Forced to Shop: One POWs Tragic Story | HumorOutcasts

Forced to Shop: One POWs Tragic Story

November 28, 2018

Tourists were reportedly forced to shop in Hong Kong. 

Yahoo! News

It had been six months since my buddy Spike and I were captured and imprisoned in Harbour City, a massive maximum-security prisoner-of-war camp on Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, right across the street from Moo Goo Gai Pan.  Every morning we’d be released from our tiny cells, where we were exposed to the Home Shopping Network 24 hours a day to whet our acquisitive instincts, and force-marched around the mall’s 800 shops to consume against our wills.  Believe me, if the UN knew about this they’d go out to lunch, drink three martinis, talk about it for a while and threaten some serious sanctions when they got back to the office.  Before taking a nap.

“I don’t know how much longer I can hold out,” Spike said to me.  “Home Shopping Network hostess Lynn Murphy telling me to use ‘Tootie‘ all night long, then every day, the long march from Burberry, to Calvin Klein, to the Apple store, stopping only for lunch at Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill, then down the escalator to Bobbi Brown for a cleansing but highly abrasive treatment with Clinique Men’s Scruffing Lotion.  I, I can’t take it much longer!”

Home Shopping Network hostess Lynn Murphy (shown without “Tootie”)


I put down my shopping bags and tried to comfort him.  There was no escaping the sadistic cruelty of our Chinese shopping masters.  They had our Treasury bills, we had their cash–what were we supposed to do?

Bobbi Brown:  “You’re cute when you’re scruffing!”


He was fading.  I had to do something before his spirit was finally broken and he went over to the other side, brainwashed into a shopaholic.  “You want to go to Orvis and look at overpriced outdoor wear that we’ll look really cool in when we pay a real man to gut our fish for us?” I asked.

Spencer Gifts


“Vomit,” he said weakly.  “Need to get someplace . . . fast.”

“Okay, buddy, hang on,” I said.  I consulted the “You Are Here” map, desperately searching for some shelter, someplace where they might sell the one thing he needed, the only thing that could bring him back to his senses after a day of being sprayed by perfume spritzer girls.  “Here it is,” I shouted as I got my bearings.  “It’s Shop C-98, Upper Concourse.  Let’s go!”

I hoisted Spike up on my back and made it to the escalator.  “You okay?” I asked him.

“I . . . dunno.  Can we stop for . . . an Orange Julius?”

I looked at my Swiss Army Knife watch.  The guards would expect to see us at the next checkpoint in five minutes.  There wasn’t much time.

“Okay, but don’t order anything fancy.”

“No Premium Smoothie?”

“Just get the traditional Orange Julius, okay?”

“Gotta . . . getta . . . Julius,” he conceded weakly.

I looked around nervously as we waited as the fruity, frothy, fabulous fruit drink was made, slapped the money down on the counter, then flung Spike back on my back and headed down the concourse.

We stuggled past Pottery Barn and Game On!  Past Lids, the nation’s leading purveyor of licensed sports headwear.  Past Barnes & Noble and General Nutrition.  We were getting closer.

“How you holdin’ out?” I said over my shoulder.

“Okay–but still–need throw-up.”

I knew what he meant.  After a day of high-end forced consumption of gew-gaws and meretricious frippery, there was only thing that could restore a man’s sense of self; a sense of proportion between “needs” and “wants” that is so thoroughly disrupted when he goes shopping against his will.

“There it is!” I shouted.


“Right there, next to the fake ficus tree that anchors a circular seating area for weary shoppers–Spencer Gifts!”

We rushed inside and, after scanning the Three Stooges artifacts, strobe lights, Star Wars tchotkes and professional wrestling action figures–we saw it.

“Fake vomit,” Spike said, with a sense of relief.  “Something completely worthless that doesn’t even pretend to have any practical use, aesthetic appeal or emulative value.  I feel–cleansed.”

Con Chapman

I'm a Boston-area writer, author of The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Red Sox-Yankees pennant race, and 50 books of humor including "Scooter & Skipper Blow Things Up!" by HumorOutcasts Press. My work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor and The Boston Globe among print outlets. "Rabbit's Blues," my biography of Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington's long-time alto sax player, will be published by Oxford University Press in September.

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