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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