Sunday, August 10, 2014

White and its goddamn spawns

I woke up Saturday with a burning desire to repaint the living room and stair walls. I had a thousand other more pressing issues to deal with, but apparently those could wait. The hand stains on the walls, now those needed to go, pronto.

So off I went to the hardware store. For a middle unit shop lot, it was amazing how it had everything you could ever imagine and more, and how helpful the employees were. All I had to say was, "I need all the equipment to repaint my living room and stairwell." Moments later, a paint roller, a small brush for the corners and angles, a roller extension, a paint tray, 2 rolls of masking tape, and a plastic floor cover magically appeared out of nowhere. 

"2 cans of 5L paint will do the job," said the Bangladeshi guy whose command of the Malay language would put most born and bred Malaysians to shame. In fact, the foreign workers I saw coming in and out of the store during the 20 minutes I was there all spoke decent to fluent Malay, it being the only unifying language between them. It is always heartwarming to see your mother tongue being spoken by foreigners while Malaysians themselves look down or straight out despise the language. The difference between the Bangladeshi dude who speaks excellent Malay after living here all of two years and a Malaysian Chinese apek who's lived here all his life but cannot even form one complete Malay sentence? Simple. The apek's livelihood doesn't depend on his Malay fluency. Something to ponder upon.

Back to my story. So the Bangladeshi dude was looking at me with his head cocked to the left, "Nak warna apa?" Such an innocent question. Or so I thought. "Putih," I replied. 

Yes, but what kind of white? He asked, handing me a colour catalogue. This is where things got confusing. I grew up with the basic Luna 12-colour pencil sets, so the only white I know is white, as in that colour pencil I never had to use because who the hell colours white drawing paper with white colour pencil?

"So as you can see here, in the warm white section we have all the off-whites: ivory, eggshell, magnolia etc. In the cool white we have sky white, iceberg, pearl etc." I scanned through the catalogue and saw Mediterranean sand white, Arctic white, waterfall white, smoke white, vanilla white and all other kinds of ridiculous appellations. As the most basic colour in the universe (some even argue it's not a colour, rather the absence of it), white sure did a good job coming up with cool fancy nicknames for itself.

It took me a while to differentiate between linen white and seashell white before I decided to stop giving a shit and just pick one.

"I'll go with this one," I pointed to the top left colour square in the catalogue, the one that actually looked white and not one of those whites that were actually yellow.

"Alright, wedding white it is," he said. 

Yes, the colour I chose was called freaking wedding white. There are so many different shades of white they ran out of objects to assign to them so now they resort to attributing them the name of events and ceremonies. What's next? Birthday blue? Bar mitzvah green? Fall of the Berlin Wall grey? 

Early this year I learned about the colour fuchsia and I thought I was hot shit for knowing such an exotic colour. Now after having been mindraped by a thousand shades of white, I walked out of the shop with painting supplies and disappointment. 

Plato had it right. When we think we know everything, we know nothing.