Boiling Point

By Amy Chavez
For The Bali Times

It used to be that we only had to deal with funny Indonesian English. But with the flood of goods available in the big superstores, most of which are imported from China, we now have a different kind of English written on the boxes of products we buy. This new English is grammatically correct but enough to make you wonder if you’re not watching a late night TV commercial promising you washboard abs in just three seconds per day. It’s as if there’s a little Chinese salesman inside each of these products selling directly from the box.

I recently bought an “electric mug.” This is actually a plastic jug that holds two liters of water and has a heating element inside and on the outside a picture of a bear flying a kite with the words “Activity bear” under it. (Of course bears fly kites).

The box insisted it was a “NEW!” one. Well, glad to know I’m not buying a used one at that price. Furthermore, according to the box, it says I can “boil water instantly.” Can you imagine boiling two liters of water instantly? Makes you wonder: If you add instant hot water to instant coffee, does that give you instant, instant coffee?

With instant boiled water, you could serve the fastest coffee in the East. But in Bali, who would want fast coffee? It would be contrary to the pace of life and would surely spark civil unrest. My friend Wayan says he starts with a cup of coffee on his desk in the morning and slowly sips it all day. Electric mugs are threatening to encroach on the Balinese way of life.

The box goes on to explain, in English, the major points of this electric mug:

Boil water within seconds anytime and anywhere. Huh? Wait a minute. “Instantly,” has now become “within seconds.” This is a big blow. It’s not that I mind waiting a few seconds for the water to boil; it’s that they didn’t say exactly how many seconds. Everyone knows that Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you could still say it was built in seconds. Lots of them.

I suppose the bigger question here is: can you really boil water anytime and anywhere with this mug? Even in the Paleolithic era? How about in outer space? What about in the mountains without electrical outlets? Or on top of Mount Agung? This is truly an amazing mug!

You can do it yourself.  Well, this is a relief. After maintaining my job, paying my bills and taking care of my health, knowing I can boil water by myself is a great comfort.

Reaches boiling point within seconds. They’re really insistent about this boiling thing. But this time we are narrowing it down to the boiling point as if the water rises up into a spire when it boils. Let’s get to the bottom of this boiling point and find out exactly how many seconds it does take.

Okay, I just boiled two cups of water in six minutes. In all fairness, however, I should say it reached the boiling point instantly, in 360 seconds. Maybe I was trying to boil too much water at one time. A teaspoon of water, for example, may well have reached the boiling point instantly.

Save energy time because boils fast. Now we’ve gone from instantly, to within seconds, to just “fast.” But at any measure of time, if it boils so quickly, I don’t think we need to worry about wasting a few quick seconds of “energy time.” I mean really, don’t they know their market? This is Bali! I can’t imagine what the average Balinese would do with a few extra seconds every day. Bringing a few extra seconds to Bali is like taking coal to Newcastle. And certainly the Balinese wouldn’t convert those extra seconds to “energy time.” Why would you want to expend more energy?

Face it, a few extra seconds isn’t going to do much for anybody. Unless you’re building Rome, of course.

Suitable for travel and picnic. So I can use this mug in a bemo? And, um, picnic? As long as your picnic is inside your house near an electrical outlet, then this electric mug is very suitable. But can you imagine buying enough extensions cords to get to that picnic on the beach? Only if everyone in Bali took their extension cords and linked them together could we truly have our electric mug with us anywhere.

Use electric mug for all your needs. You mean I can pay my rent with this thing? Take the dog for a walk? Turn to it in times of need? (What heated discussions we would have!). Or maybe they mean all your needs involving an electric mug with a heating element inside it. Great, I can wash my socks in it, on a picnic, anytime and anywhere, all by myself.

Suitable for boiling. Well I should hope so! I didn’t buy this electric mug to freeze fish. And I wish they’d stop telling me about this boiling thing. I wish they’d stop telling me anytime and anywhere. I wish they’d stop, stop, stop, as I’m at boiling point myself.

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