting and banal.

However, because it was business as usual, I had to fill out some paperwork and walk quite a distance to change into a hospital gown while I was writhing in pain. I couldn’t laugh, but I found that funny.

At one point, I was in so much pain that I tried to yell, but only managed to let out a half-cry. The nurse told me to avoid yelling or crying too much because I had to save my energy for When The Pain Gets Even Worse. That terrified me. I was already in severe pain. The least I wanted to hear was that it was still going to get worse. But I appreciated the honesty.

However, that made me wonder: Do people die because of pain? Is it the acute pain that kills some mothers during childbirth? In the seven hours that I had before delivery, this unbearable pain was still going to escalate.

Good thing that didn’t happen exactly like I feared. My son came out 8:45 PM. The pain I was feeling turned out to be the final-stage pain (for lack of the proper term) already. He also gave me quite a bonus: I didn’t have to push. He did it all by himself in under two minutes without any pain anymore on my end.

So you see, this childbirth story started dreadfully but ended as any mother’s dream delivery. This is why although this experience is still the most frightening one I’ve had, it’s one of my absolute favorites.