Picture the scene. A banker, reluctant to give out a large cash loan to a desperate man, asks: "But do you have any valuable assets to offer as collateral?" The applicant points to his upper lip, saying: "Yes. My moustache."
"Don't be ridiculous," says the banker. But no. That's not what happens. This is Planet Earth, Weirdest Place in the Galaxy. So what ACTUALLY happened was that the banker said: "That'll do nicely," and handed over the money. True story.
In the Arab Emirates, male facial hair is being used as collateral for loans, I hear from a reporter researching facial hair. One of the most feared punishments for wrongdoing in that region is moustachectomy, which is the forced shaving of the upper lip, a traumatic experience which victims liken to castration, although I don't suppose many of them have actually been castrated, not more than once, anyway.
Facial hair is in, in a big way. Thousands of people in India joined in the Australian tradition of turning November into Movember, or "grow-a-moustache" month, and almost all were men.
That's one of several problems with this trend. First, many women find it extremely hard to grow moustaches, so it's only a matter of time before all female Earthlings take
out a class action against the organisers for trillions of bucks.
Second, baldies (like the present writer) cannot grow moustaches as it makes us look like gay guys from the 1970s, not a good look.
Third, many men (and women) in China cannot grow moustaches at all, because Chinese people are more highly evolved than regular humans, or so a friend from Shanghai tells me. I was about to tell him he was talking rubbish, but held back, in case he wasn't. I know for a fact that Chinese WOMEN have weird superhuman powers, having encountered them regularly.
The Shanghai gentleman said it takes him a year to grow a moustache, and even then it is so sparse that it looks like a long, thin, flat spider perched on his lip.
Poor him. Moustaches boost male confidence, psychologists say. In parts of India, police officers have even been given government grants for moustache cultivation. (Not sure what they spend the money on, perhaps that Gro-Fast fertiliser you get in gardening shops?)
The following day I saw a report on the BBC that Turkish doctors are offering moustache implants for men (or presumably, eccentric women) who feel their upper lips are too naked. Simply book yourself into an Istanbul hospital and come out with a thick, luxurious Lech Walesa-style growth which curtains your whole mouth, filtering out bugs, acid rain, particulate matter, etc.
(Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org)