People sometimes ask me where I find the material for my satire columns. And I tell them that they don’t have to look far. Because you will soon realise that there is humour everywhere. It is there in most given situations, even in the seemingly mundane.
So the best way to start is to begin observing the simple things in everyday life. It is easier to deal with the uncomplicated happenings in customary life while studying closely the foibles and idiosyncrasies of people around you. While doing so it would be a good thing to look inwards and so identify and laugh at your own quirks.
For instance I have found supermarkets and shopping emporiums some of the most creatively stimulating places stocked with goodies and fashion accessories as well as stacks of humour.
What I mean is, if you cultivate a sense of awareness, these places with their myriad colours and smells often provide you with inspiration around virtually every corner. And taking the kids along may prove costly, but would be certain to provide a double bonus in terms of adding to your humour depository.
To me they are not just humdrum retail places, they are an exciting experience, even if you are on a mission of routine grocery shopping. Most men hate any kind of shopping and do their darndest to avoid it. But I don’t mind it too much unless it eats into the priceless time of my cocktail hour. Ok, so while engaged in such expeditions I call it research. I study shoppers and shop staff in the same manner that anthropologists observe their subjects in their natural habitats.
Some of the retail places both locally and overseas provide you with great data for humour writing research even if it is at your own expense. Once in Oregon I was running late to fetch some thirst-slakers for a party and as soon as I reached the counter the elderly cashier lady was on the phone.
I told her as politely as I could: "Excuse me, ma’am I'm in a hurry. Could you check me out, please?" The gray-haired cashier turned around with a twinkle in her eye. She then looked me up and down, smiled and said: "Not bad!"
I always read out the riot act to the kids before sallying forth on a grocery mission. It goes like this: "Now here are the rules guys: Do not ask me for anything. I will decide on what treats you get because I know your preferences. Do not poke at the papayas just to see if your finger goes through them. And if it does happen accidentally don't lick your fingers. Simply have the fruit weighed and put it in our cart.
"Do not test the laws of physics and try to take out the bottom can in the pyramid shaped display of instant soups or whatever other product. Do not play catch with oranges in the produce section. And no Grand Prix racing stuff down the aisles in separate carts. Understood?"
Then in Hong Kong my wife was standing in a grocery queue with our grand-daughter Dinisha, then three, riding in the baby seat of the grocery cart.
A Sikh gentleman with a turban was in front of them. Dinisha looking on in amazement blurted: “Look Mum-Mum that man has forgotten to take his towel off after his shower!”
Now the bogey man for generations in our family, conjured up by yours truly, is an imaginary giant called Bull McCorby. Grandson Kingsley was only four when a rude, hulking slob of a man cut in with his trolley and pushed past his aunt and his sister at the cash point. Kingsley, the feisty firebrand pulled at the queue-jumper’s trouser leg.
While the offender towered over him with a menacing glare, Kingco addressed him fearlessly: “I don’t care if you are Bull McCorby! I think you are a big bully!” His aunt tried to shush him but Kingco was sticking to his guns like a frontier lawman. He turned towards the family and said: “I think he is rude. Just because he is hungry and can’t wait to fill his big ‘bundy’ he should not be allowed to push people. And why is everyone here coughing?”
It was a David and Goliath standoff and the lumbering Goliath eventually backed off. He carefully put his trolley in reverse and pushed it to the furthest checkout counter as our tiny hero called out mockingly after him: “And look where you are walking. And get to the back of the line!” There were appreciative chuckles all around and he was rewarded with treats from the shoppers around.
I really believe women should dress decently, at least in public that is. Just the other day, a woman with a skimpy skirt walked jauntily down the aisles of a big supermarket. Her nether garment was so scanty it was almost invisible and covered by her blouse.
A little girl trotting beside her mother exclaimed: “Ammie! That lady forgot her trousers!” Her mother trying hard not to laugh: “Yes dear, yes she did! But not so loud.”
Now I must say that the toddler seats in our local supermarket carts are hardly baby-proof. They are downright dangerous. The little ones I have placed in them are far more precocious than any trolley designer could bargain for. Time and again I have caught a toddler playing Houdini and manoeuvring his little body out of his seat in an attempt to stand up.
I am amazed that the little bounder and others of his contortionist ilk have made it to their second birthdays without suffering brain damaging head injuries. And always ask the kids to keep their observations to themselves and voice them in the car after the shopping is done. I had to shush my little grandson Kingsley when he was around four at checkout counter.
He looked into the shopping trolley of a bald-as billiard- ball old coot directly in front of us. He turned to me with twinkling eyes and muttered in a loud whisper: "What the heck is he buying shampoo for? He's bald!"
I was shopping in a large London emporium once where kids were dashing around all over the place. Suddenly, everyone stood checkmated with curiosity as a tiny voice an aisle or two away started calling: “Mummy, this lady doesn’t have any panties on! Mummy! This lady doesn’t have any paaaaanties !” Everyone followed the voice and found her as fast as they could. She was looking under the dress of a manikin. Other shoppers had stopped and turned to watch with amusement.
When grandson Rex Tharindu was three he wanted some popcorn while we walked down a crowded Brisbane mall. When he spotted the nut stall he decided to run all the way up to it shouting at the top of his little voice: “C* ckporn, c*ckporn!” He was obviously mixing up his letters a bit. But I stood there red faced while the laughter echoed around my burning ears.
So who says shopping is a drag?