Here’s a question that haunts me each morning, from the moment I wake up till the second I slip off to sleep in the evening: since when did life become so complicated? Why is nothing simple anymore? Nothing.
The other day, I had to buy a new handphone and it took hours to decide which brand I wanted. And did I want a touch screen? Clam hinge? Pull down pad? “Samsung hor, the SMS very different from Nokia,” Melvyn, the bored sales assistant told me as I struggled to understand the idea of push mail.
In a state of mild panic, I tried to imagine if I would ever need an app that told me which direction north was. “This app very good for real estate agent,” Melvyn told me, even as he checked his email with one hand and scrolled around the test phone he was showing me with the other.
“Don’t you have a phone that only makes calls, and receives calls? I don’t want any of this other stuff!” I was aware of the rising whining tone in my voice. “And why is the font so small on the screen? I can’t see what I’m typing!”
I walked out of the Starhub shop completely defeated and headed for the nearest coffee shop where I was presented with a menu that had 15 kinds of coffee.
On TV, whenever people ask for coffee in a café, they get coffee. They never say, “I’ll have the organic Colombian single estate, please, with organic soy.”
“Don’t you just have plain old coffee?” I asked.
“What kind you want? Latte, macchiato, flat white, long black, skinny?” said the bored barista behind the counter. I was sure he was called Melvyn too.
And have you tried buying toothpaste recently? My God, it’s like advanced algebra. Never mind the twenty odd brands out there. You now have toothpaste with whitening agents. Or without. Toothpaste with sea algae. Some have organic mint and fennel. Some have fluoride. Other’s don’t. Which makes me wonder why they don’t, because on the box they say “NO Fluoride” in the kind of bold font that leads you to conclude that fluoride must be bad for you. Then they have toothpaste with at least five different kinds of mint, and some come out of the tube in two strips of white and blue.
“Don’t you just have ordinary toothpaste?” I asked Candy, the sales assistant, who just stared at me blankly.
“Do you speak English?” I asked. Candy’s eyes shifted sideways. Clearly, she wasn’t used to being asked questions by customers.
I ended up buying the one with mint and fennel and that evening, Saffy complained that she didn’t want to feel like she was eating a salad when she was brushing. “Why fennel?” she asked through a mouth full of white foam.
“You look like you have rabies, Saffy,” Amanda said as she struggled to programme our TV recorder. “Seriously, why is this stupid machine telling me I can’t record?”
Even banking is complicated. At last count, I have about eight bank accounts, some with the same bank, and a few with others. To access each, I need a separate PIN and user id, because I read somewhere that if you have the same PIN for all your accounts, if you lose a card, you have to change it all.
At the end of each month, I have a minor nervous breakdown when all the statements arrive and I have to work out which bank account to pay each one from.
“Aiyoh, why you don’t GIRO from same account?” Sharyn asked.
“Because I don’t always have enough in one account, so I have to shift between accounts!”
Sharyn stared at me, goggle-eyed, from behind her super thick refractive lense spectacles. “Ay,” she said finally, “you money laundering, is it?”
And can we talk about underwear? Have you bought underwear lately? Y-fronts, briefs, boxers, jock-straps, thongs. Waist bands that come in elastic, string, nylon. Some have buttons. Some are just open-front. Organic cotton. Breathable cotton. Silk. Silk blend. Cotton blend.
What I want to know is when did life become so complicated, with so many decisions to be made about the most mundane of things? Is it too much to ask for a cup of coffee, a slice of cake and a tube of toothpaste without having to draw up a Powerpoint presentation about each one?
Saffy says I should try buying women’s underwear. “You would just die!” she said.
The saving grace about just dying is that then I won’t have to worry about what kind of coffin I want.