Our lives are shaped by errors, some camel-sized (The Funny Side)
About two years ago, I tried to remove a bubble from my smartphone protective screen and accidentally bought a camel. Luckily, I managed to back out from the purchase by switching the phone off and turning around three times for luck, a useful trick I learned from my children.
For research reasons I had called up a screen which revealed that a 500-kilo live single-hump camel cost $1,540, which I considered intriguingly affordable. It was imagining my wife’s reaction, which put me off. She: “You said you wouldn’t buy any more ridiculous junk.” Me (covering the camel’s ears): “Dromo can hear you.”
So I was sympathetic when reader Alice May Lo told me about a UK man who accidentally bought a bus. Dave Little, 27, woke up after partying in Ibiza, Spain, to see on his smartphone that he had the previous night purchased a full-sized tourist coach on ebay for $36,000, media reports said. “That beats the silliest thing I ever accidentally bought, which was a banana-only lunchbox that my daughter slipped into my shopping basket,” Alice said.
It doesn’t beat my record. In the 1990s, I accidentally bid at a Hong Kong land auction. For a tense half-minute I was a major property tycoon in the Trump bracket. Luckily, a passing billionaire outbid me, or I would have had something even harder to explain to my wife that evening. She: “How was your day, darling?” Me: “Nothing special, except that I bought Kowloon.”
It’s curious how our lives are shaped by accidents. This columnist has written about cases in the Philippines, the US and Vietnam where people dialed wrong numbers which escalated into arguments resolved with guns. People literally die of dialing wrong numbers.
To avoid this, respond to accidental calls good-naturedly. Reader Angela Sias told me she sang the whole of “Happy Birthday” to a stranger on the phone. After the listener pointed out her error, she said: “Oops, sorry.” He continued: “No problem. You need all the practice you can get.”
A techie colleague says that you no longer need complain about annoying accidental calls. You just record them and wreak revenge. Adobe Systems, maker of Photoshop, has a new programme which encodes voices from small samples. You can then type whatever words you like and hear them spoken in that voice. If like me you have a wonderfully creative (“desperately evil”) streak, you can use the sound of a person’s voice for literally thousands of illegal and immoral purposes, I mean harmless and amusing pranks.
But returning to accidental on-line purchases, a survey of friends and colleagues showed that they had bought items ranging from a sheep skull to pop star memorabilia. One person had bought huge amounts of spin-off merchandise (including “onesy” outfits) of licensed characters from children’s television shows. “And I don’t have children,” she said. To get her money’s worth, she dresses as Pikachu for her wine and chick-flick evenings.
That was when I started regretting my failure to complete my camel purchase. I saw myself swinging open the door to my spare room. “You think that’s a story? Meet Dromo.”
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via his Facebook page)