It’s Not Easy Be­ing Ironic

Nury Vit­tachi on the chal­lenge of be­ing satir­i­cal in a straight world

Reader's Digest Asia Pacific - - Money -

TRAF­FIC PO­LICE

stopped a friend of mine and asked: “Is this your car, sir?” The driver, a cheery man suf­fer­ing from ad­vanced irony, replied: “No, I stole it.” Bad idea. It took him two hours to con­vince them that he’d had con­gen­i­tal sar­casm all his life.

As a fel­low suf­ferer, I con­cur that this is one scary dis­ease. When ap­ply­ing for a United States visa, I had to fill in a form ask­ing whether I ‘in­tended to com­mit ter­ror­ist acts’ while on US soil. It is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble for chronic irony suf­fer­ers not to an­swer “yes” to such a ques­tion. Luck­ily, I was stopped, as

my spouse no longer al­lows me out of the house un­su­per­vised.

Yet it seems to me that peo­ple in gen­eral are ex­per­i­men­tal these days, tak­ing risks on big and small scales, just to see what hap­pens. My daugh­ter told me about a guy who went to a high-tech burger shop and asked the or­der-tak­ing com­puter for a cheese­burger with no meat, no bun, no pick­les, no salad and no sauce. Re­sult: it gave him a thin square slice of cheese.

The same week, a reader told me about a judge in the US who set bail for a run-of-the-mill ar­restee at US$4 bil­lion just to see what would hap­pen. The process went through un­chal­lenged. I’m sure court staff were might­ily amused, al­though the man’s fam­ily prob­a­bly spent a LOT of time with hands down sofa cracks look­ing for cash.

These re­ports re­minded me of a story I cov­ered as a travel jour­nal­ist. The pi­lot of a pas­sen­ger plane found an un­la­belled but­ton in the cock­pit and pressed it to see what would hap­pen. Noth­ing, as far as he could tell. But it sent a se­cret sig­nal to his des­ti­na­tion, Manila’s in­ter­na­tional air­port, say­ing that hi­jack­ers had taken over the flight. The pi­lot landed to find the army wait­ing with heavy weaponry pointed at the plane.

Just a thought: maybe cu­ri­ous peo­ple who press ran­dom but­tons for ex­per­i­men­tal rea­sons might not be ideal pi­lot ma­te­rial? “This is your cap­tain speak­ing. Please re­turn to your seats and put on your seat­belts be­cause I want to try some­thing, yeah, baby.” I once asked a fa­mously ir­re­spon­si­ble friend how he could take such huge risks, and he replied: “Be­cause one day the Earth will be sucked into the Sun and hu­man­ity will dis­ap­pear for ever.” It was a good an­swer, and one I’ve used of­ten, al­though it doesn’t work on traf­fic po­lice. I know that now.

The key to good sar­casm, of course, is keep­ing a straight face. The day be­fore writ­ing this, an im­pa­tient col­league pressed the lift-call but­ton twice. I told him: “If you press it three times, it goes into hurry mode.” He gave me a sus­pi­cious glance – but pressed it a third time. Score.

Tip: If some­one says, “Thanks a lot” to you, and you don’t know if they are ex­press­ing grat­i­tude or be­ing sar­cas­tic, sim­ply nod and re­ply with an equally am­bigu­ous phrase: “Yeah, right.”

It is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble for chronic irony suf­fer­ers not to an­swer “yes” to such a ques­tion

Nury Vit­tachi is a Hong Kong-based au­thor. Read his blog at Mr­jam.org

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