Friday, May 1, 2009

Joke of the Month: Who cut down OUR cherry tree? Not George Washington!

Someone cut down our cherry tree.

Okay, we know who cut the tree down. It was the City maintenance department. One day at lunch I came home and found that they had cut most of the branches, leaving only the main stem (5-inch diameter) and a couple of top branches. Perhaps we had not kept it trimmed as we should have. I called my wife and told her not to be surprised when she got home.

When I got home, I was the one surprised to see the entire tree cut down. It wasn’t a fancy cherry tree, you know, Royal Anne or Bing or Black Cherry, but some tropical specie that provided birds and neighborhood children with a jolt of juice to ensweeten their days.

But why was our cherry tree cut down? I looked around the neighborhood: no one else was missing any trees or bushes, even those in similar situations as our cherry tree (near the drain, beside the road). Only a couple of trees had had branches trimmed off. Why us? I asked around.

(Right: We're stumped! Why was it cut?)

Most neighbors just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Yeah, MPK (city department) cut it down. Don’t know why.” But, finally, one neighbor whispered: “They only cut a tree down if someone complains.”

“But who would complain about our tree?” I asked. “It sits in front of our house, no one else’s.”

He used his eyes to point to our left; my neighbor to the left, he suggested.

"Oh that neighbor," I said, out loud.

Well, if anyone would complain, it would be that neighbor. Mr. Important. The guy who is always walking around outside with his cell phone stuck into his ear. The one who has friends visiting at all times of the day.

When I first enquired about the seemingly-abandoned house that was to become ours, Mr. Important –the owner of the Duplex adjoining- told me that the owner lived far away, and did not want to sell. In fact, if he was to sell, Mr. Important would buy. So, no need for me to bother. Thinking him a bit rude, I thanked him for his time and rode away.

Later, we saw a Realtor’s For Sale sign on the house. We enquired, made an offer, and followed through with the purchase.

Mr. Important has never been particularly UN-friendly, he usually waves at me as he drives his old beater car past me while I am walking. It is just that he has not been particularly friendly either. You know, in the I want to talk to you and get to know you a little bit kind of friendly.

In fact, he told the neighbors that we were going to sell the house to him because we were moving back to our home country. This came about when we took a six-week vacation last year. We never told him about the vacation; we never even talk to him on any basis. He keeps to himself, mostly, but apparently does have time to gossip about us when we are busy elsewhere.

But, we strongly suspect that he requested that the tree be cut. Why? Don’t know. It was not in front of his house.

(Left: As she looked two years ago.)

This episode points out the presence within Malay culture of one of the strongest aversions to confrontation that we have ever experienced anywhere. Malays do not confront. Malays, in fact, go way out of their way both to avoid confrontation and to solve problems in a round-about way.

Poison-pen letters are one way. Poison is another, albeit less likely these days. Poisoning the minds of others seem to be the more sure way. More on this later.


Once there was a little boy named George, who lived in the country. They had to use an outhouse, and the little boy hated it because it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter and stank all of the time.

The outhouse was sitting on the bank of a creek and the boy determined that one day he would push that outhouse into the creek.

One day after a spring rain, the creek was swollen so the little boy decided today was the day to push the outhouse into the creek. So he got a large pole and started pushing. Finally, the outhouse toppled into the creek and floated away.

That night his dad told him they were going to the woodshed after supper. Knowing that meant a spanking, the little boy asked why.

Dad replied, "Someone pushed the outhouse into the creek today. It was you, wasn't it son?"

The boy answered "Yes father." Then he thought a moment and said, "Dad, I read in school today that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and didn't get into trouble because he told the truth."

The dad replied, "Well, son, George Washington's father wasn't in the cherry tree when it was chopped down."

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