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Posted on Aug 31, 11:31AM | IANS
Guys, you'll never have to sit next to noisy kids on flights any more. A policy sweeping through the airlines means all men seated next to children are moved before take-off.
Not everyone is happy. In Australia and the UK, men have complained about the implication that they are latent child molesters when their only crimes are to have been born male. In the UK case, the courts agreed and made British Airways pay compensation to a guy who was moved.
I understand how he feels, but I have to ask: Hey, fella, whose side are you on? If the airline wants to move us away from annoying kids, let them. Attendants, why not upgrade us to that nice little child-free cabin at the front? We don't mind.
There is one exception, and I foresee the following conversation taking place regularly as this policy spreads through domestic Asian airlines. MALE PASSENGER: "Attendant! I am seated between two repulsive wailing infants and should be moved up the plane." FLIGHT ATTENDANT: "Nice try, Mister, but they're your own kids so shut the @#USD pc up and sit down."
But I definitely agree with the notion that being born male is a crime in itself and compensation should be involved. Being a guy stinks. Consider. 1) If you walk into the wrong toilet, it's two years in jail. 2) In emergencies, it's always "women and children first". 3) You have to wear dark clothes or everyone thinks you're gay. 4) In a shocking example of poor design, the most sensitive parts of the male anatomy are external, thus prone to painful accidents. 5) When watching sad movies, you have to flick the tears away from your eyes or people think you're gay. 6) If you express a desire not to mislabeled gay, you're homophobic.
But where should we men of planet earth send our class action lawsuit? Does God have a law firm? Probably not. I bet all the lawyers serve his arch-rival.
MTV's website recently carried a review of a hot new computer game set in Asia: "Sleeping Dogs offers a lot of different ways to experience Hong Kong: karaoke bars, massage parlors, shopping, hijacking." Is this supposed to sum up daily life in Hong Kong? After a sing and rubdown, you hijack a speedboat? During the time I spend in that city, clearly I'm hanging out with the wrong crowd.
An Asian woman was stopped by airport security officials in Russia who found a dried deer penis in her handbag, the media reported last week. The fact they find this strange shows how Western-centric the international press is. Europeans eat sweetbreads, which are the genitalia of calves, pigs or lambs. On a BBC Lifestyle TV show last week I saw a woman eating sauted testicles. It didn't say whose they were, or perhaps I missed that bit. Anyway, it was very distressing for a sensitive man to watch. I had to breathe deeply and walk around a bit to calm myself down.
Advice for married men: Never sneer at your wife's choices. You're one of them.
At an airport I overhead smug Asians sneering at American companions about gun violence in the West. Don't do this. Truth is the gun situation in Asia is sometimes worse.
The US gun lobby has a motto which says: "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." But that actual situation is evolving in parts of Asia, such as India and the Philippines. Indian citizens are not allowed to carry weapons, but the scariest group of people in the country, politicians, are armed to the teeth. A recently released list of gun-collecting members of parliament included 18 with serious criminal cases pending against them, ranging from kidnapping and murder to having astonishingly bad haircuts.
The Philippines' homicide rate is worse than Europe's and approaching that of Washington DC kindergartens. Manila newspapers carry ads saying "Give Your Loved One a Handgun This Christmas". In China, shooting someone gets you the death penalty, unless you work for the government, in which case you get promoted two grades.
As for America, let's pause to say a prayer for the two police officers in the town of Vaughn, population 500, in the state of New Mexico. Residents are allowed to openly carry weapons - except for the two cops, according to KOB-TV. Both have "domestic dispute" convictions which ban them from carrying guns. Can you imagine these guys keeping the rest of the town in order? "Put down your weapons or we will give you severe tongue-lashing." I know teachers who use that line all the time, and it gets you nowhere.
When a severe drought threatened crops in Bangalore recently, civil servants snapped into action. They instructed all 34,000 temples in the area to inform the gods that a heavy downpour was required IMMEDIATELY, I heard from reader Virat Pathan. It must be really easy being a temple god. All you have to do is answer prayers, and "No" counts as an answer. Virat was shocked that the authorities in 2012 could display such "superstitious ignorance". I agree, everyone knows that rainfall is decided by Weather Angels.
On a related topic, the 41,000 spells for sale on eBay are being removed this month. The web auction site is banning enchantments and incantations. This is terrible news for those of us planning to make bulk sales to the state government of Bangalore.
Did you see the news report saying that a man suffering from memory loss managed to work out who he was and what he did by examining Facebook picture files? How is this news? Doesn't everybody do that at the end of each week?
A mildly rude word was shouted out at a literary festival recently. "Tosser" is the British equivalent of "jerk". But though it's a gentle insult, the shocking thing was that it was heard at the world's biggest book festival, in Edinburgh, Scotland. This columnist has appeared on that stage twice: it's an erudite gathering of bookworms, little old ladies, professors, etc. The elderly audience members are so placid that if someone dies in the audience (which probably happens quite often) no one would say anything. (They may discreetly point.)
The cause of the audience outburst was a speech by author Stephen Leather violently skewering the old literary establishment and defending ebook pirates. I used to work with Stephen, an energetic stirrer who spends a lot of time in Asia and often sets his stories here. He creates trouble so consistently that I have switched from being alarmed by him to having a grudging respect for him. At making headlines, he's a genius.
Grudging respect is a curious emotion where you're kind of horrified and impressed at the same time. Case in point: Halfway through writing this article, a reader forwarded a report from a newspaper crime page in Oslo, Norway. It said a woman shoplifted a 42-inch (1.06m) television by sticking it up her dress and sneaking off with it clamped between her thighs. For purposes of measurement, 42 inches is massive, about the circumference of Kanye West's head.
She was caught. I know it's wrong to steal and all that, but in this case I think she actually deserves to keep it.
A strange mystery of modern life: Have you noticed, workers never phone in sick on Wednesdays?
Another mystery: Why is it that the only time there is a beer can rolling about on the floor of your car is the time that your boss asks for a lift?
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveler. Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org)