As sure as I am that no chicken ever died of old age and Benjamin Buttons was never heard to say, “Well, I better do it now because I’m not getting any younger,” I’m certain when it comes to what makes us laugh, that’s as different as our individual sets of fingerprints.
From old-time Three Stooges’ index-and-middle-finger pokes in the eyes to America’s funniest of her home videos showing legions of Dads getting hit just below their belt buckles with Wiffle Balls rocketing off plastic bats swung by their juniors to the Trump-bashing political humor of HBO’s Bill Maher, humor’s triggers are indeed multifarious.
And, while a lot has made me laugh over my lifetime, if I had to choose one thing I find that most closely aligns with humor, it would be when misunderstanding slips into humor’s bed.
And, in such cases, I’ve found that those stories exist very close to home. As for myself, a product of a land-line generation while growing up when the only way to reach a Grindrod by phone was to wait for the party line to clear and then dial CA-69651, when it comes to technology, there is the potential for lots of misunderstanding.
In my family, without question, our IT department is headed by my nephew, Joe Whittaker. For a while, when schooling me on something with my home computer, smart phone or iPad, all of which I managed quite nicely as I recall doing without in my younger years, I’ve periodically asked a question in an effort to understand the technology which was never part of my world while growing up. Often, Joe has simply looked at me, pointed to the sky and said, “It’s in the clouds.”
Now, I always took such a response to be his way of telling me that whatever the explanation would be, I had literally no chance of understanding so, perhaps, now would be a good time to stop my line of questioning. I took it as a subtle form of patronization, which, given my awareness of what I knew I didn’t know, didn’t offend me at all.
It took me a long time before I realized that he really was using the word cloud as a collective term for software and services that run on the internet but not locally, which allows access of information of any device with an internet connection. It “only” took me about two years before I realized how my neph was using those “cloud” references.
Texts often lead to massive misunderstandings, especially when auto-spell rears its ugly head. After my tech guy Joe got me up to speed about 10 years ago and considerably after most of the rest of mankind were experiencing the beginnings of thumb fatigue caused by their texting, I began using that method of communication several times a day as a quick means of asking a question or as a means of delivering an uninterrupted proclamation of some importance, at least to me.
Recently, while in Gallipolis working my nearby Mid-American Cleaning Contractors accounts, I tried the voice-text feature, which has an even greater potential for misunderstanding. The text was to my Lady Jane and included the name of the city on the banks of the Ohio River settled by the French in 1790. Foolishly trusting the transcription would be accurate, I eschewed any proofreading and hit “send.”
The reply I got back from Jane came in the form of a query, as in her asking me what I was trying to say about the Dallas police, which was what “Gallipolis” magically became!
When it comes to the little ones in my family, notably my younger granddaughter Abigail, there certainly have been misunderstandings that have made me laugh. Prior to her first family vacation that involved a flight, the then 5-year-old asked Mom, my younger daughter Katie, why she had bought some packs of gum for the flight.
Katie, the ever-patient Mom, explained that whole ear-popping thing that happens in planes when altitude changes dramatically and that the gum would help the sensation. So, Abigail picked up a pack of Juicy Fruit from the table, looked seriously at Katie while pressing the pack to her ear while asking, “Mom, do you do it like this?” before shifting the pack to the other ear.
Older sis Caroline, two years more worldly, looked at Katie and executed a perfect sigh-and-eye-roll combo over what little sis just wasn’t quite catching before walking away from the kitchen table.
Next week, I’ll wrap up my two-week seminar on the relationship between humor and misunderstanding in the hopes that my familial moments might just remind you of your own times when what prompted a volley of endorphin-releasing laughter was some good old-fashioned confusion.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.