It’s a useful talent to be able to turn an awkward mistake into an opportunity to make it funny, or at least to find the humor in it. If you can’t laugh at yourself, what’re you gonna do, right?
I thankfully had an example of the lesson early when I was ten. I’d just taken a shower – like a big ol’ boy – and was coming downstairs, making a show of swiping my hairless armpits with deodorant, to see my mom sitting in her chair watching TV.
She worked night shift at a hospital as a nurse, but would spend her mornings this way at the time. I made some joke to get a laugh (duh, what jokes are for), and she replied with a dull, tired stare. When I plum asked her for more of a reaction, she looked me in my eyes and ripped a big ol’ fart.
A real Blue Ribbon winner.
A serious fog horn in a bear cave kind of sound.
She then of course starts laughing hysterically at her own fearsome flatulence and I, being ten, begin comically swiping the air in front of me with my deodorant stick in lieu of a proper air freshener. That’s when the white, chalky stick flies free from its plastic pocket and slams up against the television screen and splays in all directions like a synthetic snowball.
I think it’s further hilarity, but the abruptness with which my mom’s laughter suddenly stops could have halted traffic.
“Oh, come on,” I say wisely, “you have to learn to laugh at these things.”
Deadpan, my mother stares at me for a hard moment before dryly exlaiming, “Ah-HA-ha…”
Which of course gets her to crack up at her own funny all over again.
<a dust cloud swirls, carrying light bits of debris across a deserted street>
<a tumbleweed is stuck up against a wire mesh trash can with a missing lid, bobbing in the breeze>
<the manhole cover in the middle of the road bumps once, twice, then grinds its way over to the side>
<a man with tired eyes and a messy hairdo pulls himself to the surface, wipes his nose, and looks around>
God damn. It’s been a second, ain’t it?
I had a dream the other night that taught me a pretty powerful lesson. In it, I was touring Elon Musk’s SpaceX facility alongside Milo Ventimiglia, for some reason. Like in any good dream, I had no recollection or thought as to why Milo or I was there, but we were guests and it was pretty sweet, so I decided not to question it.
Elon (I get to call him Elon, because we were on a first-name basis) showed us around dark, gray, concrete corridor after dark, gray, concrete corridor, and I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was in the villain HQ of 007 Goldeneye. There were people in lab coats, a lot of restricted sections, a ton of “sciencey stuff,” but no armed guards, which I guess should have been odd but didn’t feel that way at the time.
The most striking feature wasn’t the collection of rocket boosters and shuttles under construction, but the giant vats of glowing green liquid. There were people in lab coats around each one carrying a clipboard, looking official, but that didn’t keep them from feeling out of place. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, goose-pimples rose along my arms, my ears strained their peripherals…
Something was about to happen.
Now, some might remember the time I stopped a fight inside a Grocery Outlet. I don’t know how to fight. I KNOW I don’t know how to fight. I haven’t trained the correct way to uncork a punch, how to establish a proper take-down, how to aim a kick in a way that won’t snap my foot like a weak-spined fish. I know a few things ABOUT the subject, but I RECOGNIZE my own physical ability regarding them.
Which is why it was a good thing what happened next took place in my head.
Of a sudden, Milo shouts, “Look out!” as one of the scientists pulls out of a bowie knife (why’d it have to be a bowie knife? Because my subconscious holds an aspiration to be Crocodile Dundee, I guess), and he lunges at Elon. Like Ip Man, I Wing Chun the shit out of the villainous egghead’s wrist, disarming him of his wicked blade. I kick his foot out from under him, and as he falls to a knee, I bring my own up to his forehead, rendering him unconscious.
It was sick.
At the same moment, another scientist removes his hat (for the sake of it, let’s say he was wearing a tall trucker hat) to reveal a menacing sneer and obviously evil scar over his eye. He grabs a vial of something that looked important, and a chase ensued.
In short order, I catch up to the ne’er-do-well, he sets the vial down, rips off his shirt to reveal an absolutely STACKED physique, and the fight bell rings.
I want to be the matador, not the bull, so I stand my ground, taunt, give him the ol’ “bring it” hand curl, and he charges. Wide punch misses, my counter punch to the body lands, but the f*cker’s body is like an oak table, so he’s unaffected. I take a knee to the chest, stumble, and eat a follow-up left to the face. I fall to my rump, and he follows me to the ground to end it – his fatal flaw.
Like a spring tap, my legs shoot up, wrapping around his neck the extended arm he’s punching with. I twist it to the side, lock my left leg over my right ankle, and sink in the triangle choke. He twists and struggles, flailing his free arm’s fist about, but slowly loses steam. Finally, some seconds later, his body goes limp and collapses to the floor.
Did I best an evil-doer with jiu-jitsu I’ve watched but never practiced? Hell yes. Did it feel incredible? You bet your tush. Did I return the vial to Elon only to find out he’d arranged the whole thing, murdered Milo, then betrayed me? Yeah, that sort of happened too.
But was it all worth it?
Still yes, but learn from my example and when you see a group of villains steal from a billionaire, maybe sit it out rather than play the hero because you mind just wind up double-crossed as a reward for your sick-ass parkour and martial arts skills.
That…was the sound of my head popping back out of my cozy little hole in the sand, but I won’t lie to you, it’s been kind of nice. Been a lot of Fallout 4, board games with the missus, and working hard remodeling houses.
That said, work just ground to a halt, so the haze was able to clear and I remembered I have a crowd of beautiful people to pander to!
And rather than lay blame and put more attention on the same bleak news we’ve ALL become pretty used to lately, I’m going to say the last four weeks have actually been me hmm’ing and haw’ing over whether or not to share this little gem. (Actually, Mandy explicitly told me to and that’s more or less why we’re about to dive in.)
The “Joe” in the title of this isn’t a real person. Not because the human I mean when I write it doesn’t exist, but because I have no earthly idea if his name is actually Joe. In truth, he was just a man in a parking lot screaming at another man in a parking lot whom I gave a name to.
So there we were, my partner Hugh and I replacing the siding on a client’s house, when of a sudden, there comes the sound of raised voices from across the street. The home we’re working on is on a busy intersection across the road from a Safeway, and the raised voices are coming from the parking lot (as subtly hinted to moments ago).
I’d give anything to know how the exchange truly began, but all I can report is how I came into it, which is still pretty amazing. Now, I’ve gone into before how dumb street fights are and how overconfident the ‘combatants’ involved often seem to be…
And that’s the case again here today.
The incoherent shouting voices gain clarity as I make out one man saying to the other, “Well, YOU look like a pedophile! Yeah, you like KIDS!” This gets inter-cut with the other man shouting back, “What?? Me?!? No, YOU! YOU’RE the pedophile! YOU are! Yooooooou pedophile!! You’re a SEXualDEEviant!“
(Hahahahahahaha! I’m sorry, but every time I tell or even think about this story, the way that guy put emphasis in “SEX-ual DEE-viant!” fucking gets me every time.)
This goes back and forth, with both guys yo-yo’ing walking toward and away from one another with their chests pumped out for about thirty heavenly seconds, while their verbal jabs have basically devolved to just slinging “You pedophile!” at one another in turn.
Finally, it looks like the dust is going to settle and that will be that when something gets said which gets Thing 1 really upset, and he starts walking over to Thing 2 shouting, “Yeah!? Say that to my fuckin’ face!” He marches confidently over to the other guy, on a war path, gets about ten feet away, winds up a cartoonishly wide soccer kick, knocks the other guy’s backpack over (which had been sitting on the ground between them), and then breaks into THE sharpest sprint I’ve EVER seen.
I’m not kidding. This dude flew away so fast and with such reckless abandon for his own safety (ironic, given that he was running away from a physical confrontation), he was like a caucasian Usain Bolt cutting through traffic. #WhiteLightning
But the best part, the whole reason this story is a story, is Thing 2’s reaction. He just begins rage-marching after the guy – not running, because it was apparent to the whole world there was no catching White Lightning – shouting, with foam and spit falling from his face, the following dialogue:
“Ooooh, yooooou BUTTfuck! God dammit, you buttfuck! I see you! I see you over there! You buttfuck! Ooooo, you buttfuck! You BUTTfuck! I see you over there, you fucking buttfuck! AAAAUUUGH!! BUTTFUCK! Fuck! ButtFUCK!! If I ever see you again, I’m gonna crack your skull! You pedophile BUTTFUCK!”
The scene was even complete with a family of four off to the side, arms full of groceries, eyebrows raised, and jaws agape. It was the most beautiful thing I’d seen all week.
Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is how a street fight should go.
Good to see all of you again. Write again soon. Peace and love.
PS – Oh, and the title was supposed to be me attributing the name “Joe” to the guy starting the fight and what I’d say, but Thing 1 and Thing 2 (and, of course, White Lightning) became funnier.