I love YouTube. It’s like an Open University of Life. Everything is on it – and I mean, everything. Kick-ass French Open final between Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis? The opening sequence to ‘Magnum PI’? Soundtrack to ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’? Aung San SUu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech? A talking dog? J Lo singing at the US Super Bowl half time concert? Not sure how to solve a quadratic equation?
It’s all there on YouTube. Somewhere, someone had the same problem or question or nostalgic impulse and found a solution to it and put it up on YouTube.
The other day, I found old black and white clips of Adeline, my ninety-year old neighbour in her hey-day as an English stage actress. Even she, when I showed up excitedly at her door waving my iPad, had never seen them before.
“It’s a little creepy!” she said, her voice trembling with astonishment as she watched a fifty-year old clip of herself sing a medley of Cole Porter. “Who is uploading all this?”
“Some people are very free,” I said without the slightest trace of irony as I swiped my finger across the screen to pull up another clip.
I no longer read newspapers or buy CDs. I get it all on YouTube.
If someone at a party talks about something I have never heard of, I don’t sit there and look dumb. I just sneak off to the bathroom, tap the YouTube icon on the iPhone and get a quick primer, complete with illustrations, on LIBOR rates. This is also how I got up to date with Justin Bieber.
I’ve watched marriage proposals, flash mobs, flash floods, Madonna nipple flashing in concert, the best bits of the Oscars, bloopers of every single season of ‘Friends’, Margot Fonteyn’s pas des deux with Rudolf Nureyev, the tumbling of the Berlin Wall.
The morning after some unknown Czech ripped Nadal off the court at Wimbledon, I was already watching highlights on YouTube. And straight after that, I learnt to make roasted seafood with Nigella, how to survive without water with Bear Grylls, how to tie a Bowman’s knot, as well as a few choice Cantonese phrases while watching a hysterical woman at Hong Kong airport screaming she’d missed the plane.
A few days ago, I came home to find Saffy glued to her iPad and the volume turned up high. “Get off the bus!” a voice boomed out amidst a babble of confused shouts. And then a stern voice commanded, “You don’t push an old lady like that!”
Saffy looked up, her eyes wide. “Oh my God, this kid just pushed someone off the bus! Like, literally, he pushed her off!”
By the time, Amanda came home, Saffy and I had watched the YouTube clip eighteen times.
“Look at this uncle! He’s just sitting there!” Saffy said, stabbing a finger on the very greasy iPad screen.
“What are you watching?” Amanda asked.
“This guy just pushed an old lady off the bus! I’ve never seen anything like this!” Saffy said, her bosom inflating on cue.
After watching the 90-second clip, Amanda said that there were days when she felt like pushing a lot of people under a bus. “Not that this excuses what this guy did, but sometimes you just feel like snapping!”
“I know I did last night when I went to the loo and sat down on the cold rim of the toilet bowl,” Saffy said and looked at me. “You left the toilet seat up again!”
“I think,” I said, icily, “that you have me completely confused with The Cockroach! He stayed over last night. By the way, Amanda, was that an example of you of throwing someone under the bus?”
Amanda grinned sheepishly.
“Oh my God,” Saffy cried, “he stayed over? I thought you dumped him last week?”
“We made up. Stop judging me!”
“Really, who did you bribe at Harvard to give you a degree?” Saffy snapped.
Sharyn says one day, she’s coming over with a cam-corder to film us. “Better than any-ting you find on YouTube, ah, I tell you. Do-hn put down toilet sit can also have drama, how you tahan, ah?” she asked recently over lunch.
“It’s exhausting, Sharyn!” I said, stirring my teh-tarik. “Yesterday, Saffy asked me if I wanted to film her popping a pimple.”
“I want to see how many likes I get on YouTube!” Saffy had said. “Those kinds of videos are very popular!”
Which is how the two of us wasted the rest of the afternoon watching one video after another of people popping progressively bigger zits.
Have I already mentioned that I love YouTube?