Someone showed me a somewhat random video in which people put cucumbers near cats and the horrified cats leapt away in sheer terror, sometimes leaping out of windows. Watching it, I re-lived my teenage attempts at dating. Cucumbers: I feel your pain.
Your columnist was further thrown back to childhood days by an Indian newspaper report that police officers are using catapults to fire balls of chili powder as a crowd control technique. Well I did the exact same thing as a kid and my teacher denounced me as a troublesome brat who would achieve nothing in life. Okay, so her prediction was accurate, but I should still get royalties, right?
I was feeling stung about that when a reader sent in a news item about a guy in France who is suing his boss for boring him. He claims that the four years he spent at one company were so stupefyingly dull that they caused him physical harm, damaging his joints and brain. My high school history teacher, Mr. Mohan, was so boring that you could actually feel your brain fossilising during the class. Once he scheduled a history double-period and not even the brainy kids turned up, knowing he would induce comas and then brain-death.
Yet it is only now, finally, that society is seeing childhood episodes as things to take seriously. Following the success of The Anger Room in Texas, several countries offer “tantrum spaces” where adults can scream and shout and smash up stuff. They quote psychologists as saying that destroying property is “a vital outlet for emotional release blah blah blah”.
Well thank you very much, world, for realising this decades after I spent my childhood being punished. At last, modern kids have the terminology to argue their case. Teacher: You just burned down the school. Kid: Destruction is a vital outlet for emotional release blah blah blah. Teacher: Good point — here, take this gold merit star.
Readers may have seen the US news item about an incident in Colorado when police used pepper-spray to subdue an out-of-control kid aged eight. Some people said they should have just reasoned with him, but that only makes sense to people who’ve never had to deal with eight-year-olds. Pepper-spray is the minimum force necessary. A preferable option would be to approach the kid with a bomb disposal robot fitted with a speaker. “Put down the axe and we will send an adult in a hazmat suit to read a Winnie-the-Pooh book to you.”
I reckon Asian boys grow up with the trickiest challenges these days. In China, the folk tradition called Fu-Ji requires children to use a Chinese ouija-board to summon a female evil spirit. But Chinese law says males have to wait until they are at least 22 to get married. So it’s fine for a boy to call up a demonic she-devil, but marrying an actual physical woman — whoah, guys, this might be dangerous, let’s wait at least 10 more years. (Not sure if that is bizarre or actually very smart.)
Whatever. Now excuse me while I go dig up my catapult. My kids are running amok and I need to do some crowd control.
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via his Facebook page)