On the couch, while watching The Amazing Race (s?)

The only television programmes that I flip on these days are those on the Asian Food Channel (AFC) and the Travel and Living Channel (TLC). And usually only during meal times, while I gobble down the occasional instant noodle, homemade pasta or cheap takeout, pretending it’s made by Jamie Oliver or that I’m having it in a European Cafe…or wherever Samantha Brown is.

European Cafe serves Nasi Kandar Ayam right?

Truth be told, I do not watch much television. I feel uncomfortable planning my life schedule around the programmes. Of course, some of you would point out that I have no problems planning my life around to the Barclays Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League fixtures. But hey, stay the hell away from that, it’s different.

Thus, it was a strange evening indeed, catching myself watching the amazing race, with a bowl of pasta in my hands. You could say it was fate that landed me on AXN, fate that appears in the form of two lovely ladies, one blonde, the other…I don’t care. I just had to watch the pretty girls running around.

So there I was, on a random evening with my Bolognese beef pasta, watching the Amazing Race from my couch. Not knowing that I was about to be a witness.

As hard as I try to recall their names, I could only remember their faces. Every time I watch a show, read a book or meet someone new, my mind somehow doesn’t bridge the name to faces instantly. So I end up saying describing what is associated instead – that girl who had the entire range of Estee Lauder on her face, the guy who is trying to hard to impress her, etc.

Hence, for the purpose of this story I’m about to tell, there are two teams, both are couples with one team in their late 40s and the other in their late 20s. The older couple are married clowns, while the younger couple…looked good, henceforth pretty couple.

The setting – an auction place where cows are filled in numerous pens, located somewhere in Argentina. The task at hand, as best as I could remember, is to come up with the average weight of a bull in those said pens.

Ingredients needed to succeed: basic math, ability to count fast and retain focus among the noise of ongoing auction. Sounds easy right? Well, not if you suck at math, which, unfortunately for the both teams mentioned, are. Albeit they suck at it differently.

Coming back to the story, the challenge is a roadblock, which means only one participants get to do the task with the other just stand there helplessly throwing cliché cheers that either don’t do anything, or backfires: “You can do it baby”, “Come on, get into it”, “Own that sucker, bitch!” etc.

The pretty couple sent the girl to do the task. Upon realising that she needs to use math, she instantly create a mental block – I can’t do math/I suck at math. She started to stress and became lost in the sea of people, the noise and the smell of cows jam packed into the pen.

Then she witnesses both teams who came with her leaving her behind. She panics even more, looks over to her partner helplessly with the pencil and paper in her hands. Other teams start pouring in. She scrambles across to the corridor to the man on a horse, handing in the numbers. He looked and shook his head.

She now looks to be in disbelief. As though as to say, how could I be wrong again after so many tries. More team arrives. The stress adds up. Now she looks even more helpless, as though these thoughts are crossing her mind:

“Ohfuckohfuckohfuck, what am I going to do, I was here first and those guys left. And now more teams? Oh God, why is math so hard, why did it have to involve math, why oh God why me, oh God what if I get us both eliminated, ohgodohgodohgod.”

Finally she prevails and got the clue to the next pit stop. But not without a scene. While trying to get a cab, she broke down and started crying, apologising to her partner, went on about how she let him down, how she is not as smart as him, so on and so forth.

A glimpse into the relationship with questions begging to be asked. Does she make her feel stupid all the time? Does she actively compare herself against him? Do he, sometimes belittle her? Questions that only they have answers to.

At the other end, the married clown couple who arrived in the middle of the pack fell behind. The man, who took up the task, admitted that he can’t do math while his wife stood and acknowledges how difficult it must be for him. She knows the end of their part is near but only smiled.

The man, paced back and forth, trying and failing to submit the correct number as other teams came and went by. There is no hint of stress in his demeanour, and while most of us had already moved on to fractions, he was doing long division. Ironically, there is no sign that he entertained the thought that he couldn’t do math, that math was long behind him and don’t very much recognise it anymore.

He merely acknowledges it and moved on. His movement up and down the corridor are of purpose – he is here to get the job done. And while it took a long time, it was done.

They left the place knowing that they are probably going to be eliminated. As they sat in the cab, they both shared a look. She looked at him and gave him a smile, the type where eyes disappear and the lips goes from ear to ear. He, on the other hand, looked at his wife of many years, smiled and said: “I didn’t give up”.

Behind the bowl of finished pasta sitting on the coffee table, I marvelled at how much was said, without much being actually said.

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