Entering The Monastery

Singapore 2014 377

I generally avoid monasteries. Also convents, temples, shuls, churches, chapels, mosques, and meeting halls. It is not that I am against religion, it is just that I am against being uncomfortable about it and these places make me feel so – you see I have no idea what to do in most of them beyond looking solemn, and I am deathly afraid of giving offence to the devotees by some untoward act. I don’t suppose the Deity will much care but the on-the-ground servants get stroppy at the strangest things.

I am also uncomfortable in some eateries for the same reason – I can manage most pub lounges and dining rooms as I have trained for a number of years to eat and drink and as long as you work from the outer knife and fork inwards you are alright. But fronting up at an RSL or country bar where everyone knows that you must stand on one foot when the oldest man in the room rings the ” Jimmy McGonickle Memorial Brass Bell”…or buy beer for the room…is a pain. I’d rather two tinnies from the drive through and sit in the park.

McDonald’s is another test. I once made the mistake of asking for a hamburger there and it was like challenging a New Zealand rugby club. The McDonald’s haka is a series of questions from a sneering teen about what you want with that and they don’t like it when you say nothing …or ” Nothing.”. There were more choices than the Library of Congress and all of them apparently are prone to up-grading, up-sizing and up-valuing. I learned two things – never refer to a hamburger as a plain ordinary F’ing hamburger – and going without a meal is sometimes more comforting than a stand up argument to get one.

Still, there is some happiness to be had. Hobby shops, book shops, and camera shops are not threatening atmospheres. I can cope with department stores as long as I can see a path clear out of the ladies cosmetics before the cologne ladies start to spray indiscriminately. I like stationery stores and car parts stores, though I never trust the car cleaning products they sell. I can’t determine whether they shine up the paint or strip it off and I don’t want to experiment. Hardware stores are always great but everyone I know tends to pig out in them and come home with  a hundredweight of power tools and boxes of kitchen shelves even when they went in for just a tape measure.

And who could not love a big public library with an armchair and a desk and access to anything in the place – as long as you read it there. Even if the Librarian sounds like Lily Tomlin it is still better than McDonalds.






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