Two boxers fighting as though they were taking a commuter train, from the Bun Karyudo humor blog.

Coping with Rush Hour Has Meant Years in Training — (Bun Karyudo Humor Blog)

It’s never a nice feeling to be caught in public with a finger up your nose. Somehow, it’s so much worse when it’s someone else’s finger. Perhaps this is why I harbor such a dislike of traveling on public transport at the height of rush hour.

Crowded commutes are something we city dwellers loathe, and it’s easy to understand why. Crammed together in a bus or train in a more or less random collection of knees, rib cages, shoulders, buttocks and elbows, we live in the knowledge that squeezed together in such a limited space, nothing but the law of averages protects us from catastrophe. If by some tragic fluke we all inhale at the same time, we will meet our doom together in the resulting explosion.

Given all of this, it may seem strange that I ever undertake rush hour travel without, at the very least, some goose-stepping thug pushing a machine gun into the small of my back. And yet, duty compels me to my local train station day after day, Nazi guard or no. Sadly, as my boss has made clear to me on many occasions, Western Civilization absolutely depends upon my showing up to work at particular times throughout the week and will not long survive without me.

It’s not that I haven’t tried thinking creatively about other alternatives. I’ve looked into the matter thoroughly, taken measurements, pored over maps and timetables, crunched the numbers. But the simple fact of it is, no matter what route I investigate, my getting on a train and visiting a workplace is virtually always less expensive than putting the workplace on a train and bringing it to me.

Of course, much as I hate commuter journeys, I have by necessity become gradually better at dealing with them. By far the best solution, and the one I always take if it is available, is simply to avoid the busiest part of rush hour by catching an earlier or a later train. Very occasionally during these slightly off-peak periods, I may be lucky enough to get a seat, an event always met with thankfulness, joy, and three days of tearful celebration in the Karyudo household.

Such happy occurrences are, however, vanishingly rare. Far more often, all the seats have been claimed by passengers whose bottoms then remain fixed to them limpet-like throughout the rest of the journey. Nevertheless, traveling at slightly off-peak times does mean having just enough personal space to afford me a few simple luxuries, such as being able to turn my head slightly, scratch my nose and breathe.

Of course, the relative freedom of hand movement that comes with traveling at this time can bring problems of its own. Passengers sitting along the aisle, for example, have long been in significant danger from anyone standing nearby who is attempting to read a newspaper. As irritatingly smug as limpet-bottomed passengers can sometimes be, it’s hard to argue that they deserve a swift right hook every time the person standing over them tries to turn to page three.

Luckily, this is a problem fading in importance now that the majority of commuters spend their entire journey staring at a smartphone or tablet. This gives seated passengers the peace of mind they need to sit back and enjoy their bottomly comfort, secure in the knowledge that a savage right hook is no longer a threat, and at most, they can expect a few pokes in the eye with some sort of hand-held electronic device.

Much as I prefer trains like these that somewhat avoid the very busiest times of the morning, there are occasions when I simply have no choice but to face the full-blown rush-hour commuter train. Many a young country-dweller confronted for the first time by these eight cars of horrifically compacted humanity has recoiled in terrified astonishment. The possibility of survival in such a hostile environment seems miraculous to him. Hardened city commuters, the life-form capable of this astounding feat, he holds in the same bewildered awe with which biologists regard bacteria that thrive in volcanoes or boiling acid.

Of course, I was once such a country-dweller myself. It has taken many, many years of bitter experience to learn to cope with the rigors of rush-hour commuting and the mass of bodies pushing against me from every side. One of the things I still find difficult, however, is watching helplessly as less experienced travelers stumble into danger. Oh, how many times have I seen a hapless tourist trapped next to a someone who likes garlic sausage on their breakfast toast? How often have I watched as a newly-hired graduate is poked, rapped, and whacked by one carelessly wielded umbrella after another? I’ve wanted to help, but with my left cheek flattened against the window pane and my right elbow pinned behind my head, I’ve found my options for action rather limited.

I took just such a train the other day to visit the offices of another company. My commute was more complicated than usual and involved changing lines. However, this can be easier said than done at popular stations. More than once in such circumstances, the train doors have opened and I’ve found myself bobbing along like a cork in an unstoppable wave of humanity, all heading in the wrong direction.

Thankfully, on this particular day, I made the change smoothly, got to the station in good time, and arrived at precisely the exit I wanted – only to discover that the company was not where I thought I’d left it. This was a puzzle because when I’d visited the offices for the first time about a month earlier, I’d taken careful note of significant landmarks and used them to create what I thought was a highly accurate mental map of the neighborhood. It took several slow, careful circuits of the station, and much popping in and out of exits, before I realized what had happened. My mental map was indeed highly accurate, but my brain was holding it upside down.

 

 

Text and picture © Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo.com blog (2016)

(All rights reserved)

This post originally appeared on my main blog on August 17th, 2016.

Picture of a swimming pig giving his son some advice from the Bun Karyudo Humor Blog

Teaching My Son to Swim? It’s Just Not Going to Happen

I should lie. It won’t do my image any favors to admit the truth. A request to teach my 14-year-old son how to swim? How could any father ever show anything but the greatest willingness to help? And yet, the needle on my enthusiasm meter never soared much above the dizzying heights of 1%.*

Obviously, the moment my wife noticed my lack of eagerness, she started on my guilt buttons like someone playing Danny Boy on the concertina.

“How could you be so heartless?” she asked.

I didn’t know how I could be so heartless.

“Why would you dash his hopes so?”

I didn’t know why I would dash his hopes so.

“When someone makes a promise, isn’t it only right to keep it.”

When someone made a promise, I nodded, it was only right to keep it.

“Right then,” she said, “I promised our son you’d teach him to swim. How can you possibly refuse?”

Somehow, I felt I’d missed a step in this argument, but one look at my wife’s steely countenance was enough to persuade me that some avenues of thought are better left unexplored.

Since further attempts to persuade my darling sweetheart to change her mind offered little beyond the prospect of eye injury, I decided to approach my son directly and try to negotiate. I began by craftily noting that though swimming might sound like fun, it involved a certain amount of getting wet. As someone who didn’t even like washing behind his ears, perhaps he’d prefer learning to ride a bicycle instead.

I felt certain this argument was a sure-fire winner. Irritatingly, my son insisted on dredging up the fact that I’d already taught him how to ride a bicycle seven years earlier. This shouldn’t have been an insurmountable obstacle to a couple of sensible fellows of good will. Unfortunately, my son maintained an altogether unreasonable insistence that he couldn’t just forget how to ride a bicycle so that I could teach him how to do it all over again. My wife took his side, and it was soon obvious that I’d either be swimming with my son or swimming with the fishes.

In the end, I agreed to teach him, but with much the same level of enthusiasm with which one might enter an international bang-your-thumb-with-a-mallet competition. There were several reason for my reluctance. One was that, based on comments he’d had made, I suspected my son might have slightly overestimated my ability. Whereas for him able to swim meant something like “shortlisted for Rio,” for me it was closer to “capable of reaching the nearest bank of a particularly deep puddle.” Since I knew my son had already been getting lessons of some kind at his school, it did not seem impossible that he might in fact be a more accomplished swimmer than I was.

Then there was the question of revealing my torso in all its glory to the eyes of an unsuspecting world. Let me just repeat in this post, as I have in several others, that I am not actually overweight. My problem has never been the total amount of me, merely the fact that there is far too much me in some places and not nearly enough of me in others. In particular, I tend to put on weight at the hips and just can’t seem to move it, although I’ve tried everything – except eating less or exercising, obviously.

Still, there seemed no way of avoiding the swimming lesson, so the next question was to decide where and when this sporting masterclass was to take place. My preference was for a quiet, indoor swimming pool at a suitable hour, such as 3 a.m. My wife and son soon made it known, however, that they thought it would be better as part of a weekend trip we were already planning to take into the countryside. We would be going right past a number of suitable beaches, they said, so why not stop at one for a couple of hours?

Smelly seaweed, jagged shell fragments, stinging jellyfish, toxic oil spills, great white sharks, unexploded mines – I threw everything I could think of against the idea. Sadly, it soon became clear that no mere tsunami warning or sighting of the Loch Ness Monster, however credible, was likely to deter my wife and son.

The date of our trip was chosen and the most appropriate beach selected. At this point, it is important to remember the words of the great and very nearly comprehensible Scottish poet Robert Burns:

“The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley [often go awry].”

So it was that despite my best efforts, on the day of the trip, tragedy struck. The skies were clear, the sun was shining and the seas were calm. Worse still, when we eventually arrived at the beach, I was immediately dejected to discover the sand was pristine, the water unpolluted and the facilities good. For a few brief seconds, it looked like I might yet achieve a last minute reprieve when my wife realized she’d forgotten to bring the pump for the inflatable rings. Obviously, there was no way I could allow my beloved family members, neither of whom could swim well, to wade up to their knees in the ocean without inflatable protection. I could always blow the rings up by myself, of course, but…

I gave a couple of heart-wrenchingly feeble coughs, and was just about to go full nineteenth-century consumptive heroine, when my son pointed to a free air pump next to the place where you wash sand from your feet. I struggled to contain my joy at this thrilling news, but managed it somehow.

All too soon, the rings were fully inflated, and so there was nothing for it but to make my way down toward the water, stare right in the eye of anyone who glanced in my direction, and challenge them to make something of it. Once I was safely up to my chest in the surprisingly warm and pleasant water, it was time for the quality father/son time to begin.

“Okay, let’s learn how to swim.”

“Nah, that’s okay, Dad. I’m happy just sitting here on this inflatable ring.”

And so it was that I spent the next couple of hours standing in the ocean, looking around for something to do.

 

 

* margin of error ±1%

 

Text and picture © Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo.com blog (2016)

(All rights reserved)

This post originally appeared on my main blog on August 10th, 2016.

Picture of a noisy guitar from the BunKaryudo humor blog.

Thump! Bang! Wallop! Thud! — Noise and the Hapless Blogger

Someone who never entertains doubts? Not me! I’m the kind of person more likely to call them up and invite them round for coffee. No matter what the anxieties in question, I’m always there, ready to lavish generous amounts of time on them. That’s why I’ve spent most of the morning doubting that I’m ever going to finish this post. How can I, a lowly blogging pleb, ever hope to topple the terrible triumvirate of Noise, Heat and Itchiness?

If I fail, it won’t be for lack of inspiration. I do have a number of ideas in my head, but they’re skittish creatures and easily startled. At the first loud noise, they up and run off. That’s why I’m attempting to write while wearing ear plugs. Unfortunately, the foam rubber irritates my skin. I try to concentrate, but all I really want to do is thread a piece of cloth into one ear canal and out through the other, and then start pulling it backwards and forwards to satisfy this accursed itching.

“Well, take out the earplugs,” you say.

Ha ha ha ha ha! That’s just crazy talk. Don’t you know what time of year this is? My kids are on their summer break. I can hear my younger son now as he introduces his new wrecking ball to every item of furniture in the living room. At least, that’s what it sounds like he’s doing. He might just be eating cornflakes. It’s very hard to tell the difference.

As I type this, I can’t quite account for the rumbles, thumps and thuds coming from my younger son’s general direction. The peeps, tweeps and cheeps, on the other hand, are no mystery. They’ve been a constant accompaniment to his every action since the tragic day several years ago when he first learned to whistle.

He whistles when he gets dressed. He whistles when he watches TV. He whistles when he does his homework. It’s comforting to know that should he never achieve much academically, he’ll always have the option of turning pro with his ability to whistle while brushing his teeth.

Doting father though I am, I have to frankly admit that my younger son is noisy. His elder brother, on the other hand, is cut from an entirely different cloth. He is much, much worse. He cannot yawn, read a book or blink at anything less than 120 decibels.

Of course, unlike his younger sibling, he has no particular love for music – a fact he proved about six months ago by buying a guitar. He now uses it at all hours of the day and night to accompany his singing. Obviously, with such constant practice, he has improved somewhat. I’d even go as far as to say that he can now sing and play songs pretty competently, just not sing and play the same song at the same time.

It’s something of a mystery where my kids get their impressive loudness from. It certainly wasn’t from me. My memories of my childhood are still undimmed after all these years, and I clearly remember my brother and I being paragons of civility and good manners. Instead of rumbling from one end of the house to the other like elephants on skateboards, the two of us sat in the living room reading our Shakespeare or quietly discussing seventeenth-century political philosophy.

My brother did have a talent for extravagant sneezes, I admit. Whenever some random dust particle provoked one of his explosive outbursts, there followed a day and a half of telegrams from distant lands reading, “Bless you!” Given that his sneezes were an involuntary reflex, however, I think they can hardly be held against him.

At this point in my post, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, I’m clearly more than halfway to my target of around 800 words. The only reason I’ve reached this far, though, is that I’m writing during one of the quieter moments in the day. You see, both my children are busy doing their homework, which means the background volume has reduced to approximately that of a Civil War battlefield.

Noise of this magnitude is perfectly possible to get through without permanent hearing loss provided I take a few simple precautions. One is to wear earplugs. A second is to remove myself and my computer to the bedroom and close the door. This has the tremendous advantage of getting me – and more importantly, my ears – away from the source of the noise.

Unfortunately, with it being summertime, it also comes with a few significant drawbacks. For one thing, the air conditioner that works properly is in the living room. Without access to it, the temperature in my bedroom quickly becomes oppressive. I could compromise and open the door, but I seldom do. Bad though I am at concentrating when it’s hot, I’m even worse at concentrating when it’s noisy. Instead, I keep the door closed and continue typing away, trying desperately to finish my post before the keyboard melts and drips onto the floor.

Today, I’ve taken my electric fan and put it on my computer desk about five inches from my face. Although this has cooled me down slightly, it’s a lot like attempting to type in the middle of a hurricane. Perhaps, then, this is a good place to stop. I could attempt a few more paragraphs, but I think that might be pushing it.

I’m hot, I’m tired and my earplugs are driving me crazy. My fingers feel perilously close to mutiny. Any moment now, they are likely to ignore orders, abandon the keyboard, and begin scratching my ears clean off my head. If I try to continue with the post in such circumstances, I’ll have to type it with my elbows.

Text and picture © Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo.com blog (2016)

(All rights reserved)

This post originally appeared on my main blog on August, 3rd 2016.

Photograph of a preying mantis on his wedding night from the Bun Karyudo Humor Blog.

A Feastful of Dollars or Why I Don’t Trust the Word “Feast”

 

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

It’s a phrase that brings wry amusement when said by a great aunt, startled apprehension from a cardiovascular surgeon. Context, in other words, is everything.

And the context in which I first heard it may well be the reason I’ve always distrusted the word feast. You see, for an embarrassingly long time, I thought the great King’s name was Wences and the Feast of Stephen was when he last looked out.

As a child, I’d often imagined the scene. There on his deathbed lay the saintly king, exhausted after a long life of wrestling impoverished peasants to the ground and forcing alms upon them. Turning his weary head to look through the window one last time, what should he happen to spy through his ancient, yet surprisingly well-focusing eyes but a poor man collecting firewood! “Page! Page!” he called, and struggling to his feet, he staggered out into the chill December winds to bring a little seasonal comfort to the peasant in a gallant final act of piety.

Only the Feast of Stephen wasn’t when Wences last looked out at all. I’d simply misheard the name. It was just as likely when Wenceslas first looked out, or any one of the innumerable looking-out incidents in between. For all we can tell from the song, the good king might have been a strapping fellow younger than I am now. In other words, far from the heroic last deed of my imagination, Wenceslas’s trek out into the snow may have required approximately as much effort as my popping across the road to 7-Eleven to buy coffee and a doughnut.

A quick check of Wikipedia confirms my worst fears. The real king Wenceslas of Bohemia, Vaclav the Good, was without doubt a young man during his peasant-helping days since he died at the age of just 28. Ironically, he was murdered by his younger brother Boleslaus the Cruel during a feast. (Thanks, incidentally, to Disney Studios for their groundbreaking work on devising the epithets for these monarchs. Presumably Boleslaus also spoke Czech with an upper-class English accent and had a wise-cracking animal sidekick.)

The first time I ever heard the word feast was when singing this popular carol as a child. Given that this initial encounter involved a serious misunderstanding of the story in which it was embedded, perhaps it’s not surprising that I’ve always regarded it with a certain amount of suspicion. Over the years since then, my issues with the word have only deepened. I now see it as a blustering fraudster, sitting somewhere in the dictionary between fatuous and flannel, and making grandiose claims about bringing joy and cheer.

“Ho ho ho,” the word seems to bellow heartily. “Food, wine, revelry – that’s what I offer. Come and know me better, man!” Then it gives a cheery wink and claps a hand on our shoulder like a jolly fellow. Yet for all its promises, it remains strangely silent about the cost.

When I was a child, turkey and Brussel sprouts, trifle and ice cream seemed to appear magically on plates in front of me (although luckily not on the same ones). Afterwards, the dirty dishes vanished into thin air, or at least, out of my TV-centered field of view. It wasn’t until I became a little older that I began to notice my mother’s lengthy absences from the living room on such feast days, or the soft sobs coming from my father’s bedroom a little later in the month when the bank statement arrived in the mail. Yes, feasts are not to be trusted.

Of course, there are some for whom the colossal excess involved in feasting is precisely what attracts them to doing it. On the slightest pretext, they’ll organize a banquet simply to show everyone they can. I’m well aware that the many Russian oligarchs and billionaire windbags among my readership like nothing better than to throw a lavish banquet to celebrate the weather or the fact that tomorrow is Thursday. But I believe even they are being duped and should watch out. After all, what is feasting but gluttony plus an excuse? They may have hundreds to toil in their kitchens for them, but who can they pay to burn off their excess calories?

Feasting wouldn’t matter if we were designed like iPods or tablets and could simply stop charging up when we were full. Sadly, this is not the way it works. The more we put in, the more we continue to expand. If electrical devices handled energy in the same way as we humans, we’d plug our smart phone into the power supply overnight and wake the next morning lying next to the Death Star.

Now it may be that my tone has surprised you. Can this really be a post from that happy-go-lucky, sweet-toothed young blogger Bun Karyudo? Since when did he become so puritanical about food? It’s possible I am being a little oversensitive at the moment. My younger son is insisting that I take him to a pool during the summer vacation and teach him how to swim properly. My wife is standing behind him with folded arms and a frown, which means I’ll have to do it.

Since I’ve been unsuccessful in finding any pools that allow fathers to enter the shallow end while fully dressed, I now have just under a month to turn myself into a god among men. It’s tough: no jam on my toast, no milk in my coffee, and the only part of doughnuts I’m allowed to eat is the hole in the middle. This really was not the best day for me to have to deal with the WordPress Daily Prompt “Feast.”

Text and picture © Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo.com blog (2016)

(All rights reserved)

Written in response to the Daily Post for July 19, 2016.

 

 

This post originally appeared on my main blog on July 21 2016.

Funny joke picture about desert from the Bun Karyudo Humorous blog.

Deserted by Inspiration, Inspired by the Desert

“Desert.”

This is the WordPress Daily Prompt in front of me as I sit at my computer to write this post. It could hardly be more appropriate. In the mental landscape between my ears, there is only a vast barren expanse with the occasional bit of tumbleweed blowing across it. A signpost has been hammered into the sand. “Welcome to Inspiration. Population: zero”.

I’m doing my best to think of something to say about this topic, but I’m clearly at a profound disadvantage compared to more adventurous bloggers. Faced with the same prompt, Sue and Dave of the Travel Tales of Life, for example, could no doubt turn out a highly entertaining account of the time they journeyed by pogo stick across the Kalahari or list ten delicious home recipes made with sand.

Unfortunately, I’ve never been anywhere near a real desert. The shocking truth is, in other words, that I’m about to expound at length on a topic I know almost nothing about. This may or may not make for a successful blog post. It will, however, stand me in very good stead should I ever run for public office.

I do have a vague idea what a desert might feel like from my occasional visits over the years to greenhouses in various botanical gardens. Impressively hot as these generally are, I suspect they are much diminished versions of the real thing. I base this belief on several key observations:

a) Real deserts are extremely dangerous places in which people die.

b) The botanical greenhouses I’ve been to didn’t seem particularly hostile environments

c) Most botanical gardens prefer not to kill their visitors.

Obviously, I could be making some outrageous assumptions here. For example, my impression that deserts are ferociously difficult places in which to make a living is derived mainly from hours of dedicated study of Roadrunner cartoons. I have no personal experience to fall back on. It may well be that real deserts are not so very different from botanical greenhouses after all and usually come with air-conditioned restrooms and a gift shop.

Similarly, I have taken the non-homicidal nature of botanical gardens rather for granted. If cross-examined under oath in a court of law, I’d have to reluctantly admit to knowing very little about their policies for dealing with excess visitor numbers. I could not absolutely deny the possibility that their management guidelines are rather more robust than I’d anticipated.

Still, if I’m going to write about deserts, I have to concentrate on what I do know rather than what I don’t. Certainly, if I were typing up an application for the position of Desert Blogger in Chief, I’d try to make the most of my extensive experience of day trips to the beach with my elementary school.

During my formative years, sand and I became very well acquainted – sand in my hair, sand down the back of my neck, sand in my socks. I also have some inkling of the extreme hardship involved in trying to find sustenance in a sandy environment. On more than one tragic occasion, contamination by tiny grains of silica made it necessary to throw away my jam sandwich.

Of course, I’m the first to admit to small but significant differences between my local beach and the desert. Yes, my treks over the endless dunes were in the finest traditions of Beau Geste, but I can’t deny he faced far greater adversity in the form of flying bullets, unrelenting sun and a horrifying lack of Saharan ice cream trucks.

Luckily, there is at least one other way in which I can claim some acquaintance with desert conditions. This is through my recent horticultural triumph with my cactus plants, Fluffy and Shortly Withering II. Now I’ve never been the sort of person prone to vulgar boasting. This is why I feel no need whatever to crow about the fact that though I’ve been solely responsible for looking after them for almost six months now, I’ve managed not to kill either plant even once.

I admit things were difficult at the beginning. For the first ten weeks, the pair saw nothing of the sun since I kept them on a shelf at the opposite end of the room from the window. I did point my desk lamp in their general direction, but surprisingly, despite being cacti that never received much in the way of education, Fluffy and Shortly seemed able to tell the difference between a 2 billion billion billion ton nuclear inferno and a 40W bulb.

I then decided to move them to a shelf near the living room window where they would receive much more sunlight. The effect was immediate and obvious. Both plants developed a deep, healthy tan, albeit a dark green one.

They also grew taller. Fluffy in particular now has an excellent chance of selection should the local residents’ committee ever decide to set up a five-cactus basketball team. (His admittance to the squad would definitely be on size alone, though. His dribbling is poor and his passing skills need a lot of work.)

Yet despite this phenomenal, if not earth-shattering, success with Fluffy and Shortly (which modesty prevents me talking about at any greater length), the most important piece of information I know about deserts has nothing to do with my little cactus buddies at all. Instead, it is a survival tip I once picked up on Discovery Channel, but which might nonetheless be true.

If I ever happen to take a couple of wrong turns on my way to the supermarket and find myself lost and in the Sudan, I now know that the one thing I must do is STAY WITH THE CAR! Now this is not particularly easy for me because – and I advise you to sit down before reading the remainder of this sentence – I don’t actually have a car.

I’ve thus been forced to amend the advice slightly to STAY WITH THE SHOPPING BICYCLE! Although I couldn’t find any mention of precisely this technique in any online guide to desert safety, I’m nevertheless confident it would help me to survive my harrowing ordeal. I keep my bicycle in the basement of my apartment building, so staying close to it at all times would not only afford me some welcome shade, but allow me to trot over the road to 7-Eleven to buy some iced tea if the heat became unbearable.

Text and picture © Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo.com blog (2016)

(All rights reserved)

Written in response to the Daily Prompt for July 10, 2016.

 

 

This post originally appeared on my main blog on July 13, 2016.

Two shoes having a conversation about the sole that has come off. Funny photograph from the Bun Karyudo Humor Blog.

Peril on the Pathway! The Account of a Sole Survivor

La la la la la!

 

I have more laughter in my heart than a Goodwill Ambassador on a whoopee cushion. Here it is: the last minute of the last hour of the last day of the week!

Everything has gone smoothly since I woke up. I managed to turn off the alarm this morning without hurling it across the room. I remembered to use the shampoo that smells like alpine meadows rather than the one that smells like baby sick. I was even able to use the photocopier without having to propitiate it with the usual sacrifice of half a ream of paper.

I pick up my bag, nod to the receptionist, and walk out into the weekend. The soft evening sun shines on my face. I close my eyes and smile. If my life were a Disney movie, I would now throw out my arms and burst into melody, accompanied by a chorus of adorable songbirds, fawns, rabbits and a tap-dancing penguin.

I get across the busy road in front of my office building without being hit by a truck. “How very lucky,” I think to myself. Had I been struck, I’d have exploded into a glittering shower of spangles and sparkles, flower petals and lollipops. No mere vehicle could have withstood such a tremendous burst of positive energy.

On a whim, I suddenly take a left turn away from the nearest train station. It seems a pity to waste such a beautiful evening. I’ll walk through the riverside park and catch a train a few stops further up the line.

The sun is low in the sky, so my shadow stretches out far in front of me. It vaguely reminds me of something… a stilt-walking clown at the circus, perhaps. But unlike a clown, I want only to bring joy and laughter to the world, not nightmares and unspeakable dread.

I follow the footpath past the open air café and into the rose garden. I see skies of blue, trees of green, and the pretty faces of people going by. I see a mother with a very wise-looking child who will quite possibly learn much more than I’ll ever know. I’ve just started looking around for friends shaking hands and saying “How do you do?” when suddenly:

REEAAPPP!

I freeze. What on earth was that? I can’t see anything around me. I take a step forward.

Flippity!

My left foot feels odd, although I’m not sure why. Everything looks normal. I take another couple of steps forward.

Floppity!

There it is again. I feel like I’ve stepped on something squishy, but when I examine the area around my foot, there are no tennis balls, used diapers or rubber chickens. Confused, I slowly lift my left shoe, and that’s when I realize what has happened. The entire front part of the sole has ripped away and is now attached by only the tiniest of strands.

I put my foot back down again and look around. Perhaps if I ignore the problem, nobody will notice my predicament. I walk on.

Flippity, floppity, SLAP! Flippity, floppity SLAP!

It’s no good. While it’s possible one or two people might miss the sole of my shoe flopping about like a beagle’s tongue, few could ignore the extravagant wallop it’s making against the stone slabs.

I try moving on a little further, but this time barely raising my feet. This seems a partial success. I get the strong impression no one has guessed about my shoe. Most bypassers seem to have concluded I’m walking this way because I’ve wet myself.

I stop again. After a moment’s consideration, it seems the least bad option is to remove the sole completely. However, when I slip off my shoe and pick it up, I find myself reluctant to touch the underside. “I don’t know where this shoe has been,” I mutter. And then I remember that this is not very likely to be true.

I rip the sole clean away, slip the shoe back on again and resume my journey. Now there’s such a thin layer between the bottom of my foot and the ground, I feel like I’m walking on tissue paper. The tiniest pebbles feel like huge boulders. The cracks in the path feel like canyons. I very nearly tread on an ant, only just seeing it in time to take evasive measures. I heave a sigh of relief. It’s not at all clear the remains of my shoe could have withstood the collision.

One leg is now a little longer than the other. Each time I switch from my right to my left, I feel like I’m stepping down from a platform. I can only imagine what it looks like to other people as my head bobs wildly up and down, up and down. My best guess is I’m like someone doing chicken impersonations at a children’s party.

Eventually, I reach the station and the chance to buy some cheap alternative footwear. Later, as I sit on the train, I ponder my sole’s unexpected exit from the rest of my shoe.

Perhaps there were signs. Perhaps I should have seen it coming. Located in a forgotten region of my body, far from the centers of power and influence, my feet and their interests receive scant attention. Another slice of cake? The eye, the tongue and the brain all have their say, but who thinks to ask the feet? Nobody, and yet they are the ones left to carry the burden.

But though I understand their frustration and their desire to get attention, I can’t help thinking both the sole and the remainder of the shoe have been diminished by this separation. And where will this kind of desperate protest end? With someone building a 45-foot curb to stop others getting onto the sidewalk?

Text and picture © Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo.com blog (2016)

(All rights reserved)

 

This post originally appeared on my main blog on July 7, 2016.

 

The Daily Prompt for July 5.

Picture of a smartphone from the Bun Karyudo Humor Blog.

My Smartphone Is Too Smart by Half

Tap tap tappity-tap tap tap tap tappity-tap tap tappity-tap tap ta—

Ding!

I stop typing. The net curtains to my left flutter gently in the breeze. The hands of the clock on my right continue their slow progress around the dial. Nothing else is moves.

I go back to my keyboard.

Tap tappity-tap tap tappity-tap ta—

Ding!

There it is again! It’s very, very faint – barely audible, in fact – but it’s definitely there. I’ve been hearing it all day. Sometimes there’s a single ding, sometimes a whole flurry of dings one after another.

I look slowly around. A thought bubble containing a large question mark hangs over my head. A bashful doorbell? An invisible boxing match? First contact by very small aliens with a glockenspiel? I go through all the more likely possibilities.

Ding!

Ding!

Ding!

Suddenly I realize where the noise is coming from. On a shelf above my right shoulder, propped against my copy of “Blogging for Dummies,” sits my new cell phone. It appears to be talking to itself. I look up with a certain awe at the impossibly smooth, black monolith. It seems inscrutable, even a little menacing. I may not hear the opening bars of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but I certainly feel every inch the primitive, bone-throwing ape-man in its presence.

I stand up and walk gingerly toward the shelf. I wish I had a pencil to hand so that I could prod the phone a couple of times and make sure it’s harmless. Instead, I appear to have no option but to pick it up and find out what it wants. I touch the screen to turn on this wonder of the modern age. Nothing happens. I touch the screen again. Still nothing happens.

Um…

I try to remember how my wife did it. She made it look so easy. I hit the glass again. Then again. Then I begin tapping random parts of the screen in rapid succession as if I were banging out “She sells seashells” in Morse code.

The phone blinks on. Success! Instinctively, I look around me, but I’m quite alone in the room. My hopes of a burst of spontaneous applause evaporate.

Now that I’ve broken in, the next step is to find out what has been making the noise. It’s not at all obvious. I’m confronted with an array of icons, only a few of which I recognize. I begin clicking on them more or less at random. Not this one. Nor this one. How about thi—

Ding!

Literally as I’m looking at the screen, a message appears with my brother’s name at the top.

“Did u have a nice day?”

Did I have a nice day? I’d better say something, only, I’m not sure how to go about responding. I tap the message box at the bottom of the screen and a keyboard appears. Slowly, I hunt for the letters I need:

“m   y     d   a   y     w   a   s     o   k   a—“

While I’m still in mid-sentence, another message appears, this time from my mother.

“Had a lovely time. Nice lunch and company and a surprise cake.”

It’s immediately obvious that the original message was not meant for me at all. I scroll up through a page of similar questions, replies, messages and photographs and realize I’ve stumbled upon a three-way conversation between my mother, my father and my brother.

I try to join in, but I’m never more than halfway through a reply before another comment arrives that makes mine redundant. I feel like a garden snail trying to play professional tennis. After a few more attempts, it’s clear my fingers are out of condition and breathing heavily. There’s nothing for it but to turn off the volume and replace the smartphone on the shelf.

I sit back down at my computer. As I resume typing, I’m struck by the curious notion that the conversation might still be whizzing on around me, or even through me. I wonder whether at this precise moment there might be a hilarious punchline zipping through my left elbow, or a photograph of my nephews whooshing between my earlobes.

The digital dexterity of my family members just makes my failure all the more humiliating. But then, I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with cell phones. Indeed, I’d never had slightest interest in owning one until the day a sales assistant mentioned the possibility of downloading different ringtones for different callers. I skipped out of the store twenty-five minutes later with a twinkle in my eye and a cell phone in my pocket.

Oh how I sniggered the first time I was rung by my wife. How a chortled when my boss first got in touch. But of course, after the Darth Vader Theme or The Funeral March had finished, I then had to take the call.

Too late did I recognize my folly. Too late did I realize that when she’d held the cell phone in her outstretched hands and whispered, “Let me ease your burden,” the sales assistant had offered me only bonds of silk and chains of gold.

Suddenly, I was reachable at all times and in all places, and rare indeed were calls from my boss to inform me how beautifully the daffodils glinted in the sunlight. Instead, all work-related communication was either a) to inform me I’d made a mistake or b) to ask me to work overtime. Luckily, it was easy to tell which was which from the screech to beseech ratio.

Similarly, communications from my wife were invariably to have me pick up bread from the supermarket or remind me to mail the letter she’d given me that morning. The sad truth is, nobody but Stevie Wonder ever just calls to say he loves you.

Over the years, one cell phone was replaced by another and then another. But sadly, as the capabilities of the devices increased, those of their operator seemed to head in the opposite direction. Perhaps that’s why I held onto my last model for a world record-breaking half-decade.

However, as year followed year, it became alarmingly difficult to spot anybody else carrying an antique device like mine. Being a shy individual, I finally decided the time had come to buy a smartphone. It was either that, I reasoned, or prepare myself for the outraged newspaper stories and aggressive TV interviews certain to follow from being the last person in the northern hemisphere still using a dumb one.

So it was that one day a couple of weeks ago, I went into a store and emerged with a device of greater computational power than was available to the whole of NASA in the year of my birth. I sauntered confidently through the city streets barking orders into the featureless black slab in my hand. How could anyone in such circumstances fail to appear the absolute epitome of tech-savvy and sophistication?

In my case, I discovered it helps a great deal if you shout into the receiver and listen to the microphone.

 

Text and picture © Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo.com blog (2016)

(All rights reserved)

 

* This post originally appeared on my main blog on June 29, 2016

Picture of an old man with a plastic bag from the BunKaryudo Humor Blog.

Are You an Old Bag?

Bun Karyudo! You’re not, surely?

I freeze. My wife’s terse and unexpected question has fallen on me from a clear blue sky like an unopened sandbag from a balloon.

“I, you, um… what?”

My brain was on a Caribbean beach somewhere. It often is just before I leave for work in the morning. Suddenly my wife popped up next to my deck chair and began wagging a finger at me.

“That bag! Just look at it.”

I’m carrying a plastic shopping bag to take to work with me. It contains an already opened box of Darjeeling tea, a pack of powdered milk and some cookies. There was no space for them in my regular workbag. Since it has been raining this morning, I want to use the plastic bag to make sure the tea doesn’t get wet. I put all this to my wife.

“For lunch. Milk, um, little pack, see? Opened tea and, well, raining, so, you know, um… better safe than sound.

My wife appears unmoved by my eloquence. It’s true that I have slightly garbled the last part of my explanation, but I’ve done fairly well under the circumstances. Sudden accusatory statements tend to send my brain scurrying off in panic. My mouth is left to cobble together some kind of utterance from whatever fragments are lying around.

At such moments, there’s no telling what may emerge—A picture paints a thousand ships! All that glitters leads to Rome! He who hesitates has lost his marbles! Really, it could have been much, much worse. Luckily, my wife has somehow followed the gist.

“Tea in that supermarket bag? What will people think?”

“They’ll think I visited a supermarket.”

“What, in the 1970s? Look at that beaten up old thing!”

I look at the beaten up old thing. Perhaps my wife has a point. It’s clearly a piece of plastic that has seen a lot of misfortune in its time. I walk through to the kitchen and stand in front of the closet where we keep old shopping bags on the top shelf. I pause for a moment, reluctant to open the door. I know what will happen when I do. White bags, green bags, yellow bags, blue bags, red bags—all will come tumbling down upon me in a psychedelic avalanche of plastic.

Still if something’s inevitable, why fight it? So it is that mere seconds later, I’m picking through a pile of plastic at my feet. I notice that most of the bags are old and many are made of cheap material that crinkles easily and feels unpleasant, almost brittle to the touch. Over the years, we seem to have amassed quite a collection.

It’s my own fault, of course. Although I know we never use these bags for anything, I’m reluctant to throw them into the plastic-lined trash can. It always seems vaguely like cannibalism.

Eventually, I find a rather attractive duty-free bag that still seems in reasonable condition. I put it to one side and cram the remaining bags on the top shelf once more. They’re an unruly bunch, but I beat them back with my hand long enough to slam the closet door shut again.

I put my tea, powdered milk and cookies into this more presentable bag, and then head towards the front door. My wife sees what I’m carrying as I walk past and nods her head in approval.

“Now that’s more like it.”

I open the door and step out to face humanity. There will be no horrified shrieks, no grief-stricken lamentations, no contemptuous jeers, not with a plastic bag of the quality I’m now carrying. It’s the kind of precision-engineered, all-weather, flexible containment device in which Queen Elizabeth II would quite happily take her jam sandwiches to work.

I walk toward the station, my duty-free bag proclaiming my worldly sophistication and mastery of the genteel art of sleeping in economy with an elbow in my face. Eventually, my thoughts turn to the question of why, with a closet full of plastic bags, there were so few good ones for me to choose from.

I realize it’s because these days we take reusable shopping bags with us to the supermarket. We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, our own little bit to help the planet. It’s difficult to gauge precisely how successful our efforts have been, but I imagine that by this point, we’ve probably saved a few dozen mahogany saplings or three-fifths of a polar bear.

The supermarket strongly encourages this behavior. Whenever we tell a shop assistant that we have our own bag, she always gives us a big smile and looks as though she’d like nothing better than to high five both of us and then do cartwheels down the aisle. On those rare occasions when we forget and have to ask her for a bag, it’s as though there has been a death in the family.

Later, as I stand by the train door and watch the raindrops trickling down the window, my thoughts turn to the grubby and battered shopping bag I discarded. I begin to feel oddly sorry for it. I ask myself, if I were a plastic bag, would it be me?

 

Text and picture © Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo.com blog (2016)

(All rights reserved)

* This post originally appeared on my main blog on June 22, 2016

 

Picture of a very polite alarm clock from the Bun Karyudo humor blog.

Could This Be the Perfect Bed? Let Me Sleep on It…

Aghh!

I wake to an imminent floor, not a distant ceiling. Instinctively, I push out my left hand – what is it doing here?  – against the carpet. It’s enough to stop me falling. I now hang, precariously suspended over the edge of the bed. It’s all rather puzzling.

Given my predicament, it’s clearly time to unleash the most complex object in the known universe. Instantly, the 100 billion neurons of my brain begin their massive parallel processing of the available data. They send out urgent holding instructions to my eyelids to blink vacantly a couple of times while they put their staggering computational power to work. After several moments of intense cogitation, followed by a rigorous checking and rechecking of their calculations, they finally conclude that I really need to go to the bathroom.

I try to push myself back up onto the bed, but there is someone else lying in the place where I would ordinarily be. Now it’s clear what has happened. My wife has been on another of her occasional campaigns of conquest and has laid claim to vast tracts of the bed traditionally thought of as mine. My meager defenses have been overwhelmed, and so I’ve been forced backwards like the Belgians before the Kaiser’s armies.

My lack of preparedness is perhaps understandable. It has been a very long time since anything on this scale has been attempted. Yes, there have been occasional border skirmishes, the odd knee here or elbow there, but the whole, the uneasy truce between us has held for many years. I try once more to push myself back onto the bed. This time I succeed.

But no sooner am I up than I notice the mattress cover. It has detached itself from the corner of the bed… again! This makes four or five times in a single week. Admittedly as poltergeist activity goes, it’s one of the less impressive cases. The spirit involved is clearly work-shy and unimaginative. All the same, there’s probably still enough here for a six-part series on Discovery Channel.

I roll onto my back and assume my usual habit of staring up at the ceiling. After a few moments, it’s clear I’m not going to get back to sleep again. The unprovoked invasion of my territory and now this horrifying new evidence of paranormal activity have left me in too great a state of emotional turmoil. And I now really, really need to go to the bathroom.

I decide I may as well just get up early. As I shave, shower and then dry my hair, I think back to the day nearly twenty years earlier when we first bought our bed. It wasn’t my original choice. I liked another one that I thought had a particularly firm and supportive mattress. Sadly, when my wife tried it, she immediately began drawing comparisons with planks of wood and concrete slabs. Such outlandish hyperbole was quite unnecessary, of course, and not something I would ever have stooped to.

Then I lay back on her favored choice, a bed that she described as “agreeably comfortable.” Immediately, I found myself sinking unstoppably into a mattress that had all the rigidity of a pool of gelatin. Down, down, down I went, well on my way to the earth’s core. It was only with a last desperate reach of my arm that I somehow managed to catch hold of my wife’s hand and pull myself back to safety.

Our present bed was recommended to us by the sales assistant as the Goldilocks option, the optimal compromise between decadent luxury and lower back pain. Throughout his glowing explanation, he consistently referred to the bed as king-size, the monarch in question presumably being from one of those tiny, landlocked statelets somewhere in continental Europe.

The mattress of this peerless palace of repose had, we were assured, been designed to the very highest standards. Merely turning it over four times a year would banish any possibility of back pain. I cannot tell you what a comfort those words were to me three months later as I lay sprawled on the recently overturned mattress with a suspected hernia.

It is true, however, that the mattress was sturdily-made. This was just as well, since throughout most of their early childhood, my sons had the hardest time distinguishing my bed from an Olympic trampoline. Surprisingly, despite their many hours of dedicated practice, their skills were never officially recognized. I can only feel this was a tremendous loss to the world of international sport.

Yet somehow, despite my children’s best efforts, the mattress and large sections of the headboard got through their elementary school years substantially intact, thus ensuring my wife and I still have somewhere to sleep every night.

The bedframe is also still in good condition. It is rather lower than is usual with most beds and sticks out at precisely the right height for me to continually clip it with my ankle whenever I walk past. With the prong of my guitar stand regularly catching my knee, the corner of my desk, my wrist, and the handle of the door, my elbow, I’m happy to say my bedroom has most of the major joints covered.

As might be expected, after a couple of decades of sleeping in a somewhat lower than average bed, I find it a little disconcerting if ever I need to stay in a hotel. Suddenly I’m precariously perched atop the kind of pinnacle usually only reached by screaming Hollywood starlets carried there by pterodactyl.

And then there are all those other unfamiliar aspects of sleeping in hotel rooms – the bedside light with an off switch located by the door, the air conditioning with its three settings of Arctic, Antarctic and Off, the massive bank of downy pillows for those who enjoy both sleeping vertically and the feeling of feathers up their nose.

I don’t need any of that. Not only were no chickens injured in the stuffing of my memory foam pillow, but I can seldom afford to use the air conditioner. Most nights in summer, I make do with a fan blowing warm air across my body. I close my eyes and relax, trying to imagine I’m on a tropical beach somewhere …

… and not in the world’s smallest king-size bed, surrounded on every side by towering and overloaded bookshelves, in the middle of an earthquake zone.

Text and picture © Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo.com blog (2016)

(All rights reserved)

* This post originally appeared on my main blog on June 15, 2016

 

Wall covered in graffiti from the Bun Karyudo Humor blog.

Graffiti: Is the Writing on the Wall?

 

“We need a thaw!”

This sentence means one thing when said by my wife on a snowy morning. It means quite another coming from a lumberjack with a lisp. In other words, context is everything. This is why it isn’t easy for me to use the word hate in the context of graffiti. I knew that graffiti can sometimes be beautiful and artistic. I’ve seen photographs of stunning examples from the streets of places like Mexico City, Rio and Lisbon.

I have to remind myself of this when thinking about Spl-tzz, the new owner of an elegant footbridge over the river in the park. At least, I assume Spl-tzz is the new owner. How else can I explain the fact that his name is now written all over it with a permanent marker?

Indeed, so fascinated was this particular individual with his name, he wrote it a good 10 or 12 times just to make sure the world at large wouldn’t forget it. I say he, but of course Spl-tzz could be a she for all I know, or even a couple called Spl and tzz. Whatever the case, I can’t help noticing that his, her or their tag has done disappointingly little to enhance the beauty of the bridge.

Since graffiti was on my mind as I was walking through town yesterday, I made a special effort to spot as many little examples as I could. The first thing I noticed was that anyone with any artistic talent was clearly in Mexico City, Rio and Lisbon.

The second point that occurred to me was the profound insight that graffiti can be divided into two kinds. These are – and stop me if I’m getting a little too technical here – stuff with words and stuff with pictures. Of the two, I’ve always tended to be particularly underwhelmed by the former. Indeed, I’d go as far as to call it my least favorite literary genre.

This is not to say that there is never anything of interest written on walls. In my days at high school, I was always impressed how, under the powerful appeal of an expanse of whitewashed plaster, a student who couldn’t put one word after another in English class was suddenly able to compose a masterly five-sentence poem with an AABBA rhyming scheme.

But by far the majority of written graffiti messages that one finds are rather more mundane and much less impressive.

“Aufidius was here.” “Kilroy was here.” “Ding Jihao was here.”

The period, nationality and the wall in question may change, but the plotting remains minimal, the characters underdeveloped, and the only major theme, a highly repetitive focus on presence. It also seems to be the one kind of composition in which the practitioners never appear to have the slightest trouble with writer’s block.

Furthermore, the free-for-all that is the spelling in graffiti messages can set my teeth slowly grinding over one another like two tectonic plates. Every time I read something like “Haha Ur dads stoopid!” I lose a few more micrometers of enamel on my premolars. I find it hard not to resent this constant pick, pick, picking on easy targets. Time and time again, the writers of graffiti pitilessly torture sentences, but always seem to leave quadratic equations entirely unmolested.

Yet by far the most irritating aspect of graffiti is the existence of taggers. These are people like Spl-tzz who simply repeat their tag – basically a stylized signature – over and over again in the graffiti version of spamming. I have very close to zero respect for taggers. They are, after all, so colossally untalented, they can’t even manage a “was here” after their name.

However, despite my dislike of taggers and their tendency to leave their mark dozens, hundreds or even thousands of times in a given area, I do have a certain amount of sympathy for them. After all, their lifestyle can have unfortunate side-effects. Just filling out a tax form or completing a passport application, for instance, isn’t easy for someone unable to provide a signature except with a spray can. Similarly choosing a card for a loved one’s birthday can be problematic when it needs to be the size of a movie screen in order to have space for the message.

Personally, I think tagging may soon die out. With the end of the teaching of cursive in schools, future generations of would-be taggers will be completely unable to form even the handful of letters they require for their own names. Instead, they will stand in front of a blank wall for a while, looking around sadly for the keyboard, before eventually giving up and hunting for some nice windows to hurl bricks through instead.

However, there is a kind of graffiti I think may go from strength to strength, namely, the massive, elaborate, and beautifully painted examples from places like Mexico City, Rio and Lisbon. As far as I can tell, many of these works have actually been created with official blessing. I hope so, for I remain uncomfortable with the idea of graffiti done without consent, even if the quality is good. To me, it seems rather like tattooing someone else’s face while they are asleep. No matter how beautiful the finished design, I can’t help thinking you should really have asked beforehand.

With any luck, over time, the number of large-scale, high-quality, officially-sanctioned examples of urban art will increase, and pointless tagging will disappear. After all, whether we love graffiti or hate it, it is noticeable that only humans ever seem to do it. The ancient paintings on the walls of the Lascaux Caves are often cited by scientists as an outward manifestation of the cognitive revolution that allowed Homo sapiens to see the world in a new and symbolic way. The paintings are therefore a sign of humanity’s outstanding intelligence.

It would be nice to rescue this supreme achievement of our species from taggers like Spl-tzz.

 

Text © Bun Karyudo and the BunKaryudo.com blog (2016)

(All rights reserved)

* This post originally appeared on my main blog on June 8, 2016

 

WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

The winners of the BloggersBash Awards 2016 were announced recently. Sadly, I didn’t get the T-shirt this time round, but a big thank you to the mystery person who nominated me and also to anybody who voted for me. The winning blogs in the “Funniest Blog” category were (in reverse order to build up some suspense):

Third: http://bethhaslam.blogspot.jp/

Second: http://www.humortimes.com/56210/ripping-headlines-today-050216/

First: https://blondewritemore.com/

Although I didn’t know much about some of my fellow nominees, the following three blogs are ones that I’ve followed for a while and can heartily recommend as being both well-written and funny.

https://tarasparlingwrites.com/

https://nutsrok.wordpress.com/

https://nedhickson.com/

A full list of the results in all categories is available at:

https://sachablack.co.uk/2016/06/11/and-the-winners-of-the-bloggersbash-awards-2016-are/