If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a couple of days, you’ve probably noticed a common theme – humor. Not in the sense that I make you laugh till you shoot milk out your nose, though I do think I’ve nailed a few good lines along the way. But I’m a firm believer that one of the most important ingredients in physical and mental well-being is a healthy sense of humor.
It’s okay to laugh – those are words you’ll hear from me a lot. All too often, we hold laughter inside, denying ourselves and others the instant pleasure it brings. Are there things we shouldn’t laugh about? Sure. Laughing at somebody else’s pain, or in a way that causes them distress, isn’t good for anyone. And there are times when something is just too funny to ignore, but we need to hold it in for a more appropriate time.
But for every one of those times, we pass up dozens of potential laughs because we put on the blinders and fail to see the humor that is all around us. Take signs, for instance. Unless you live in a desert, they’re everywhere. And some are just plain silly. One I’ll never forget was on I-295 at the north end of Jacksonville, Florida. It was a state highway sign that read, “Caution – Pavement Wet When Raining”. Really? Wet pavement? I’ve often wondered how much money they spent coming up with that little bit of insight. Worse yet, how many times did they edit before they came up with the final draft?
A few years ago I was driving down I-65 through southern Kentucky and saw another gem. This one read, “Used Cows For Sale”. Okay, maybe it’s just me. After all, I get paid to find the humor in everyday situations, so maybe I have an unfair advantage. That or a juvenile mind. But used cows? Exactly what does that infer? And, considering the stereotypes associated with that part of the country, I’m not sure I really want to know.
Granted, these are not what most of us would consider comedy gold. They’re good for a chuckle, maybe a short laugh. But those little laughs add up. In fact, three or four chuckles are about equal to one good belly laugh, and we all know how hard those are to come by. Or are they?
My mother-in-law lives with us, and she’s suffering from advanced dementia. A few nights ago my grandson was visiting, and she wasn’t really happy about it. She made a few comments that he took to heart, and he asked my wife why Nana doesn’t like him. My wife tried to play it down by telling him that she came from a family where kids weren’t necessarily welcome in a room full of adults. She also pointed out how my mother-in-law reacts when he brings his dog in the house – she can’t stand animals.
I’m not sure how that last one fit the situation, but somehow he understood. Finally he looked at my wife and said, “Well did they have pets then?” My wife asked what he meant, and he repeated the question with a little more detail. “Back when she was growing up, did people have pets?” I about fell over. It’s like, “Yeah, but they were dinosaurs!”
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. To find the humor in life, we have to look at the world through the eyes of a child. To me, my mother-in-law is old, but at 53 I know I’m not all that far behind her. But to my 10 year-old grandson, she’s ancient. And in that innocent little question, I could picture the thoughts that must have been going through his mind.
And it raises the question of when did wild animals first become pets? Who decided that a dog would make a good house pet, but an alligator wouldn’t? Odds are, a few fingers were lost in that process. But if you listen to kids, they ask a lot of questions that can cause you to scratch your head. And anything that causes you to scratch your head opens possibilities, and some of them are downright funny. All you have to do is ask yourself, “What if?”
In my old humor column, I explored the history of milk and its many by-products. Okay, not the official history. It’s probably pretty boring, so I created my own version. I assume somebody watched calves getting their daily nutrition, and decided if it makes a calf grow, maybe it’ll make us grow as well. Hopefully they didn’t imitate a dog’s behavior, because dogs can do some pretty disgusting things. But let’s not go there.
I imagine the first recipients of milk got it the hard way. But after a little neck strain, they decided it might be better to use a bucket. Not long after that, they found out that milk doesn’t keep too well in direct sunlight. Hence the discovery of cottage cheese. And here’s the really bad part – somebody ate it!
Think about it. At some point in history, a farmer walked into the barn to retrieve a bucket of milk from the day before, and discovered a churning blob of bacteria with a smell that would make a catfish vomit. Halfway to the outhouse, holding the bucket at arm’s length, he had a thought – no, a revelation … “Hmmm, strain that through a sock, and I bet it would taste GREAT on a hamburger!”
Okay, have I taken you so far from reality that you’re ready to open a bottle of bourbon and have me committed to an asylum? That’s okay. Maybe I am a little off. I think Jimmy Buffett said it best when he sang, “If we weren’t crazy we’d all go insane.” There’s a lot of truth in those words.
The thing is, when we learn to look at the world as a child, we throw aside our preconceived ideas about life and allow ourselves to ask “What if?” And in those moments, two things happen. First and foremost, we challenge those long-held beliefs that keep our brain in a box and stifle the imagination. Every modern convenience we enjoy in life, every medical miracle, every bit of technology, they all came from those two words. “What if?”
The other thing that happens is we free our mind to explore the absurd and find the humor along the way. People always ask where I come up with material for my shows. And the truth is, comedy is all around you. All you have to do is look at the world with a different set of eyes. So take off the blinders and have some fun. And if you come across anything you just can’t keep to yourself, then share it with me!
Copyright 2011 – Dave Glardon
Different set of eyes? I agree totally. Tomorrow’s blog on wallysworldof firstname.lastname@example.org will be about taking a second look at food- remember Mom’s attempt at frying the tuna that Dad caught? We all need to look at things from different views.
Ken, the things Mom did in the kitchen could be a blog of their own. I’m having visions of Thanksgiving 1988, and a turkey that was accidentally left on the washing machine in south Florida weather for three days … it was half-baked by the time she found it, and her reaction was to give it the old sniff test. “Eh, it’s still good.” Urp!
That reminded me of story of the Hollywood director who yelled “Bring on the empty horses!” for the stampede scene. Still good for a laugh!
Empty horses. As opposed to … full horses? Did somebody say Budweiser???
Dave, love the “What if” bit! Got that a lot when my kids were growing up, and now get it from the Grandchildren too. But then, I often take my inner child out to play…it’s good for what ails you; if nothing does ail you, it’s good for that too.
Another thing I’ve done for many years is, rather than ask “Why?” I ask, “Why not?” It’s really difficult to figure out reasons why not!
So you may end up riding an inner tube down a steep snow covered hill.
It was a blast!
Jan, I can’t count the number of times my kids and grandkids have asked why or why not, and I was completely stumped. It’s amazing how quickly we assimilate and just go with the flow because that’s the way it’s always been. And think of what we miss along the way!
Riding an inner tube down a steep snow covered hill? Just one question … how steep? There’s a hill on Route 93 between Ronan and St. Ignatius that made me pucker up in a hurry.
ROFLMAO!! Hilarious, Dave. Great job.
When my kids were upper elementary school age I decided they needed a history lesson, so sat them down to watch “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” They watched intently, occasionally asking a question about a tool or a behavior which I answered to the best of my ability. Once the program was over, however, they asked the big question, “Mom, did you own slaves when you were a kid?”
Love it Sharon! I remember my mom telling me about her parents coming home from a trip and talking about a radio with pictures … and yes, I have used an outhouse. They had indoor plumbing, but only in the kitchen …
I have the advantage of having 5 yr old eyes and 9 yr old eyes with me all the time. Which is good, since my near 70 yr old eyes need glasses. My favorite sign is “Live Band” as opposed to what a “dead man.” In Colorado 500 yards before a state prison the sign said “Do Not Pick up Hitchhikers.” It was repeated later as you passed the prison “For the next 500 yards, do not pick up hitchikers.” I guess at 600 yards you were safe. Funny piece. The Medicaremom
Jody, I’ve seen those signs myself and I always thought, “So prisoners can’t read???” I have a better idea … post a sign for the guards that says, “Highway nearby – keep prisoners inside.”
Dave, our hills aren’t, quite, mountain steep; but they come real close! The one we went down is half a mile from top to bottom, cow face steep, and you could…IF you stayed on the inner tube…fly another half mile on the flat hay land. The kids did. I hit a frozen cow turd and flew off. I still laughed!
And yes, I did it several times…
Jan, there’s not much that could make me want to take a winter vacation in Montana, but you and your frozen cow turd could be just the right combination! Thanks for a great laugh!
Your great article and the comments afterward have inpired me to sit down and write about the time I flew down a hill in an innertube (my older brother lashed two together and convinced me to get inside the double tube and let him roll me down the steep hill behind our house) . . . What was terrifying back then at age 10 is now hilarious at 44! Coming soon to http://www.themeatandpotatoesoflife.com!
Oh, and the part about straining the curdled milk through a sock was priceless!
Thanks Lisa! And I thought some of the things we did were nuts! I’m looking forward to reading about your trip down the hill.
If your going to hit a cow turd with a sled and fly off, I’m thinking frozen is the way to go.
Dave, I couldn’t agree more. Still, how would you explain that injury to a doctor???