The porter who couldn’t count

Here’s an incident that had me in stitches for two minutes.

We were in KL for the weekend. (That’s Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for my foreign readers. I don’t know if you call it KL, too.)

One evening, while the Goonfather was getting driving directions from a hotel porter, I photographed the trees around us because they were so beautiful, strung with pretty blue lights.

I was just about to take a photo of myself to see what I look like with blue light cast on my face when the Goonfather started to leave.

“Wait!” I said.


“I need to take a photo of myself first,” I said, waving my camera.

The porter jumped in. “You want to take a photograph? I can help you.”

“Er… okay,” I said and made the Goonfather stand beside me to have a tourist photo taken.

The porter must have thought I was mad because I didn’t want to have a photo taken with my back against a nice, touristy background, such as the hotel entrance.

He walked off to frame us against the hotel entrance but I said, “No, can you take the photo from here, instead?”

I pointed to where I wanted him to stand.

The porter was Malay and didn’t speak very good English. So I wasn’t sure if it was the language barrier, or he was just resistant to my radical photography ideas. He refused to stand where I pointed (because that meant my background’s a boring old driveway). He kept shifting to different spots, everywhere but where I wanted. And he couldn’t seem to grasp the fact that I didn’t actually want the tree to be in my picture.

Finally, I decided to quit making a big deal and just let him take the photo.

He raised the camera and counted for us slowly.

“One…… three…… four!”


The Goonfather felt my body quiver ever so slightly as I fought to hold my laughter in. I quickly thanked the porter and retrieved my camera. Then we escaped into the basement carpark where both of us exploded with laughter.

“Oh, man, I was trying not to laugh upstairs but your body kept shaking!!” complained the Goonfather.

“Didn’t!” I protested. “I only smiled!”

After that, we argued whether the miscounting was intentional.

The Goonfather said the porter was simply making a joke to make us laugh.

But he wasn’t absolutely sure.

I argued that the porter didn’t look like he was joking because he didn’t have the smile and twinkle in the eye that usually accompany jokes. He just looked very earnestly friendly.

Besides, what kind of a stupid joke is miscounting?

But he did give the Goonfather directions in largely English (with a bit of Malay), so he should have been able to count to 10 in English.

The truth is still a mystery and we’re back in Singapore now.

But this was the picture the porter took for us.

Well, he’s a nice bloke, really. I don’t mean to make fun of him but it was really funny.

More about my trip in the next update!