Rule the World

It's time to begin my manifesto.

Monday, July 11, 2005

No. 016: Insects

When I rule the world: we'll have an insect census, and possibly organise some species-wide wipe-outs.

I've made no secret of the fact that I sometimes think [insert deity name of choice] dropped the ball when it came to planning the world - my plans for organising the world's weather are far superior to what we currently have in place. And while I can fully appreciate the whole zen 'a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon causes a tsunami in the South Pacific' view of the world, I just don't understand why we have some insects.

Bees, I can understand. They flit from flower to flower, gaily pollenating, and as a pleasant side-effect we get to eat honey. No complaints about that. And spiders, I'm OK with. Obviously, I don't want them crawling on me, and I'm not sure why some of them need to be big and/or poisonous, but they eat flies, so good on them. You'll never catch me killing a spider if it makes the mistake of straying into my living room - I catch it in a glass and set it free outside.

But can anybody suggest a reason for mosquitoes? They just bite people, making them itchy, miserable, or dead. What good do they do? And flies? Yes, they provide a valuable spider food source, but what else are they here for? They spread disease. They're not good.

And don't get me started on cockroaches. Nothing fills me with more horror than the sight of a cockroach. I managed to avoid them altogether until a couple of years ago, when we were holidaying just north of Durban - prime roach country. I'd innocently turn on the bedroom light in the evening and be confronted with a scary prehistoric-looking creepy-crawly, scuttling at me. And they're invincible. It's a well-known fact that scientists predict cockroaches would survive nuclear fallout. They definitely survive flyspray. I'd empty half a tin of Black Flag into the bedroom atmosphere and shut the door, but I'd never find a dead cockroach as a result. Either they stagger away and die elsewhere, or they just laugh dismissively, make rude gestures with their cockroachy hands, and scuttle off to cause fear and loathing elsewhere. My lungs suffer, the stress probably reduces my life, the flyspray helps further erode the ozone layer, but the cockroaches are undaunted.

Why do we have cockroaches? Why?

Regular readers will remember we live in the country. In the summer, our cottage seems to be Bug Central. We came home yesterday afternoon after a weekend away, and as the sun was shining and the temperature was mild we opened all the windows. And promptly shut them again, as some random little insects decided to move in with 10 million of their closest friends. I don't even know what these bugs are: they're tiny (about the size of a Times New Roman 10point letter 'l', if you want to be precise), they don't seem to fly but can cling to the ceiling, and they really want to be wherever I am. So I did what any normal person would: shut the windows and break out the flyspray. I then spent the rest of the evening vacuuming up bug corpses, and in bug circles I'm probably akin to Hitler.

What were those weird little bugs? Why must they persecute me? When I'm in charge they're going to have to plead their cause or accept that their time on earth is over.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

No. 015: Supermarkets

When I rule the world: going to the supermarket won't be such a chore.

I don't hate supermarket shopping, but when it's really crowded, and the shelves haven't been stocked well, and there's a huge queue at the checkout, I can get a little antsy about the whole experience. Add a trolley with a wonky wheel into the mix and I can easily lose my sense of humour entirely.

However, supermarket shopping will continue to be a necessary evil (until Monkey and I can make our fortune and afford to hire a nice retired couple to tend a vegetable patch, milk a cow, cure bacon, and bake bread for us). I'm pretty OK with the fact that my 'To The Manor Born' lifestyle may still be a fair way off, so in the meantime - and to make life better for everybody else forced to go to the supermarket - I propose a few changes.

Try Before You Buy - to make sure the grapes aren't sour. Sure, a lot of people do this anyway, but it's technically stealing. And besides, I'd also like to try things like bananas before I buy them - oh, and apples! I hate buying apples that look crunchy from the outside, but turn out to be a big mushy disappointment. Friendly assistants will be on hand to manage the food-testing procedure, so freeloaders don't just turn up and eat their three square meals a day in the Produce aisles. We might need to offer this service in the Biscuits aisle as well, because nothing sucks the big kumara more than risking it all on a new brand of cookie, only to find it's more floury than chewy. And at the Deli counter, because who can recognise the best ham just by sight? This would also be a great service in the Wine aisle.

Steerable Trolleys - because trolley rage is a serious problem in today's supermarkets. Why do so many trolleys have wonky wheels? At the supermarket last week I had a trolley which had a permanent left turn thing going on. I didn't realise quite how bad it was until I'd made it past the Produce aisles and already had a few goodies in my trolley, so it was too late to go back for a swap (or, I couldn't be bothered). By the end of the shop I was so sick of the crappy trolley that, when my shopping accidentally set off the shoplifting sensor as I left, I nearly ran the security guard over with the trolley and fled the scene. When I'm in charge special trolley mechanics will operate an ongoing trolley service programme. And trolleys will all have the handy customised partitions to hold bottles of wine and bunches of flowers.

Spam Removal - because who buys that shit? I've never seen anybody with a can of Spam in their trolley. I'm starting to suspect that Spam is a cover for some illicit drug smuggling enterprise taking place in supermarkets worldwide. I don't want that kind of caper at my supermarkets. That Spam is just taking up space that could be filled with exotic chocolates from foreign lands.

Grocery Packing - because, frighteningly, this isn't an automatic service. In New Zealand most supermarkets will pack your stuff for you, and in South Africa you often get teams of packers working on your shopping, but in here England it's almost unheard-of. Sure, they'll occasionally ask you if you want help with your packing, but they do it with such an obvious 'you pathetic fool who will muck up the simple task of packing' tone to their voices that most people feel too intimidated to say yes, and instead chirpily say they can manage it themselves. But there's a certain skill to efficiently packing a supermarket bag. I didn't have the kind of parents who believe that teenagers must suffer through undignified weekend jobs, and so I didn't do a tour of duty at a supermarket, and now I'm a bad packer. Monkey and I pack like we've never been to the supermarket before. Monkey has a bad habit of putting things like flyspray in the same bag as fresh bread, whereas I try to keep all my grocery categories separate and end up with a big packing backlog because I'm waiting for a block of cheese to make my dairy bag complete. A guaranteed packer would relieve us of a lot of stress.

Traffic Flow - because you've always got some fool who does their shopping all backwards, and is forever crashing into you around corners. Of course, it would be easier if supermarkets were designed a little better. Frozen stuff should ALWAYS come last! And ideally fruit and vegetables would come second-to-last, as there's no sense in putting strawberries in your trolley at the beginning of the shopping trip, only to have them squashed into jam after you accidentally hurl a tin of baked beans onto them a few aisles later.

Off-peak Bonuses - because supermarkets get too busy in the weekends (in England, anyway). Supermarkets have to restock in the wee small hours, and a lot of places now capitalise on this by having a couple of check-out chicks at work and catering to the shift work crowd, but I think they could incentivise people to shop at anti-social hours - perhaps with a 10% discount on their bill? This would help thin the crowds on Saturday mornings.

Child Wrangling - because other people's children are a nightmare at the supermarket. In fact, I'm sure a lot of mothers would admit their own kids are horrible to deal with at the supermarket as well. The solution? Free supermarket creches, so the little horrors are kept occupied while their parents get the shopping done, thus saving the world from tantrums in the Ice Cream aisle. Childless people will definitely spend more time shopping if they don't get exposed to children at the supermarket, and so the creches will pay for themselves.

Treat Management - because supermarkets make it difficult for us to be good. No more chocolate at the check-outs! You'll have to ask somebody for it. This person will be the Chocolate Manager (also responsible for Ice Cream and Chips), and they'll want to see what else you're buying before they fetch you a Snickers. If your trolley's full of pizza and beer then they might send you back to the Produce aisle for some carrots or something, to balance things out.

Background Music - because I'm enjoying my shopping a great deal more now I wear my iPod around the aisles. Trust me, it's hilarious to have Gwen Stefani singing 'this shit is BANANAS! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!' whilst actually buying bananas! The irony! Ha!

Better Lighting - because some single people still like to think they could meet their One True Love whilst reaching for the chicken breasts. And because the rest of us don't relish catching a haggard, strip-lit glimpse of ourselves in the background Ham mirrors at the Deli Counter.

And - obviously - there will be no mushrooms for sale. If you want to buy weird shit like that you'll have to make your own arrangements.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

No. 014: Fashion Magazines

When I rule the world: I'll sort out fashion magazines.

I like fashion, and I like pretty pictures. However, I'm sick of seeing photos of twig-like 15 year olds, posed in clothes I'm supposed to want. I'm fed up with reading an article about skincare, only featuring products the magazine's been paid to reference, illustrated by a photo of an impossibly airbrushed tweenie. I'm bored with articles which idolise vapid actresses and stupid socialites, merely because they look good in a designer frock.

So I will keep the magazines, but I'll put the models out to pasture. If the clothes don't look good on real people, they won't get photographed. Every month the fashion editors will spend a day on the street, recruiting normal women for a day of modelling. Top make-up artists and hairstylists will make them look the best they can, and then great photographers will shoot them. The resulting photos won't be airbrushed, and the rest of us will be able to look at them and say, 'wow, those clothes look nice on real people! Cool!'

The models will be diverse. Some might - gasp! - have unshaved legs! Some will be tiny, and some will be fat. They could even have grey hair, and wrinkles. They will get to keep the clothes they are photographed wearing.

Fashion magazines have always claimed their models are so skinny because the designers only send them sample clothes in tiny sizes, but this bullshit won't work when I'm in charge. After all, they don't make the models squeeze their size nine feet into size two shoes, do they? If the designer isn't prepared to dress proper-sized women of all dimensions, they won't get any publicity.

And I'll remove the influence beauty companies have on the content. Beauty companies will be welcome to send free products to the magazines, but they'll have to send enough for free samples to be sent to lots of readers, who will then submit no-holds-barred product reviews. Nice photos of real women will be used to illustrate the eventual articles. Stupid and pointless products like moisturising underarm deodorant will not be given any attention. Who cares about the moisture content of underarm skin? Women have to stop being made to feel like they must spend life freaking out about random body parts.

And fashion magazines will be a little less serious and earnest. There are more important things in life than what skirt length is in vogue, and it would be nice if magazines would acknowledge that women are interested in other things as well. They could start by looking for advertising revenue from other things, like cars and banking, since women do actually spend money on these things as well. The magazines could even feature interviews with women who have done more than act in a romantic comedy! Imagine!

Monday, May 16, 2005

No. 013: Mushrooms

When I rule the world: you're going to have to lose your taste for mushrooms.

There are two things I won't eat - seafood and mushrooms. Seafood, I regret not liking. It used to disagree with me when I was young, and so I've grown up without a taste for it. I always have a vague plan to start eating it, because I'm fully aware of the great health benefits associated with fish.

However, mushrooms are the Devil's own vegetable. They're fungus! They grow on manure! It's just to normal to want to eat them.

The smell of mushrooms cooking will send me running from a house, hand clasped over my mouth, bile rising in my throat. And if you sit next to me in a restaurant and order a smelly mushroom dish I may turn green. I'll certainly lose all affection for you. At the tender age of eight I developed a mild dislike for my maternal grandmother when she forced me to drink mushroom soup. She's been dead a few years now, but the memory of the soup lingers.

And people who think they can sneak mushrooms into pasta dishes or whatever without me noticing are in for nasty shock. I've been forced to live in constant danger, always scared that I'll go to dinner at a friend's house and be fed a mushroom-heavy dish. When I eat out and order anything more complicated than cornflakes I check it's mushroom-free. If I'm told mushrooms do feature, I request they're left out of the dish. If the meal arrives in front of me with mushrooms still in situ, I send it back. There will be no public mushroom consumption.

When I'm in charge eating mushrooms will be as socially unacceptable as ... I don't know ... picking your nose and eating it. You'll still be able to eat mushrooms, but you'll have to eat them in the privacy of your own home. You'll also need to ensure you have a seven-day mushroom-free period before I come around for a visit, so that horrid mushroomy smell is aired out of your curtains.

No. 012: Toilet Paper

When I rule the world: all toilet paper will be two-ply. Three-ply toilet paper is wasteful and extravagant, and one-ply toilet paper is inadequate. I will immediately ban that horrible shiny one-ply toilet paper favoured in public bathrooms.

Ideally, toilet paper will be white. I don't understand the need for coloured or patterned paper - it is, after all, just something to wipe your bottom with. Consumers will be encouraged to save the price difference between white paper and fancy paper, and invest the money in books to read whilst on the toilet.

People who use the last of a toilet roll and fail to replace it will be severely punished. Is there anything more annoying? I think not. Even in somebody else's bathroom it should not be beyond the wit of man to have a quick look in the cupboards and find a new roll. Failure to do so shows a highly inconsiderate attitude towards your fellow toilet-users, who may not notice the lack of paper until they're in desperate need of it. And besides, looking for a replacement roll in your friends’ bathroom cupboards gives you an excellent opportunity to uncover their secret stash of pile ointment and facial hair bleach.

People who start a new roll without actually putting it on the holder will not be tolerated. This smacks of simple laziness. You're sitting there anyway, so how difficult is it to put the new roll on the holder and throw away the cardboard insert from the old roll?

Toilet paper will be universally hung so the end is over the roll, instead of under. This is clearly the correct toilet paper-hanging method, as practiced by all good hotels. Folding the end of the roll into a tidy point will be optional.

(And a mildly related point: a strict shut door policy will be encouraged for toilet visits. There is such a thing as too much sharing, you know.)

Saturday, May 14, 2005

No. 011: Gym Etiquette

When I rule the world: standards of gym behaviour will be strictly enforced.

Don't get me wrong - it's great that people go to the gym at all. Regular exercise keeps us healthy, helps control weight, does wonders for our mood, and is a great way to maintain good bone density, thus preventing us from breaking our hips when we're old. However, some people don't seem to know how to behave in a gym, or in a communal changing area. To help these people I will widely circulate the following guidelines.

Wipe down gym equipment after you've used it. Nobody wants to sit in a puddle of your sweat, or grasp handles slick with your sweatiness. Always take a gym towel with you, and enthusiastically use it whenever you get off a machine. If you haven't left any sweat you probably didn't work hard enough, so get back on and do another set of ten.

Concentrate on what you're doing. People who go to the gym and then spend the time hardly moving on a stationary bike whilst chatting loudly to a nearby friend are very distracting. And if you can hold a constant conversation you're not going fast enough, so get those legs moving until you're out of breath.

Don't lift weights too heavy for you. It makes the rest of the gym anxious that a vein will burst open in your forehead. And if you have to dramatically drop the dumb-bell to the ground with a resounding thump at the end of your reps, it's definitely too heavy. The crashing noise disturbs people. You run the risk of an edgy person like Monkey having an ugly 'Nam-like flashback and attacking you. It's not worth it.

Don't wear make-up at the gym. It's not a pick-up joint, and if you don't look sweaty and crappy by the end of it - you guessed it - you haven't worked hard enough.

Dress appropriately. Men who sweat a lot should not wear vest tops, as the sweat will splatter on nearby people and make them throw up. Jiggly women should not wear lycra. Apparently some gym instructors have a saying: 'Lycra is a right, not a privilege'.

Don't take the 'calories used' readouts too literally. The cross-trainer may swear that you've just used 500 calories, but that doesn't mean you now have free reign to scoff a big pizza. I once read that a high proportion of people who start exercising to lose weight actually end up gaining it, because they overestimate how many calories they've burned, and underestimate how many calories they eat.

Don't spend twenty minutes in the gym, twenty minutes stretching, and twenty minutes in the sauna, and then complain in the changing rooms that you never lose weight, and then go to the cafe and have a big fat muffin. It just annoys people and makes them think you're stupid.

In the pool, choose a lane where other people are swimming the same stroke as you. Don't jump in with a fast freestyler like Monkey and then begin a sedate dry-haired breaststroke, without waiting for him to finish a length and realise you're in there with him. He'll swim in to you and hurt you if he doesn't see you in time. If he does see you, he'll accidentally-on-purpose try to splash you and ruin your 'do.

In a yoga class, don't get there early and then sit around, having a loud and boring conversation with your friend. Most people get to yoga early so they can chill in the corpse pose, getting themselves ready for Downward Dog and Plough. They want to relax. Your voice is nasal and whiny, and not relaxing. And beware that, when I rule the world, people who leave a yoga class before the end, thus interrupting the final relaxation, will be banned from all future classes.

If you're a gym instructor, try to look fit. I did a Bodypump class recently, and the instructor was very jiggly and a dreadful advertisement for the class - I was in better shape than her, and I'm no Linda Hamilton. Gym instructors should also endeavour not to fool people into thinking they've somehow 'earned' treats by attending. The aforementioned instructor spent the whole class using such quasi-motivational phrases as 'two more sets and you can have that curry tonight', and 'think about all the chocolate you're going to eat', despite the fact that Bodypump is unaerobic and so doesn't burn the same kind of calories as, say, a Spinning class. She was also a complete geek, telling us to imagine sitting on Pierce Brosnon's knee when doing squats. I prefer my Secret Celebrity Boyfriends to be a little less wrinkly.

After a shower or a swim, dry yourself in the designated area instead of padding wetly to your locker and turning the changing room into a swamp. Wet socks annoy people and make them hate you.

You don't have to get dressed under a towel, but try to limit gratuitous nudity. It's one thing to rub a bit of body lotion on your shins while half-naked, but it's quite another to sit, nude, for half an hour, liberally anointing yourself with Johnson and Johnson's finest. At least put your knickers on. And there's seldom any reason to stand buck-naked in front of a communal mirror and apply make-up.

Speaking of make-up, be mindful of the fact that several other people want to use that mirror as well. Try to cut your cosmetic routine down a bit. If you need forty different products to sculpt, bronze and highlight your face into submission, you may have issues beyond the scope of this manifesto.

Save some grooming for your own bathroom. Plucking one stray eyebrow hair? Fine. Squeezing spots, taming unruly whiskers, or attempting surgery on ingrown nasties in your bikini area? A little unsavoury.

Of course, in my world gym instructors will be helpful and friendly, gyms won't be populated by muscle-bound freaks hogging the hand weights, and changing rooms will be purged of perky women with envy-inducing fabulous bodies.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

No. 010: Mouth Breathing

When I rule the world: mouth breathing will be outlawed.

Man, if there's one thing I hate it's mouth breathing. I hate the sound of people breathing through their mouths, and I will do everything in my power to one day help mouth breathers breathe through their noses, like normal people.

Why is your nose there, if not to breathe through? It's not just there to prop up your sunglasses. Mouths are busy. They have to talk, and eat, and speak, and kiss. When you kiss a mouth breather they won't smooch for long before thinking they're suffocating and breaking away. Mouth breathing kills the moment.

There are actual medical
reasons why people should break their mouth breathing habit, and also several reasons that just make sense to me:

Oxygen absorption is lower when you're a mouth breather. That can't be good.

Mouth breathing increases the likelihood of loud snoring, irregular breathing, and serious conditions like Sleep Apnea and heart conditions. Most of those are bad for you. Snoring is very bad for you if you snore so much that your hapless spouse one day puts a pillow over your head and presses hard.

Mouth breathing freaks the brain out, tricking it into thinking that carbon dioxide is being lost too quickly. Nose breathing calms the brain down. It's good to keep your brain calm, as it can then remember things better and generally serve you well. Stressed-out brains forget where the car keys are, and are useless at remembering your ATM PIN.

Air is breathed unfiltered when it's breathed through the mouth, as the mouth lacks those handy little filter hair things present up your nose. That's why nose breathing is the way forward: it's what the nose was designed to do!

You lose more water from your body when you're a mouth breather. People always tell us to drink more water, but it's a big fat waste of time if you're just breathing it all out again. If you mouth breathe all the time you'll probably end up with dehydrated skin, and wrinkles. Nose breathers are probably sexier.

You have a better sense of smell if you're not a mouth breather. I can vouch for this, as I'm a nose breather and have a highly sensitive sense of smell. Of course, this can sometimes be a curse - I'm particularly sensitive to cooking smells, and hate the smell of cigarette smoke. But it also means I have a keen appreciation for nice flowers and lovely perfumes.

Mouth breathers are more susceptible to colds, as the germs don't get caught and dealt with in the nasal mucus. This probably means that nose breathers live longer and are generally more hale and hearty.

There's a strong connection between mouth breathing and asthma, and most
breathing cures for asthma centre on retraining yourself to be a nose breather. That's got to be better for you than steroids. Apparently one cure even involves taping your mouth shut at night, so you have to breathe through your nose. That's pretty hardcore.

In my experience, mouth breathers have smellier breath than nose breathers.

I won't just heartlessly set mouth breathers adrift to fend for themselves. I think I'll set up nose breathing workshops at schools, so every child grows up breathing properly. And I'll have adult training sessions available as well. And the world will no longer know the horror of mouth breathers, and peace will reign.

Friday, April 29, 2005

No. 009: Brassieres

When I rule the world: certain regulations will be put in place to govern the wearing of bras.

Most post-pubescent women wear bras (or upper-decker-flopper-stoppers, or over-shoulder-boulder-holders). However, a lot of women seem to struggle with the concept of when and how to wear a bra, and which bra to wear for which occasion. I will set up a crack team of Breast Police to enforce the following bra-related rules and to regulate the bra-making industry.

Bras must be worn in public unless the subject is a B cup or less, in which case a vest with built-in bra support may be substituted (as long as the subject is not running around anywhere, threatening to give herself a black eye). However, the subject does not have to wear a bra in the privacy of her own home if there's no risk of visitors.

Dark-coloured bras must not be worn under light-coloured clothing. An elementary bra-wearing law, but one which is frequently broken.

Bras with a lot of lace detail are not to be worn under clingy clothing. The effect is of lumpy, rippled breasts, and it isn't pretty. Save lacy bras for wearing under thicker clothing, and wear seamless bras under clingy clothes.

A controversial one, this: bra straps may be on show. However, they should not be white-turned-grey from too many washings. They should ideally be a pretty colour which complements the subject's outfit, and should be thin. Not all bra straps are created equal.

Bras must fit properly, and women will be required to have their sizing checked every time they buy underwear. Breasts should not bulge over the top of the cup - go up a size. And back straps should not carve out great shelves of fat and leave welts on the skin - again, go up a size. There's no shame in it. I was a 34D six months ago, but after a lot of exercise I've lost fat and gained muscle, and now I'm 36B.

Sports bras must be worn whenever the subject undertakes any exercise. Nobody wants to kick their breasts around in the shower as an old lady.

Strapless bra technology must advance to provide comfortable bras that stay up when the subject wants to dance.

Bra manufacturers will be required to make pretty and fashionable bras for all sizes, from AA to GG. Pretty bras are a right, not a privilege.

The Breast Police will be other women, so pervy guys who think their life's calling is to ogle breasts should consider another career. If they see a subject with an inappropriate bra, they will take discreet action by passing the subject a small card, detailing their bra misdemeanor. The subject will then call a freephone number for bra advice and support.