Laughter, the Most Confusing Medicine.
Despite my seemingly ever-present ability to be a dick, I’m actually one of those people who try and keep the spirits of those around me pretty high. Especially with complete strangers, a group of people I cherish as the ultimate test audience for jokes and a great barometer of whether humanity is awesome or very expendable.
Jokes are weird with clerks, waiters, bank tellers, and whomever else we rub up against in our daily lives because as a species we are trained to focus on straight ahead with our blinders on and defenses up. People aren’t expecting to be dealt a silly comment or a one-liner as they focus on the task at hand. Pleasantries are the order of business and more often than not we’re all so plugged into our outdoor automaton role that we don’t realize a moment until it has long passed us.
“Did I just tell that waitress to enjoy my meal too?”
Or worse yet, the thing that has nailed us all in the past…
“She just totally hit on me and I didn’t even catch it.”
Or lately as I’ve realized…
“I bet they think I’m gay now after that joke because I forget that most people cannot handle any comment that isn’t 100% macho.”
Reader’s Digest has taught us that Laughter is the Best Medicine, just as National Geographic has taught us that we need to drop humanitarian relief in the form of support bras and I think that perhaps in simpler times it was the case where people instantly expected a smile and a nice comment. It was cordial and the least we could do for each other as members of the same civilized race. Not now. I think we’re all way too much on edge. We expect rudeness or indifference. People are often content to get by with the absolute minimum. A “hello” and a “thanks” or possibly a “have a nice day”. Actually, I think the definition of “civilized” has evolved to where minding your own business and not stirring the pot has become the backbone.
And let’s be honest, jokes are wasted on strangers for the most part.
It never fails that I’ll spell my name out for someone on the phone and they’ll ask how I pronounce it, and after I say “Jones” there’s a thick silence that follows.
What the fuck, people? You’re not going to be juice like that unless you get DirectTV’s comedy plan. I am here to amuse you. Are you not entertained?
Then again, making people uncomfortable is funny as evidenced by the careers of Larry David, Ricky Gervais, and Hermann Göring. If you can make someone uncomfortable without being too creepy, you are as valuable to nature as chlorophyll and twice as cute. A friend of a friend used to say “Don’t touch me there, you’re not my father” whenever anyone bumped into him, which as approximately fifty times an hour. It was funny twice. But, it kept folks alert. Twice. Then folks wanted to do a Yoga Flame on the guy.
I implore you to go about the next week of your life with a chip on your shoulder to get a smile from everyone you meet. Even Arabs!
See how they react if you let your defenses down for just a week and try to be the person in the moment who fills the glass from half-shattered to at least half-full if not overflowing with the golden rays of perpetual Godlight. Love thy neighbor just enough to see if they’re a motherfucker. Make them smile.
Or make them squirm. Either way, you win.
- Nick Nunziata accepts no credit or blame if by letting your guard down you are raped at gunpoint.