Have you ever received a SMS like

I’m on the way”,

OTW” or


while wait­ing for some­one to turn up for an appoint­ment or teh tarik session?

What are your reac­tions and what would you do in response to such SMSes?

Dif­fer­ent con­no­ta­tions for dif­fer­ent people

In Malaysia, “on the way” could mean dif­fer­ent things for dif­fer­ent peo­ples, depend­ing on sit­u­a­tions and the rela­tion­ship of the par­ties involved.

Let me give you a few examples.

Exam­ple One (man­age­ment meet­ing in a company)

I was work­ing for a big local cor­po­rate com­pany with many head­counts and man­agers. In one of the monthly man­age­ment meet­ings, the boss was ask­ing, “Where is Mr IOTW?”

The sec­re­tary said, “Mr IOTW is on the way. I called him just now. He said he is on the way.”

So mat­ters which needed Mr IOTW’s clar­i­fi­ca­tion were skipped and the meet­ing went on to dis­cuss other things.

By the time Mr IOTW came it was already 2 hours past.

Exam­ple Two (teh tarik/yum cha ses­sion with a teh tarik kaki)

One day I was wait­ing for a friend in Old­Town White­cof­fee kopi­tiam for a yum cha ses­sion. The appoint­ment was fixed a week ago and was reminded again by SMS one hour before the actual time.

Fif­teen min­utes had passed and my friend had yet to appear. Think­ing that he might have for­got­ten the appoint­ment, I sent an SMS, “Are you coming?”

I’m OTW” was the reply.

So I waited and waited. But again 15 min­utes had passed. This time I called his mobile­phone, “Brother, where are you now”?

He answered, ”In the car, on the way.”

Finally he came 15 min­utes later, which means he was late for 45 minutes!

He apol­o­gized pro­fusely the moment he arrived, “When you called me just now, I was at the car park about to start the jour­ney…” OMB!

Exam­ple Three (project management)

Two busi­ness asso­ciates were dis­cussing on ways to com­ple­ment each other’s busi­ness by explor­ing to have some kind of joint project, with each of them writ­ing his own pro­posal. The project was not urgent and no time frame was fixed.

After two months in one of the meet­ings, Busi­ness­man A asked Busi­ness­man B, “Friend, where is your pro­posal we are talk­ing about two months ago?”

Busi­ness­man B answered,”Argh, totally for­got­ten! OK, on the way, on the way.”

A cou­ple of months have passed nei­ther Busi­ness­man A nor Busi­ness­man B remem­ber that they have a project to embark on. And noth­ing happens!

My two cents

In Malaysia, Thai­land, Indone­sia, Philip­pines and some other South east Asian coun­tries, punc­tu­al­ity and time man­age­ment could be a chal­lenge to many.

In my opin­ion when some­body tell you he is OTW (on the way) or the project is on the way, it could means many things:

1. Not even started the jour­ney (any­how it is going to be on the way)
2. Really on the way BUT it could take min­utes, hours, days, weeks, months or years
3. Could mean he is still search­ing for park­ing place after arrival
4. Per­haps he will call min­utes later, he would not be able to make it after all
5. Bet­ter get pre­pared he might not turn up at all

To me when­ever I receive an OTW sms. It means: I’m gonna be late, expect that please!

So the next time you receive an OTW sms or you hear the words “I’m on the way”, the best bet is to dou­ble con­firm with the other party where is he exactly and ask him how much longer he needs in order to arrive. In this way, you could bet­ter man­age your time more effectively.

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