The Humor of Melvin Durai

Humor columns, satire and other funny stuff

Wherever you are in the world today, it’s important to realize that someone or something is probably watching you, keeping track of your movements. One of these days, you’ll be in the bathroom, looking at your phone and an advertisement will pop up: “Having trouble doing your business today, Sanjay? Try Metamucil fiber supplement. We guarantee 20 percent more frequent bowel movements!”

You may find yourself asking, “How did they know my name is Sanjay? And how did they know I’ve been in the bathroom for 30 minutes?”

Well, with the help of your phone and various devices, Google and other companies have the ability to track your location and movements, unless you do three things: (1) change 13 settings on your phone to emphasize your desire for privacy; (2) send an email to Google chief Sundar Pichai with the subject line “Please stop stalking me”; (3) change your name from Sanjay to Guillermo.

Yes, it’s very complicated. And frankly, if you’re overly concerned about being tracked, you may want to just get rid of your smartphone, laptop and other devices, and go back to rotary phones, notebooks and letters. Send an aerogram to your aunt in Mumbai and shock her all the way back to 1983.

While you’re at it, you may also want to quit your job and stay at home, because the moment you set foot in your workplace, there’s a good chance that your boss is tracking you, not just with one pair of eyes, but with all kinds of surveillance technology that will make you feel like a Russian general visiting Washington D.C.

Okay, I don’t want to get you too alarmed. This is not happening at EVERY workplace. If you work on a small dairy farm, for example, you can relax. Nobody is watching you, except 36 pairs of eyes in the milking parlor. Even if your boss catches you taking a nap on a sack of hay, he’ll probably think that you’ve worked so hard since 4 a.m. that you deserve a raise. And he’ll slide another sack under you.

But if you work for a large corporation, you need to be extra careful how you conduct yourself at work. Some employers are keeping track of how often you chat with your co-workers, how frequently you go to the bathroom, and how many times you pick your nose. (Picking your nose while working is generally frowned upon, even if you work for Amazon as a “picker packer.”)

As Zephyr Teachout writes in an article titled “The Boss Will See You Now” in The New York Review of Books, nurses and warehouse workers are being required to wear ID badges, wristbands and clothing with chips that allow employers to track their steps. If you usually take 3,500 steps per day, but took 3,700 today, you may have to explain your extra trip to the break room. Did you really need another bag of Cheetos?

Many American truckers and bus drivers are irked about the driver-facing cameras that have been installed in vehicles, depriving them of several rights we should all enjoy, including the right to scratch ourselves in privacy.

Being constantly watched, these drivers can’t be themselves – whether it’s singing loudly to a song on the radio, talking to themselves, or showing a finger to another driver. (I don’t know about you, but I appreciate getting the occasional thumbs-up from other drivers. My wife, however, keeps telling me that I need new glasses.)

Amazon, a particularly rigorous employer, tracks warehouse workers closely and forbids them from talking. “Who wants to be surveilled all day?” an Amazon employee complained to The Washington Post last year “It’s not a prison. It’s work.”

This may be true, but don’t be surprised if you’re sitting in court one day and hear a convicted man pleading with the judge: “I’m so sorry, your honor. I promise I’ll never do it again. Please don’t sentence me to Amazon! Anything but Amazon.”

NOTE: This column has moved to Substack. To receive it in your inbox weekly, please go to

Drivers all over the world are unhappy about the rising price of gas (or petrol). Some have found interesting ways to protest the prices, but none more charmingly than Subhranshu Samal did at his recent wedding in Bhubaneswar, India.

As widely reported, the 47-year-old grocery shop owner rode a bicycle to the wedding venue, while wearing an elegant sherwani, headdress and garland. No cars or loud DJs were part of the wedding procession, which gained plenty of attention from passers-by, because it’s not every day that you see a groom dashing on a bicycle. I mean, a dashing groom on a bicycle.

Samal told The Telegraph that he didn’t just want to protest fuel prices, but also promote environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

“By going on a bicycle, I have also been able to send a message about the need to maintain a good environment and good physique by avoiding to travel in cars and other motorable vehicles,” he said. “My wife Sipra was also happy with my decision.”

Yes, you’ve got to make Sipra happy. As the old saying goes, “Happy wife, happy life.” In this case, it might be: “Happy ride, happy bride.”

My wife, Malathi, is quite happy on a bicycle. She does not like to drive. Her car remains parked on our driveway 99 percent of the time. Malathi drives it only on weekends, usually to go shopping and to ensure that snakes and other creatures do not start living inside the engine compartment.

Malathi has two preferred modes of transportation: cycling and walking.  Only if she’s unable to use one of these modes does she resort to a third mode: Huber.

Huber is what you get when you combine husband and Uber.

Yes, if Malathi is unable to bike or walk, she usually gets me to drive her. Did I mention that her car sits idle 99 percent of the time?

Our house, thankfully, isn’t far from the university where Malathi works. It’s one of the main reasons we bought the house. Malathi can pedal to work in just 10 minutes or so. It’s mostly a downhill ride, but uphill when she returns home, so she praises gravity in the morning, curses it in the evening.

By riding her bicycle, she gets a little exercise, fresh air and the joy of zooming past motorists stuck in traffic. She also saves money on gas and does her small part in reducing air pollution and helping the environment. She doesn’t have to worry about parking—there is plenty of space on the bike rack outside her building. She can park for as long as she wants, without ever worrying about getting her bike towed away.

Many people around the world ride bicycles out of necessity—they can’t afford cars or motorbikes. But even in wealthy countries, bicycles are increasingly popular, not just for recreation but also transportation. In Denmark, for example, more than 90 percent of the population own bikes, compared with about 60 percent who own cars. The country has promoted biking by building a vast network of bike lanes and bike highways, and by imposing heavy taxes on gas and automobiles. Heading home from the office at rush hour, you might find yourself stuck behind dozens of bicycles. You’ll feel like you’re in the Tour de France, but with hardly anyone on steroids.

Most people do not live close enough to their workplaces to use bicycles. But short errands within their neighborhoods can easily be done on pedal power. If you’re lucky enough to live in a town or city that has created bike lanes, please take advantage of them. The bicycle is one of the greatest inventions in history—it’s right up there with the printing press, the lightbulb, and the game of football.

Not only does the bicycle give us cheap transportation, it also gives us enjoyment and exercise—all without polluting the earth.

NOTE: This column has moved to Substack. To read it every week, please get a free subscription at

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has concluded its formal review of the incident involving actor Will Smith and comedian Chris Rock at the 94th Oscars on March 24, 2022, and issued the following statement:

The Academy would like to apologize once again to the millions of viewers from around the world who were exposed to violence and foul language on March 24 without buying a movie ticket. We do not condone violence and foul language in any form that is totally free to consume.

When violence and foul language are freely available, they become normalized. We do not want to live in a society where it’s considered normal behavior to slap Chris Rock.

Indeed, slapping any comedian is unacceptable behavior. Comedians should be free to make jokes of all kinds, even those in poor taste, without the threat of being slapped. If people get slapped whenever they produce something in poor taste, there’d be a lot of red faces at Panda Express.

As everyone is aware, the incident at the Oscars occurred while Mr. Rock was presenting the award for best documentary. He made a “G.I. Jane” joke about Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, alluding to her shaved head but unaware that she suffers from alopecia, a disorder that causes hair loss. Mr. Smith walked onto the stage to let Mr. Rock know about his wife’s condition by means of a slap. He returned to his seat and issued a verbal warning to Mr. Rock, using language unsuitable for children and offensive to innumerable adults in households all over Utah. Thankfully, the broadcast was briefly muted in America, but in Australia, Japan and other countries, audiences were not just exposed to Mr. Smith’s words, they promptly tweeted them to their friends all over Utah.

Mr. Smith’s actions were disgraceful and reprehensible. This was the first time in the history of award shows that a presenter has been slapped by an award nominee, not counting the annual award show of the World Wrestling Federation.

Mr. Smith’s actions were deeply shocking and traumatic, not just for viewers at home but also for thousands of guests in the Dolby Theater who witnessed his actions in-person and will be forever scarred by the image of one celebrity slapping another. Many of them feared for their safety, wondering if Mr. Smith had lost his mind and would go on a slapping spree.

The Academy would like to apologize again to Mr. Rock and commend him for his resilience and composure, his commitment to be rock-steady and not willful. Had he chosen to retaliate, we might have witnessed a brawl on stage, resulting in an arrest or two.

No arrest took place, of course. The Los Angeles Police Department was prepared to make an arrest, but Mr. Rock declined to press charges. He made this decision on his own free will—as far as we know—not under threat of another slap.

As everyone is aware, Mr. Smith remained in the audience for the rest of the ceremony. This was a mistake on our part. We asked Mr. Smith to leave and he refused. We checked with Mr. Rock and he did not object to Mr. Smith’s continued presence. It is important to note that while we were consulting Mr. Rock, Mr. Smith did not make any slapping gestures in Mr. Rock’s direction. Mr. Smith also reassured us that there would be no more slapping whatsoever. “Done with the slapping for the night,” he said.

We wanted him to swear to this, but Mr. Rock intervened, saying that Mr. Smith had done enough swearing already.

We realized our mistake when Mr. Smith won the “best actor” award and used his acceptance speech to justify his actions. He received a standing ovation from the audience in the theater, which sent the wrong message to the audience at home. Slapping should never be rewarded with clapping.

Mr. Smith has since apologized for his actions and resigned from the Academy. At the next board meeting on April 18, the Academy may take disciplinary action against him. We are waiting to hear from Mr. Rock on how to proceed.

In many families, husbands and wives split up the household duties. Most wives handle all the cooking and cleaning, while the husbands handle almost all tasks related to beer and sports. This includes purchasing, sharing and consuming.

My family is quite different, partly because I was a stay-at-home dad for many years and partly because my wife is the primary breadwinner. Well, to be more precise, she is the primary rice-winner. She’s also the primary chapati-winner.

As far as staple foods are concerned, my wife generally prefers rice over anything else. She loves almost anything made of rice, including biryani, idli, dosa, and bisi bele bhath. Please don’t invite my wife to any wedding where rice will be thrown at the bride and groom. She’ll be picking it up off the floor.  

I enjoy eating rice too, especially biryani, but given a choice between plain rice or chapatis for dinner, I’m going for the chapatis (also known as rotis and a distant cousin of tortillas). Though I grew up in a household where rice dominated the menu, I prefer foods made from wheat. But soon after marriage, I realized that if I wanted to see chapatis at the dining table more than once a month, I needed to make them myself.

My first attempt at making chapatis didn’t go well. I couldn’t roll them properly and they were a little too crispy. But I didn’t give up: I kept trying, until I received a great compliment from my wife. “Wow,” she said one evening. “They’re almost edible.”

I’ve been practicing my chapati-making techniques for the last 20 years or so, and I’m proud to say that I’ve graduated from “almost edible” to “almost incredible.”

My chapatis aren’t quite as good as the ones you’d get at a high-quality Indian restaurant, but that’s partly because I’m not a professional chef and partly because I do not add any SECRET ingredients. My ingredients are not secret at all. All I put in my chapatis are flour, salt, water and a little oil. The oil isn’t necessary, of course, but it adds to the taste and is healthier than butter. (I prefer canola oil or vegetable oil, but you can try a number of other oils, though you might want to stay away from crude oil. Especially if it’s imported from Russia.)

Making chapatis isn’t easy, so I’d like to share a few important tips for anyone who’d like to give it a try:

1. The dough needs to be somewhat moist. This makes it much easier to roll. For two cups of flour, you need at least one cup of water. When I first started making chapatis, I didn’t add enough water. Not only was the dough hard to roll, it resisted any type of symmetry. My kids had fun with the chapatis though.

Divya: “What country does this one look like?”

Lekha: “India.”

Divya: “No, it’s more like Australia.”

Lekha: “Daddy, were you trying for Australia or India?”

Me: “Zimbabwe.”

2. If the dough seems too sticky, just spread some flour on your rolling surface or dab each ball of dough with a little flour. If you don’t do this, you might find that you’ve created the perfect chapati, but it’s stuck to your rolling board. Please do not invert your board over the stove. Just scrape it all off and try again with some flour. Be patient and don’t get frustrated. Remember: there is no such thing as an overnight chapati-making pro.   

3. Do not put your chapati on the cooking pan until the pan is extremely hot. How hot should it be? Well, it should be so hot that if you put your finger just above it, your wife will scream, “What are you doing, you idiot?” If you don’t have a wife, the next best thing is to put a few drops of water on the pan. They should sizzle and evaporate almost immediately. Having the right temperature ensures that some puffing up will occur.

Not only will your chapatis puff up, you might also puff up with pride.

The International Gymnastics Federation has criticized Russian athlete Ivan Kuliak for wearing a ‘Z’ on his chest at a gymnastics World Cup event in Doha, Qatar. The 20-year-old gymnast had taped the ‘Z’ symbol to his leotard and wore it on the podium while accepting a gold medal, standing beside Ukrainian athlete ​Illia Kovtun, who had won bronze.

The ‘Z’ symbol has been painted on tanks and other vehicles that the Russian military has used during its invasion of Ukraine. Wearing a ‘Z’ has become a way for Russians to show their approval for the invasion, and many supporters of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin are displaying the ‘Z’ proudly on their clothing and cars.

I do not know what the ‘Z’ stands for. What I do know is that in many conflicts, there are heroes—people we admire for their courage and selflessness—and there are also zeroes.

But I do not know what the ‘Z’ stands for. If I wore a ‘Z’ on my chest, it would stand for Zelensky. Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, is truly a hero. He is a symbol of bravery, a man who could have fled from a daunting battle against a stronger opponent, but instead chose to risk his life and inspire the Ukrainian people to defend their motherland, while uttering a memorable one-liner: “I need ammunition, not a ride.” Don’t call him an Uber—call him an uber leader.

Who would have thought that a former comedian and actor would be imbued with such courage? Perhaps we should have known he’s a rare breed when he said this at his 2019 inauguration: “I would very much like for you to not have my portrait in your offices. No portraits!” This is somewhat similar to what Donald Trump said: “I would very much like for you to not have my portrait in your offices only. Put them in your homes and pick-up trucks, too! More portraits! And please buy them directly from my website:”

Zelensky considers his soldiers heroes and has awarded the title of “Hero of Ukraine” to the military leader, Lieutenant General Oleksandr Pavliuk. But what about the other side? Aren’t there heroes wearing Russian uniforms, too? Of course there are. I would award medals of heroism to all the Russian soldiers who, while approaching the city of Kyiv, got their tanks stuck in the mud.

Videos of the soldiers abandoning their tanks went viral on social media and allowed people to ridicule the Russian military. But there are many forms of resistance, and one of the best is getting stuck in the mud.

Private Petrov: “What are we doing here? Why are we invading Ukraine? Does Putin have a conscience?”

Private Volkov: “Those are good questions. Here’s another question: What does the ‘Z’ stand for?”

Petrov: “It stands for zany. It is our new national identity.”

Volkov: “I thought it stands for zoo. We are behaving like wild animals.”

Petrov: “Yes, but what else can we do? We have to follow orders.”

Volkov: “We can get stuck in the mud and abandon our tanks.”

Petrov: “You are a genius, Volkov.”

Volkov: “Thank you, Petrov. Please inform my mother-in-law.”

Some of these soldiers may be true heroes and some may only be accidental heroes. But it’s okay to be an accidental hero. It’s okay to faint during a bank robbery and accidentally knock the gun from the robber’s hand.

Few people have the courage to be real heroes, like the thousands of anti-war protesters in Russia that Putin has imprisoned. Putin has made it a crime to oppose the war—and even a crime to call it a “war.” It’s a “special military operation.”

You may also call it “Operation Stuck-in-the-Mud.”

Sergeant: “How did you get your tank stuck in the mud?”

Petrov: “Sorry, sir, we fell asleep.”

Sergeant: “Fell asleep on the job?”

Volkov: “We were being patriotic: trying to catch some Z’s.”

Two middle-aged American men, Steve and Ralph, were discussing the Russian invasion of Ukraine and all the sanctions that had been imposed on Russia. The United States and its allies had frozen the financial assets of many Russian institutions and individuals. The European Union had blocked Russian planes from entering its airspace. And most stringently of all, the European Broadcasting Union had forbidden Russia from participating in the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest.

“Do you think the sanctions will work?” Steve asked.

“No, of course not,” Ralph replied. “That’s why I’m imposing sanctions of my own.”

“Your own sanctions? Tell me more.”

“Well, you know Lyudmila, the Russian woman I was planning to marry? It’s over between us!”

“You’re dumping her?”

“Not just her, but all mail-order brides from Russia! From now on, I’m going to focus on FIT women.”

“Lyudmila is out of shape?”

“No, Lyudmila is in great shape. But I’m going to focus on FIT women. Filipino, Indian and Thai. I sent a press release to CNN and other media outlets, but so far, no reporters have called. They’re too busy reporting on all the government sanctions that they’ve forgotten about individuals doing their part.”

“I can’t believe you’re dumping Lyudmila over Ukraine. She’s so young and beautiful. Show me her pic again.”

Ralph took out his phone, handed it to Steve and said, “Just keep scrolling. I’ve got a dozen pics of her in different outfits and different angles.”

Steve spent a minute scrolling through the photos. “You sure Ukraine is worth it, Ralph?”

“Yes, I’m sure. It’s not just Ukraine—I mean, that’s a big part of it, but we’ve also got a few differences. For example, she wants to have children, but I already have grandchildren. And then there’s the tattoo.”

“The tattoo?”

“Yes, just scroll to the swimsuit pic. If you zoom in, you’ll see some words under her navel. A friend translated it for me, and it says, ‘Vladimir Forever.’”

“Did you ask her about it?”

“Yes, she said it has nothing to do with Putin. She is a fan of the late Russian scientist Vladimir Vernadsky. But I don’t believe her. Vernadsky died many years before she was born.”

“So it’s over between you and Lyudmila?”

“Yes, it’s over.”

“Well, do you think you could give her my email address?”

“You’re interested in her?”

“No, of course not. I just want to see if she can give me a first-hand account of what’s happening in Russia and how the sanctions are affecting them. Just tell her that you have a friend named Steve who is very interested in Russian affairs.”

“You don’t have to ask Lyudmila about the sanctions. I can tell you all about them. The sanctions are just not strong enough. It’s true that some of them will make it harder for Russians to heat their homes and move their money around. But Russians are used to freezing conditions, whether it’s their assets getting frozen or their asses.”

Steve glanced at the photo again. “Lyudmila certainly has good assets.”

“She has good asses, too. Her parents are farmers.”

“How did you assess her asses?”

“She sent me photos. Keep scrolling.”

“Do you think your sanction will really make a difference?”

“It’s better than nothing. What about you? What are you doing? Are you still drinking Russian vodka?”

“Yes, but since the invasion, I’ve been diluting it more.”

“That’s not good enough. You should switch to Polish vodka. That’s what I’m advising all my clients.”


“Yes, since the invasion, I’ve been offering sanction consultations. I’ll help any organization or person come up with a good sanction. In fact, I wrote an email to FIFA, the governing body of football. As part of its sanction, FIFA has ruled that players from Russia will not be able to compete as ‘Russia,’ but as ‘Football Union of Russia (RFU).’ That’s not good enough for me. They should be forced to compete as ‘Football Union of Country That Invaded Ukraine (FUCTIU).’ They should play with both hands behind their backs, and all their goals should count as only half a goal.”

“Isn’t that a little too much, Ralph?”

“No, Steve, dropping bombs on Ukraine is a little too much.”

Happy New Year! If you haven’t yet made any New Year’s resolutions, it’s not too late. Don’t miss this opportunity to make resolutions that may transform your life—or at least improve it significantly.

Over the years, I’ve experienced both success and failure in trying to keep my New Year’s resolutions. I’d like to share five of the most important lessons I’ve learned:

1. Don’t make too many resolutions. Even if you’d like to change your life in 20 different ways, you are better off making two or three changes in 2022, leaving the rest for future years. Better yet, leave the rest for other people. Why must you be the one to do yoga every morning? Let someone else in your family do that. You can’t do it all, you know. My wife is the yoga person in our family; I’m the running person. Whenever she says, “Do you want to do yoga with me?” I start running.

2. Choose your resolutions wisely. Make a list of all the changes you’d like to make and cross off most of them. Think about which resolutions will have the greatest impact on your life. Will giving up sweets make you feel as happy and healthy as running regularly? It certainly might, especially if you’re already experiencing enough running: diabetes runs in your family or you are running out of teeth.

3. Don’t aim high – aim low. Aiming high is how most people fail. Some of them have never exercised in their lives, yet they somehow convince themselves that they’re going to run 5 miles per day, beginning on January 1. This usually results in a long line at the doctor’s office on January 2.

Patient: “Ouch! My backside hurts!”

Doctor: “Looks like you suffered an overuse injury!”

Patient: “But I just started running.”

Doctor: “Yes, you’ve been overusing your couch!”

New habits are hard to adopt – that’s why you should start with something small. If you haven’t done much running, don’t try to run all around your neighborhood. Instead, run all around your coffee table. That may not seem like much, but it gets you off the couch, and before long, you’ll be running all around your living room.

Trust me, it is better to feel good about achieving a small goal than striving for a big goal that you can’t achieve consistently. Once you’ve established a habit, you can gradually increase it, and the only risk you’ll be taking is the risk of being kicked out of the Slackers Club.

4. Reward yourself. This is very important, especially if you’re trying to achieve a goal that doesn’t give you instant gratification. Whether you wrote 100 words in a journal or exercised for 15 minutes or studied chemistry for 30 minutes, give yourself a special reward: Take the rest of the year off. No, perhaps a smaller reward would be sufficient, something like a nice hot bath that doesn’t ruin any other resolution.

5. Don’t give up. If you succeed in avoiding sweets for five days, but attend a party on the sixth day and eat 10 cookies, what should you do? Well, like a cyclist who hits a bump and falls off a bicycle, you should get back on the bike and continue your journey. There will always be bumps on the road. Even Kim Kardashian sometimes goes an entire day without taking a selfie. But the very next day, she’s back at it, taking 200 of them.

When I was growing up, an adult gave me this advice: “Watch where you step. You may step on something unpleasant.” This is so true. I got a big shock during the first weeks of the Covid pandemic when I stepped on a scale.

We had owned the scale for several years, but I hardly ever stepped on it. It sat in our kitchen as a source of amusement. I found it quite amusing to watch my wife step on it twice a day and groan each time. 

Then one day, I stepped on the scale and was shocked to find that I weighed 206 pounds (93 kg)—the highest I’ve ever weighed. Though I’m 6-foot-2, I’m a small-boned guy and should probably weigh no more than 180 pounds (82 kg). But for the last decade or so, I’ve considered myself slightly overweight and haven’t been too concerned about that, except once a year when I visit the doctor for a checkup. I want the doctor to say, “Wow, you are in GREAT shape.” But instead the doctor says, “I’m not going to lie to you.”

Doctors do not like to lie to us, because they know that we already hear enough lies. A large proportion of those lies come from the people who love us the most: our family members. They tell us what we want to hear — that we don’t really have much weight to lose, that we’re actually quite skinny.

“Look at you—you’re a stick,” my wife says to me. (What she doesn’t tell me is that I’m a stick of butter.)

Yes, family members lie to us, but not as much as we lie to ourselves. Here are just a few of the lies we tell ourselves:

1. “I’m still in pretty good shape.” This statement is usually not true, unless we expand it slightly and say something like this: “I’m still in pretty good shape compared to a 1970 VW Beetle.”

2. “The scale must be inaccurate.” This is what I told myself. I was almost ready to toss it away. But then I decided to test its accuracy using some dumbbells. I found that it was fairly accurate, which meant that I was fairly fat. Well, perhaps not fat, but in the general neighborhood. I was three blocks away—and approaching slowly in my 1970 VW Beetle.

3. “It’s natural for men to have protruding bellies as they age.” Sure, movie stars like Ben Affleck and Aamir Khan can have flat stomachs, but ordinary guys just don’t have the money to hire personal trainers for their body doubles.  

These are just a few of the lies we tell ourselves as we try our best to evade the truth. But then we step on the scale, like I did, and get a shock. It was a good shock for me, because I told myself that I needed to lose a few pounds immediately. And that’s what I did: I took my wallet and phone out of my pockets. But it didn’t work — I still weighed too much.

I made up my mind to start walking and running every day, and cutting back drastically on the amount of food I ate. Though I didn’t count calories strictly, I managed to lower my food intake by about one-third. It wasn’t easy to do, but the scale gave me the incentive. Every time I stepped on it, I wanted to see lower numbers, even if I had to balance on one leg.

In 2020, I ran more than I’ve ever run before. And in 2021, I joined a gym and started weight-training. I was surprised how much strength I had lost over the years, despite my daily regimen of lifting about 200 pounds off the couch.

I’ve lost more than 20 pounds (almost 11 kg) so far, and in the process, I’ve discovered another lie I’ve been telling myself — that I only needed to lose a little weight to get in shape. Judging by the size of my stomach, I can still stand to lose at least half a football.

I’m going to keep weighing myself several times a day, even if my wife finds it quite amusing when I groan.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of waiting. I’ve spent too much of my life waiting: waiting for the doctor to show up, waiting for the traffic light to turn green, waiting for my wife to finish shopping.

A survey conducted in Britain a few years ago found that the average man spends three weeks of his life waiting for his wife or girlfriend to finish shopping. I don’t know who this “average man” is, but he’s lucky. I’ve spent at least three months of my life waiting for my wife to finish shopping, and another three months waiting for her to return items she purchased.

The survey found that men wait in a variety of ways: some follow their significant others around as they browse in a store, others find a spot where they can sit and look at their phones, and a lucky few sneak away for a drink or snack, escaping from relationship-threatening questions such as, “Does this dress make me look fat?” (Spare a thought for the poor man who tried to be honest and answered, “No more than usual, dear.”)

Waiting at a train station in Beijing. Photo by Ho John Lee

Another British survey found that the average person spends a total of 47 days standing in queues in their lifetimes. I don’t know who this “average person” is, but they obviously don’t visit the post office much. Long lines can be found in many places these days: at checkout lanes in grocery stores, at sporting events and concerts, and at Bill Gates’ house ever since he put up the “Single again” sign.

If you’re a driver, you won’t be surprised to learn that you spend about two weeks of your life waiting for traffic lights to turn green. And another week waiting for the driver ahead of you to look up from their cellphone and notice the green light.

Some of the longest waiting times occur in hospitals. A woman in Tennessee recently waited 50 hours in a hospital emergency room before receiving treatment. An elderly man in British Columbia, Canada, spent three days in an ER waiting room before being admitted. It’s never a good sign when you enter a waiting room and see people lying around in their pajamas, eating Ramen from cups and asking what year it is.

I’ve probably spent two weeks of my life waiting for a doctor to see me. After arriving promptly at my appointment time, I usually sit in the waiting room for 30 minutes, until my name is called. Then I am taken to another room, which I like to call “Waiting Room 2.” It is here that I am told, “The doctor will be with you in a minute.” This is a lie, of course. The doctor has NEVER appeared in a minute.

If I am lucky, the doctor appears in 10 minutes. If I am unlucky, the doctor never appears. “We’re so sorry, but the doctor has to attend to an emergency. Would you like to re-schedule or would you like to be seen by someone else?”

“Someone else?” I ask. “Does this someone else have any medical training?”

“Please wait while I check on that.”

At this point, I have no choice but to re-schedule. Thankfully, this is a rare occurrence. More commonly, the doctor shows up after about 10 to 20 minutes. It’s clear to me that the doctor’s time is more valuable than mine. I am just a patient. A patient is expected to be patient.

If I were an important person such as a president or prime minister, I would not have to wait much. But as an ordinary person, I have to wait and wait and wait. By the time I die, I will have spent hundreds of days waiting.

And then I will have to wait a few more days for my funeral. No more waiting, please! Just put me in the ground already!

Categories: Life

Newspapers provide an invaluable service to their readers. If you don’t believe me, just consider this question that was recently sent to a wellness column in the New York Times: “I keep finding myself biting into an apple or a peach, only to find I’ve eaten half the sticker the store put on there. Is there any harm in eating produce stickers?”

New York Times writer Sophie Egan proceeded to answer the question: “While the stickers that get placed on fruits and vegetables won’t cause you any harm, it’s probably best to remove them before eating.”

Yes, it’s always advisable to peel the stickers off before eating them. Don’t eat them while they’re still on the fruit.

In my never-ending quest to win a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, I decided to track down the person who wrote the sticker question and find out if there were other sticky questions I could answer. Indeed, there were.

If I eat a sticker, what food groups am I consuming?

You are generally consuming three food groups: pigment, fiber and adhesive.

Do the stickers have any nutritional value?

Scientists have done tests on stickers and found them to have zero nutritional value, which makes them ideal for teen consumption. It’s not just teenagers who enjoy foods with no nutritional value, of course. It’s also rats. Rats will eat anything.

Can I buy the stickers without the fruits and vegetables?

No, stores generally require you to buy a fruit or vegetable with each sticker.

Can I lose weight by going on a sticker diet?

Yes, but it’s probably not a good idea to do so. It’s important to have a balanced diet, which means that you should get no more than 5 to 10 percent of your daily calorie intake from stickers. Remember: A sticker diet is not the same as a stricter diet.

When did the practice of putting stickers on fruits and vegetables begin?

It began in the mid-1980s as a way to relieve the stress on cashiers at grocery stores, many of whom were struggling with fruit identification. For example, a cashier named Robert in Miami, Florida, got in big trouble with his manager when a customer bought a pomegranate, but Robert charged him for a Christmas ornament.

The sticker displays a PLU (product look up) code that is set by the International Federation for Produce Standards, as well as a barcode to enable scanning. For example, a banana’s PLU code is 4011, which explains why you might hear this exchange on a street corner in New York City:

“Hey man, got any 4011?”

“Sorry, all I got is 4036.”


“No, nectarine. Want some?”

“Nah. Brings back bad memories. I once dated a woman named Nectarine.”

“That’s bananas.”

Has a sticker ever killed anyone?

Well, a man in Chennai went shopping for a new iPhone and almost died from sticker shock. He collapsed in the store and had to be revived with a Nokia.

No, I meant from eating a sticker, not looking at a sticker.

There are no known cases of sticker poisoning or sticker illness. Health authorities in every country require that stickers be safe for consumption. But it’s important to note that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) issued a guidance in 2018 stating that some traders in India use stickers to make their fruit look premium and sometimes to cover any decay or defect. A variety of adhesives are being used and some may contain harmful chemicals, according to FSSAI.

Does that mean that I should not eat stickers in India?

It means that you should not consume stickers in India without washing them well. Put all the stickers in a strainer and run a heavy stream of water through them. You may also scrub each of them to ensure that the adhesive is removed.

Do you recommend any condiments for stickers?

For stickers in America, I recommend honey Dijon mustard. For stickers in India, you can’t go wrong with chili garlic sauce. Warm them in a pot with the sauce. Your guests will love these pot stickers.