Burning a Hole Through Your Wallet

By Vyt Karazija

Sitting close to the street in any of Bali’s open-air restaurants lets you experience the endless variety of the personal-retailing brigade at work.

Want LED-flashing glasses? They will arrive. Want some of that snake-oil liniment to rub over yourself or your loved ones? A customer-service representative will be with you momentarily. Need CDs, DVDs, hipflasks, plastic cars or soft toys that shriek annoyingly in your face? Rest assured – a vendor will materialise to talk you into buying something you don’t need.

You will even get regular doses of carefully crafted pathos from tiny children selling pieces of plaited leather (the purpose of which utterly escapes me) and “mothers” begging for alms for their rent-a-baby props. All this during a single course, too.

So one night, after numerous encounters with purveyors of fine rubbish, I see this guy come in waving a wallet. He has a shoulder bag with many more. As his target table of diners looks away to discourage him, he flips open his demo wallet, which spews forth a huge ball of fire. “Magic wallet!” he cries to the recoiling throng. “Amaze your friends!”

The newly galvanised customers (mainly the guys) are now intensely interested. I am, too, (maybe it’s a boy thing) but I resist going over to find out how this thinly disguised instrument of warfare actually works. I don’t actually want one – I can quite easily burn through my cash here without benefit of a fire-starter in my wallet.

The fireball it produces is brief, but hot enough to singe nasal hairs, eyelashes and eyebrows completely off the unwary. And it’s big enough to do damage to one’s forelock, if repeated tugging while toadying up to Immigration officials to get your KITAS renewed hasn’t permanently dislodged it.

I get to thinking: If the guy is selling ordinary wallets, he has hit on a great promotional gimmick to attract the attention of his customers. Some – those without collateral third-degree burns – might even buy one.

But if these things are actually designed as flame-throwing wallets – with gas, lighter fluid or even napalm as the fuel, then we have a small problem on our hands. They might be useful as mugger-deterrent devices, but I think of small children, bored with mere matches, playing with far more dangerous flaming devices. I think of inebriated louts lighting the faces of their friends for a lark. “Ooh, sorry, mate. Didn’t mean to coagulate your eyeballs.”

But most of all, I think of a “harmless” incendiary wallet which would probably not even attract a second glance from the same airport security people who confiscate our nail clippers. And I think of the subsequent fireballs in the inflammable confines of a crowded plane at 36,000 feet. Or the possibility of accidental ignition while in one’s hip pocket.

OK, I have an over-active imagination. But could someone please reassure me that these are just ordinary wallets being sold by frustrated fire-eating circus performers, and not the real thing?

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