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The Gloop Man Cometh

By Dave Fox
Singapore

The shopkeeper pounces, with an enthusiasm normally reserved for over-excited poodles.

“Excuse me!” he pants at me and my wife, “Can I ask you a question?”

"Green Slime Beach" by Luis Daniel Carbia Cabeza (flickr / Creative Commons)

“Green Slime Beach” by Luis Daniel Carbia Cabeza (flickr / Creative Commons)

“Can I ask you a question?” is my least favorite question in the world. The follow-up is never, “Would you like a free weekend in Bali?”

So my standard answer to “Can I ask you a question?” is no. But on this day at the mall, something goes terribly wrong. We hesitate long enough for him to launch into question number two: “Where are you from?”

Here’s a helpful survival tip: When a salesperson asks where you are from, he does not care where you are from. It’s a trap. He is attempting to create an illusion of friendliness so he or she can then hold you prisoner for a sales pitch.

I try to walk away, but Kattina commits a tactical error. She confides we are American and have lived in Singapore for three years.

“I have a gift for you!” the salesman announces because – ooh, how lucky! – on this day, he just happens to have gifts, specially for Americans who have lived in Singapore for three years. He hands us each a microscopic tube of Bubble Dream Body Lotion.

“You can take a bath with it!” he gushes.

“Okay, let’s go,” I mumble, grabbing Kattina’s arm.

But its too late. This hyper-enthusiastic salespoodle, who has just given me the best free gift anyone has given me in the past seven minutes, is now rubbing lavender-scented gloop on my wife and telling her to come into his shop.

“I will wash your hands for you!” he grins.

Excuse me?! Since when did it become appropriate for a guy to corner random couples and tell the female half of the couple he is going to wash her hands?

I give him a dirty look.

“You too!” he says, coming at me with a squeeze bottle. “I will wash your hands too!”

“No!” I say, backing away. “Lavender makes me nauseous.”

“Well I have something else then,” he grins. And although my wife, who knows I am now fantasizing about biting this man’s nose off, tells him to back off, it’s no use. He squirts something non-lavender onto my hands and drags us by our wrists into his boutique, exclaiming, “I will make your hands as soft as a baby’s skin!”

Dude! Seriously? If I wanted to have hands as soft as a baby’s skin, I would not have turned 46. I would have remained two years old for the past 44 years and continued pooping in diapers. I have progressed beyond that phase in life, thank you very much.

But we have no choice. We have this man’s gloop on us. If we don’t go to his sink, his gloop will remain on us for at least several more minutes until we can locate a public sink. And I don’t think it’s legal to wash gloop into public sinks in Singapore.

So we follow him into his shop where he begins massaging my right palm.

I am feeling violated.

Don’t get me wrong, I staunchly support the right of a man to wash another man’s hands, but only when it’s consensual. No means no. Non-consentual, coerced hand-washing is never ever okay. Never ever ever.

The salespoodle turns on the water and then – oh, now I really want to chomp down on his nose – he attempts to put a SECOND KIND OF GLOOP ON OUR HANDS!

“NO!” I shriek.

But I’m too late. He assaults me with a second concoction – a soapy, salty mix.

“How does it feel?” he asks, wagging his eyebrows at me. “Smooth like a baby, yes?”

I don’t know. Salty and slimy? Is that how a baby’s skin feels? Possibly, in which case, I am more at peace than ever with our decision not to have children.

I rub my hands together vigorously in an attempt to de-gloop myself. I do all I can to splash the excess gloop all over his countertop.

He reaches for a third tube. Some sort of après-gloop. “Now let me just put on some…”

“We have to go!” I say, and Kattina has my back. “My husband doesn’t like gloop,” she says, fearful we might end up in a more physical altercation than that which has already transpired.

Before he can gloop us a third time, we find the only dignified solution we can think of. We rub the excess gloop off on our shirts as we make a desperate sprint for the subway station.

Published on Thursday, October 9, 2014

2 Responses to “The Gloop Man Cometh”

  1. LUCE
    November 3, 2014 at 5:32 PM

    Whenever I read a story described as Humor, I always expect to have a laugh or two. This story contained no laughter, only mild revulsion.

    • November 4, 2014 at 8:53 AM

      Thanks for sharing your feedback, Luce. One of the things I teach in my humor writing courses is that writing humor requires taking risks. Sometimes we miss our target and our readers don’t think we’re funny. I believe it’s better to take those risks, and occasionally write material that bombs, rather than fretting over perfectionism and not putting our work out there.

      This particular story did resonate with a lot of other readers, including the editors of a major magazine in Singapore who paid me for the rights to publish it. It might be a topic that clicks more with people who live here. That is another challenge writers face: Being at peace with the fact that some readers will connect with what we write but others won’t.

      In any case, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, Luce. Best of luck with your own creative endeavors.

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