When attempting to describe my sense of humor to people who are new to it, I’ve used the label “cosmic humor”. When I’ve said that, I intended to convey that even if it seems like I am laughing at rather than with a person, I’m not laughing at the person at all. I’m laughing at the cosmic situation. Sometimes people get it, other times people do not. Recently a blogger friend asserted that she didn’t think my icebreaking attempts at the gym were funny. Upon reading that, I felt bad and have wanted to try to explain why they were funny, moreover I wanted to explain how I can laugh at someone without actually making fun of them. Two days ago my brother gave me just what I needed.
I got this text from him in which he shared that he had the amusing thought of trying to deduce the origin of the “he who smelt it dealt it” phrase. After giving that problem more than a passing moment’s thought, I couldn’t help but laugh. And then it hit me that besides this unexpectedly pleasant laugh, Sam also unintentionally gave me a perfect way with which I can describe my sense of humor and offer its brilliance to you for your own application in this crazy, crazy world.
Picture with me the first time a couple of human boys heard a fart. Picture the very first time–caveboy style. I’m not talking about the purposeful farting that happens around puberty or so, but when the lads were probably four or five years old and off a ways from the tribe, just screwing around in the woods. It’d have to have been an otherwise quiet moment when all of a sudden this silly noise emanates from one of the boys. Surprising even himself, the perpetrator turns to the other boy and smiles. The other boy responds in kind with a innocent chuckle and a, “What the heck was that?” expression on his face. And then I picture the boy that didn’t fart to playfully laugh with an attitude of, “That was a really funny sound your body just made,” which would likely be followed by the hopeful command: “Do it again!”
See how the non-farter is laughing at the farter, but not really? He’s more laughing at the fact that farting occurs. It’s the slightest of distinctions, but I promise it’s there. And that’s my humor. That’s how I laugh at everything. We’re all on this human journey and these bodies we have utter words and make faces and take things serious and believe they’re important or right etc. etc. And so I laugh. I see stuff happen, especially things I do, like walking up to random women and pointing out how they can do life better, and then I laugh. I laugh with an attitude of, “What the heck was that?” and “Can you believe my body (brain included), in all its glorious wonder, just made that noise?”
And sometimes, just sometimes, the stranger laughs at the sound with me. And in that moment–that rare moment–a great friendship forms.
So lighten up, because I could use more friends. And after all, we’re all just a bunch of farters.
“I just realized something, H-” he announced, turning down the car stereo.
“I just remembered that on our trip today we’re going to be passing through the toll booths again,” he said. “You know, the ones that have the trolls in them–the trolls that look like people.”
“Trolls that look like people?” she asked, her tone signalling that memories were beginning to solidify.
“Trolls collecting tolls, remember?”
“Oh yeah, I remember now,” she said.
“Do you want to practice your song now? Or do you think you’ll be ready to sing the beautiful flower song when we get to where they are?” he asked.
“I can practice now,” she answered. “And daddy?”
“If I don’t sing a beautiful flower song,” she began earnestly, “then the trolls will chase us down and eat us.”
“That’s right, H-. I gotta pay the toll, and you gotta sing a beautiful flower song as I do. Do you think you’re up to it today?”
“Yep,” she said.
The little girl then began to sing.
Flowers are up in the sky
Flowers are up in the sky
Flowers are dying and some flowers are dying-
“Wait, H-,” he interrupted. “Why are flowers dying? I don’t think that’s going to pass the test. Dying flowers aren’t beautiful.”
“Oh,” she said, realizing he may be telling the truth.
“That’s okay, H-. Just start again.”
The little girl began again.
Flowers are up in the sky
Some flowers are unhappy and other flowers are unhappy-
“H-!” he interrupted a second time. “What is going on here? Why are you singing about flowers dying and being unhappy? The song to keep the trolls from eating us has to be a beautiful flower song. Beautiful. Do you think you can do that?”
“Yes, daddy, I can.”
And so again, H- began to sing.
Flowers, flowers are up in the sky
Some flowers are happy
And some flowers-
She cut herself off as soon as the “D” sound began. Laughing at her perfect demonstration of what pilot’s call “strength of an idea”, he suggested she wait until they were at the toll booth and just shoot from the hip then.
Luckily for our duo, on cue H- put together a beautiful number as he paid the toll to the troll.
“That’s my girl. You did good, H-, real good,” he said as they sped away from the danger.
Apologies, I didn’t realize my tinkering changed the setting about whether just the opening or full text was emailed out. Here is today’s post again.
Below is a chat conversation I had with Ariel Johnson from AT&T. Try and enjoy it as much as I did.
Thank you for your patience! Your AT&T Representative will be with you shortly.
Welcome! You are now chatting with ‘Ariel Johnson’
Ariel Johnson: Thank you for using AT&T Chat Services today. I will be happy to assist you.
Ariel Johnson: I can definitely review the account to see when will be the autopay will be fully effective.
Ariel Johnson: By the way I hope you are enjoying your day!
Pete: Do you just copy and paste messages, or do you type them out like I am?
Ariel Johnson: I do type Pete.
Pete: I’m dying here.
Pete: Do you know what a proof of life is?
Ariel Johnson: Sorry no.
Pete: Well, in any case, I am enjoying my day.
Ariel Johnson: Awesome!
Pete: But I’m still not convinced you’re real. 🙂
Ariel Johnson: Yes I am.
Ariel Johnson: Please be advised that the autopay will be fully effective after 30 days upon enrollment.
Pete: You definitely did not type that.
Pete: So I should pay my bill today, but next month, it’ll be automatic/
Ariel Johnson: Yes
Ariel Johnson: For the current bill it will be paid manually.
Ariel Johnson: Rest assured that this will be the last time that you will be paying the bill manually.
Pete: What is your namesake’s dad’s name in the little mermaid?
Ariel Johnson: I don’t know sorry.
Pete: thanks for the help.
Ariel Johnson: If you know the answer is much appreciated.
Ariel Johnson: Since you are online I can assist you to process the payment now.
Pete: No need. I can do it. Have a great day.
Ariel Johnson: Please be advised that the autopay deduction will takes place two days prior to the due date on the account.
Ariel Johnson: Do you have any other concerns that I may assist you with?
Pete: Nope. I’m out.
Ariel Johnson: For convenience in the future, you can also manage your account using the MyATT mobile app on your phone.
Ariel Johnson: It has been a pleasure chatting with you today. AT&T appreciates your business. Again this is Ariel Have a wonderful day!
Ariel Johnson: Bye.
Men fall into one of two categories. There are those who-can-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively–and those who cannot. Those who-cannot-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively can be subdivided further into two groups: those who-cannot-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively because they are weak and those who-cannot-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively because they over-think it; whereas those who-can-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively remain united. Being fairly strong, Pete found himself in the category of unable-to-swing-a-sledge-hammer-effectively because of over-thinking it. Roughnecks nicknamed some variation of Thor seem to limit their thoughts about the task at hand to “object needs to be struck; strike object.” To his detriment, Pete, on the other hand, took a more studied approach. To him, the task included thoughts such as, “Is this really the only way to accomplish the task? How many people are watching? I hope they’re standing far away, because once I begin there is no telling how this will end.” And, “While I realize that I am supposed to be swinging this 12-pound piece of metal as hard as I possibly can at this other piece of metal, is it possible to unintentionally break anything? Follow-up: If so, will someone be mad at me for breaking it?”
There is another nuance of sledge-hammer use that rarely surfaces in white papers. Men like Pete have full awareness of what happens at that moment–the moment the back-swing ends and the forward-swing begins. Despite increasing his effective swinging average from .500 to .734 in seven months time, Pete couldn’t forget about the remaining .266 that was unpredictably divided between missing completely and striking the object in such a way as to cause his muscles to have to transition from “HIT THAT MOTHERFUCKER!” to “PROTECT THE MASTER!” in an instant. Lucky for his face and feet, an instant was plenty of time.
“Want a break?” one of them asked him.
It was night. It was always night. They were in the middle of rig move and in the process of hammering up one of the mud-line’s hammer unions. A hammer union is a particularly fiendish way of connecting two pieces of pipe–several inches in diameter themselves–which must not leak under pressure. A thick metal ring with three or four gear-type knobs protruding at even intervals, the hammer union (permanently affixed around the male end of the connection) is first twisted onto the female end’s threads by hand. Upon reaching the limitation of its human’s tool-less ability, a hammer is then lifted by a gloved hand and proceeds to strike the knobs in an effort to seamlessly seal the union.
“Na, I’m good,” he answered in the middle of his quick breather.
After a few more solid swings, the tone of the metal-on-metal contact lowered several octaves until the four men heard the deep sound of the hammer hitting the entire mud-line that signals the job is complete, rather than the high-pitched sound that informs all that more swings are necessary.
“Peter, I bet you one hundred dollars I can get one more full turn out of it,” Becki volunteered.
Breathing hard, Pete peered into Becki’s soul, saw innocence, and said, “Whatever man. There is no way. No way. That one is not moving anymore. It’s good.”
“If you think so, then bet me,” Becki rejoined.
“You bet me one hundred dollars that you can get a full turn on that union?” Pete asked, his winnings already spent.
“Okay. That’s a bet,” said Pete, offering his hand.
Glee filled the other two men’s eyes as they each claimed witness to the bet and excitedly awaited the outcome. But not as much glee as filled Becki’s eyes.
“That’s the wrong way Becki,” Pete said, shaking his head that even the fastest roughneck messes up righty-tighty lefty-loosey sometimes.
“Wrong way!” yelled an onlooker to the unceasing Becki.
The twinkle in Becki’s eyes could be seen for miles. It spoke so loud that he needn’t put his voice to use until the loosening turn was completed at which point he asserted, “Like I said, one full turn. Pay up.”
A very sad Pete put up one volley in a futile argument concerning unstated betting assumptions.
At the young age of twenty-two, Becki had waited a full tenth of his life to put to use one of the oldest oil-field bets on an unsuspecting worm. Suffice it to say, Becki got more than one hundred dollars. He made a friend.
“Alright guys, gather round, gather round,” he began with a slight amount of force to his voice. “Gather round. Christmas came early this year.”
The men formed a natural circle and tried their best to hide their interest with looks of confusion. Gatherings like this did not normally happen. They did see, however, that Pete had a full bag in his hands.
“Okay. I want to tell you guys something. A few days into this hitch I was laying in bed thinking about how I, like you, have to work over the big three upcoming holidays. And that sucks. I then remembered that I have some cash on hand as a result of the home selling/home buying fiasco you guys know about. Because the only reason I work these days is for money and because I have some money, I told Richard a week or so ago that this will be my last hitch. I am quitting,” Pete announced.
Short Brush chuckled, thinking it was a joke.
“I’m not kidding. And to prove I’m not kidding, I got you all something as a going away gift. I also want to take a minute to talk to you differently than I normally have. I know I’m just a floorhand here, but in my past life I was a leader and had more of an instructor/speaking role. Since I’m leaving, I figure I might as well say what’s on my mind about you guys.
“John, I got you an iTunes gift card. It’s got twenty bucks on it. What I want to say to you is that after I leave, you’ll officially be the most considerate roughneck. Keep it up. Also, I respect the zeal with which you and your fiancé live out your Christian beliefs. At the same time, you sometimes seem like you are two sermons away from strapping on a suicide vest. I’m just saying.
“Short Brush, despite the fact that I’ve told you how to get movies for free, I also got you an iTunes gift card. Enjoy. What I want to say to you is that you’re fat and lazy. Everyone knows it. Everyone knows you hide in the stairwell behind the drawworks. I don’t know who you think you’re fooling. That said, I don’t believe that you’re fat because you’re lazy, I believe you’re lazy because you’re fat. So here’s a deal I’m willing to make with you. Lose forty pounds and if by the time you’ve lost the weight plus three months you’re not a motorhand, I’ll pay the difference in your salary for a year. It’s not much, so don’t get too excited, but I’m serious. You saw how I paid Becki when I lost that bet. As you lose the weight, you’ll get more respect, and the work will become easier. There’s no reason you can know so much about fantasy football and not this job. Who knows. You might get promoted as you are. But, nothing to actually do with the weight, I’m sure you will if you lose the weight. Lose the weight.
“Chris, I’m giving your gift to you kinda backwards. Here’s some batteries. You’ll also get my flashlight and crescent and pliers before I leave. What I want to say to you is that you’re tall and not just for a Mexican. I’ve seen tall men get promoted my whole life for simply being tall. People want to follow tall men. But you work for a company which values character above all else. So take advantage of that. In the Air Force we said that Integrity First means doing the right thing when no one is looking. I’ve seen you not do the right thing occasionally. We’ve all done it. But I challenge you to do better. Recently you have been and it made me proud every time no matter my reaction in the moment. Everyone will follow a tall man with character.
“Becki, as you know it was love at first sight. I got you not one, not two, not three, not four, but five cans of snuff. They didn’t have it in a log. I’m sorry if that takes away some of the thrill of opening it. What I want to say to you is that you have to tell the women you’re sleeping with that you have an STD. If it’s not against the law not to, it’s at least unethical. I also want you to know that you have limitless potential. You can do anything you want. I mean it.
“Richard, iTunes for you too. What I want to say to you is thank you for keeping us safe. Thank you for keeping me safe. Nobody needs to get hurt on this job. You keep us safe by your professionalism and the fact that you stick to the rules. More than that, you keep all the other crews on this rig safe by having a reputation for sticking to the rules. Other drillers know you’re out here doing it right and that helps tip the scales when they are uncertain how to act. Regarding your marriage, one time while I was in Iraq my mom told me to “hold her like a butterfly.” I never did figure out what that means, but maybe you will and maybe it’ll keep you married.
“That’s it. Let’s finish out these last two days safely and go home.”
“Speaking of people sounding black or white, I just watched this thing on back-up singers-,” the family matriarch began, steering the conversation in a new direction.
“Yeah, one of my friends mentioned that that is just a fantastic film,” the no-good smart-ass disrespectful-though-very-funny adult middle-child added.
“It really was!” she said earnestly, taking back the floor. “And the surprising part was that a lot of the singers were black and got their start in churches as little girls.”
“Ha. That’s exactly what my friend shared about the film. Funny.”
“Well, what I was going to say was that there was one scene where the girl said that she was singing back-up for Ray Charles. And she told a story about a time when Ray Charles stopped the concert and just played one note over and over again telling her that that was the note to sing. That note,” she said, repeatedly pressing her finger into the table with her eyes open wide in a reenactment of the scene. Laughing, she continued, “And the singer said that after that moment she never missed a note ever again. It was so embarrassing.”
“Crazy,” said the middle-child, voicing the sentiment he felt was expected.
“I mean just think of it. With all that noise and the sound of the crowd he was still able to pick out her voice,” she said, letting a natural pause emphasize her child-like wonder of the skill involved in such a feat.
He lived for moments like this one. Unable to withstand the opportunity, he timed the punchline perfectly as he inhaled with about-to-speak force and added with a tone of disbelief, “And he was deaf!”
“Blind!” the son-in-law corrected forcefully, coming to her defense.
“Blind!” the mother rejoined, happy to be defended but wishing she was faster to correct the constantly instigating know-it-all smart-alec.
Not only quicker on the draw, the son-in-law was also the first to shake his head and leave the table mad at himself for ever believing his brother-in-law had anything of value to say. Everyone else just laughed and laughed. The middle-child just smiled.
As for our storyteller? Her face red as a beet she laughed until she could not laugh anymore as she wondered what she ever did to be treated this way. She would have thrown something at him if everything in the room wasn’t so darn nice.
A lazy and depressing morning without H- resulted in a 1/16th mile walk to the local gym. While navigating bushes along the narrow sidewalk, which is dangerously close to a busy street, I saw a woman in fitness gear approaching. “Hmm…maybe she’s cute,” I thought. As the distance between us closed and I proceeded to verify my hope, I heard a car slow beside me. I turned. In the car was a sixty-ish year old woman with her window rolled down, also in fitness gear.
“Do you know where G- park is?” she asked.
“Yep, it’s right before the light that’s a half-mile behind you on the left.”
A confused look slowly began to subside, but not completely. “Where?” she asked again.
“Just make a U-turn here, and right before that stop light back there, take a left. It has a purple playground.”
“Oh. Thanks,” she said, still not confident that she has the skills necessary to make the half-mile journey.
“Actually, wait,” I said, “that’s not G- park. That’s P- park. My mistake.”
Losing color in the same pattern as a water ripple extending from a dropped stone, a new terror spread across her face.
“No worries. G- Park is just across the street from P- park. It’s through the stop light and on the right. It has a lake with geese. Just as easy to get to, though I’m not sure where you’re going to park. I always walk there since I live so close.”
The woman was in a state of despair usually reserved for cataclysmic events like city-wide black-outs, tsunamis, or terrorist attacks. She then asked, “Will you just get in and take me there?”
I think this means I’d make a good confidence man.
Tall. Dark. Handsome. Ken doll. Rico Suave. Fabio. No, I don’t have anything in common with any of those descriptors–especially not Fabio’s luscious locks.
When I write I want the word’s feeling to be the only thing that is measured. I don’t want to be stuck in the horrible situation where people only buy my books because they like the way my face looks. But some of you have been reading for a year now and I know the feeling of “I know it doesn’t matter, but I wouldn’t mind knowing what this person looks like.” So we’ll compromise.
Growing up around bodybuilding, the value of the mirror over the scale was ingrained in me. Rather than attempt to translate mirror-speak into English, however, I think it’ll prove more useful to share what others see. Have you ever noticed how some men just volunteer to the world what they see? Well, it happens to me frequently–especially on the rig. And as you’ll see, I think simply passing these descriptions on to you should give you what you want, while allowing me to retain a level of writing purity.
First up is, “Peter. You’re so innocent looking man.” That was my personal favorite until the more direct, “Peter, how’s it going tonight? Man, you just look like a virgin.” That guy even knew I had a child. Can you imagine how it feels to be complimented so highly, and yet not? Oh well, like I’ve always said, “Once a virgin, always a virgin.”
Still don’t have a clear picture? Try this one. Picture a small rectangular metal room with two doors, one on either end, that normally seal walk-in freezers. There is a loud air conditioner blasting a nearly cool, steady current of air from one end to the other. The four men standing in the room make it seem like adding one more would be impossible, yet it frequently houses a dozen or so. Next, you notice a sudden story-killing change to their mood. Faces start scrunching as searching eyes pull heads along a comprehensive scan pattern. Breaths are taken in through the nose in patterns that echo a hitman’s double-tap. Finally one of the men asks another, “Did you shit your pants?”
Shaking his head no, the accused man looks to the third man whose eyes are already wide as he, in turn, shakes he head in denial. They can’t even imagine I would do such a thing, so I don’t even get asked. That’s right. I have the face of a man who doesn’t fart. Now you know.
1. First, nobody likes people who try too hard. And a good eye-catching headline, such as, “Did Michael Jackson Secretly Confess to Janet That He Was Guilty?” or my favorite one from LinkedIn of late, “10 Reasons You Should Quit Your Job in 2014”, these types of headlines that really beg the reader to point-and-click reek of strong cologne before a big date. Rather than trying too hard, it’s better if you try just the right amount.
2. Second, your reputation is worth more than the ad revenue generated by clicks. And readers often feel let down when they discover (again) that Michael Jackson didn’t confess anything to Janet, and that there is not one good reason, let alone ten, to quit working in 2014. After time, people will question your integrity and motivations.
3. Third, and finally, the most enticing headlines are always one mistake away from pissing readers off.