People quite often say, "Ooh, stand-up comedy? I bet that's therapeutic?" and to a large extent these fictional strangers are right, because in some respects it can be quite therapeutic. I've used stand up to talk about all sorts of nonsense until it no longer seems real any more because I've used it so many times to get laughs. Ex boyfriends become laughter rhythms instead of people, humiliating stories become set pieces and late nights awake staring at the ceiling become countless retweets (I expect).
However, sometimes, instead of being cathartic, it becomes a little obsession that threatens to take over all your thought processes until you've largely forgotten what kicked off the idea in the first place.
Just lately I've become obsessed with looking at things I barely used to notice, which now wind me up to melting point. It all began with a little bit of writing I did on the subject of basil. The herb. Basil the herb. If you want to read it, it's somewhere in the archive of this here blog. I was commenting on what, to my mind, was the superfluous label on the side that read "Suitable For Vegetarians". I just couldn't see the point in the label... I don't really live in a mindset where there could be sufficient sneaky meat in a jar of basil to put me off eating it. Even being carnivorous, you're probably not going to want to eat the sort of meat companies are secreting into a jar of basil. What is it likely to be? Centipedes? Obviously everyone has their food/bug ratio that they're happy to eat without worrying, but how many aphids per jar are we talking about here?
Anywho... this is what kicked the whole thing off. I would describe it as the removal of a base level common sense requirement for survival in our world. It's literally driving me crazy.
After the Basil fiasco, I started to notice how many products had completely superfluous "Serving Suggestions" on them. The basil jar also has a serving suggestion just in case "sprinkle" was too difficult a concept for you to master on your own. Luckily I read it before I blended the entire lot into a banana and basil smoothie. Thank you label, for your infinite wisdom.
We have a jar of mayonnaise in our fridge where the serving suggestion is a plate with some ham, egg and chips on it and a dollop of mayonnaise next to them on the plate. In small lettering it then says "Serving Suggestion" by the pencil drawn cutlery. Who is buying mayonnaise without any idea what to do with it?
Are there hordes of people seeing jars of it for the first time and thinking "What is this?! This looks great, let's take it home now! I hope they tell us what to do with it or we'll just have to guess and put it in the bath..."
Or, are the manufacturers freaking out that their mayonnaise isn't reaching its full potential? Is there a poor executive sitting in a room somewhere pulling his eyebrows out over the idea that consumers would have no idea that mayonnaise is at its best in blob form with a chip being dunked into it?
"They keep mixing it into tuna and egg, why can't they just leave it alone?! I know, a crude diagram on the side..."
It's not just my fridge that's causing brain ache. Yesterday almost became the first day in my entire life where I have shouted at a stranger without reasonable (a court would say) provocation. I was in a clothes shop - not something I do very often - and the battery was dead in my mp3 player. I found a nice jumper that I wanted to try on and so I went to the changing room to do it.
There were two girls in there, one was trying on a dress and the other was helping her decide whether or not to buy it because the first girl was incapable of simultaneously wearing the dress and thinking. As I queued for a free cubicle, the first girl came out of hers wearing a dress that was obviously too small.
"What do you think?" She says to girl number 2.
"I dunno..." She replies, helpfully, instantly failing at her one task in the changing room.
"Do you think it's a bit small?"
"YES" said my brain inside my skull.
"Yeah, I think it might be." Said girl number 2, and here's where it began: "What size it?"
"It's a 12."
Here they both paused. I was puzzled.
"Well, it sort of feels a bit small." Says girl number 1.
"Go and get a 14 then." Said my brain under my hair.
"Yeah, but it's your size." Says girl 2, inexplicably.
"That's what I was thinking." Says girl 1.
"Were you?" Erupts my brain through my ears. "You were thinking it looked and felt a little small, but that you must be mistaken because of the tiny number printed on the label? It hadn't occurred to you that you might have gained a little weight? Or, miracle of miracles, that shops just invent these sizes and they shift and change about depending on the store you're in or the item you're trying on? It hadn't occurred to you that you might need to think about what you're buying instead of just trusting blindly that God gave you the magic number 12 at birth and that everything ever printed with that number on it will fit you? For the love of basil..."
"Well, if it's your size you should get it. I like the colour." We're back to girl 2.
"Yeah, I think I will."
Scene Ends with two casualties: My sanity and common sense. The chalk outline lies sadly unnoticed by the masses.