Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Remember—Everyone is Watching!

We were shopping for groceries in an upscale market in Kuching when my wife directs my attention to a man scratching his butt.  He was standing in the aisle, not a side aisle but the main thoroughfare with people coming and going all around him, and he had his hand inside not just his pants, but inside his clearly seen underwear, which by the way, was a dull red in color.  He was not a derelict but a reasonably well-dressed man accompanying his wife, standing there aloof, having himself a good scratch, as if he had no care in the world.  I’m sure he does this sort of thing at home all the time.  He didn’t seem bothered by the fact that people all around him, including us, were giving him, I-can’t-believe-you’re-scratching-your-butt-in-public look.

We’re shopping for food mind you.  Imagine all the items, like fruit, he may be casually touching or groping, once he stops—assuming he ever does stop—scratching his butt. 

Yes, at times, we all like to think that, like children, we’re invisible, that no one is going to notice us as we quickly, casually (so not to draw attention to ourselves) pick our nose, our ears, and even our butts (though not all the way inside our underwear) in public.  But everyone is watching.  And if someone is not watching, you can be darn sure that someone will point it out to them, or tell them all about it later, once they get home or back to the office.

I admit, I was even tempted to take the man’s caught-in-the-act photo and put it on YouTube. Let it go viral, so the whole world will know that this man failed basic etiquette, hygiene, obedience, common sense school, and that his parents—shame on them—never taught him not to go out in public in dirty underwear just in case you die, let alone scratch various parts of your body when others are looking. 

As writers, we tend to notice stuff like this and work it into our writing somewhere, but so does everyone else.  How can you not notice a man standing in the middle of an aisle his pants half pulled down, showing large portions of his decrepit underwear, with his left hand jammed inside of it, scratching a way. Knowing this guy, I’m sure once he's done, he'll probably bring those same fingers to his nose and have himself a good sniff.  Then he’ll grab a box of cereal or an apple, and ask his wife, “Do we need this?”

So when you’re in public, and this goes for children—we have two small ones who are known to do an occasionally disgusting act in front of others that makes us want to disown them—please think twice before you do what your body urges you do to because, believe it or not, everyone is watching, and these days, everyone has a camera on their phones, and they can even be pretending to talking loudly to all their friends, when in actual fact they’re snapping your photo and shouting that out to the world.

By the way, this applies to how you dress, whether your zipper is up or down, whether your jeans need a thorough washing, whether your hair is unkempt or neatly groomed, whether you're complaining about life or embracing it, and even whether you're ranting and raving in your blog posting because you’re having a really bad day and you want to take it out on the world.  Yes, you may be ranting and raving in the privacy of your own room, but in fact, you’re as public as that man standing in the aisle scratching his butt.

After we quickly made it around this man so we didn’t have to watch him anymore, the writer part of me made me look back at the end of the aisle before turning the corner of my life, and yes, he was still scratching his butt, oblivious to his surroundings, and yes, everyone else was watching, no doubt eagerly waiting for his next disgusting move, cameras at the ready.
                  —Robert Raymer, Borneo Expat Writer 

***Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.


sintaicharles said...

I would have gawped incredulously if I were behind him.So sickening!

Borneo Expat Writer said...

Some people you can dress them up but you can't take them anywhere!

I'm surprised his wife didn't scold him, "Will you stop that! You look so disgusting!" And then add, "You're definitely sleeping on the couch tonight!