I have an admission.
It’s not something I am proud of but, as the old adage goes, the first step in solving a problem is to admit you have one.
So here it is. I laugh when people fall.
I don’t mean a slight snicker but a jackknifing so hard, I get whiplash. Someone could trip from a bump in the sidewalk and I will laugh so violently, my convulsions could be mistaken as seizures. I don’t know why I find falling, tripping, sliding, face planting and bum crashing down right hilarious. Actually, I don’t limit my outbreaks to the lower extremities, anyone stubbing their fingers, bumping their funny bones, going face forward into a glass door all get the same reaction: me holding my sides, tears streaming down my face, yukking so loudly, people stop what they’re doing and stare. And if you think I only laugh at people, think again, animals are definitely fair game.
Now before you think I am this heartless, insensitive creature, I do want to clarify. I do have the ability to discern the difference between fainting, collapsing or tumbling due to medical emergencies and I do act appropriately. However, all bets are off if the person revives and manages to walk away, albeit limping. Then, and only then, in my opinion, is it OK to laugh.
Once, when I was at dinner in a quasi-formal restaurant with a bunch of friends, we got on the subject of tattoos. There were some debate about who had one, who wanted one and who wouldn’t be caught in hell with one. The conversation steered towards the pain and the needles involved. One of my friends, a State Trooper, mentioned casually he doesn’t like needles or anything blood related, in fact, the mere mentioning of either topic causes him to feel queasy. With three to four years of Trooper experience, he’s a tall guy, at least 6’3, probably around 200 pounds, teetering on the slippery edge of being thirty, not overly muscular, but no couch potato either. Sitting at the end of the table, he pleaded softly for us to change the topic. Not taking him seriously, I carried on how the needles really didn’t hurt, how it felt like someone pressing the bristles of a hairbrush against my skin and that’s when it happened. My friend’s eyes rolled back into his head like stuck numbers on a slot machine. Before we could grab him, he fell face forward, intimately going to first base with the shag carpet. His face dug deep in the carpet while his body teepeed up with his rear end flashing us. Imagine a giant upside down V. Of course, we all jumped up and ran to his side, flipped him over and began slapping his face. His eyelids fluttered like the quick beats of a moth’s wings. As he came to, he muttered incoherently, “What happened? Where am I?” “On the floor,” I said, “You passed out”. With the help of some cold water, he regained consciousness. We quickly paid the bill, pulled the car around and carried him out. Afterwards, he had a huge strawberry that skunk tailed down the front of his face. He told his co-workers he got smacked with a branch while working in the yard.
The whole time I was in stitches. First, the image of him – a State Trooper, face smooching carpet, ass up in the air – was hysterical. Second, him lying supine in the middle of the restaurant, diners huddled over, managers frantically wanting to call 911 was something out of a comedy. Third, because of his size, everything was exaggerated – the dramatic fall, the awkward positioning, the hunched over rescue. Afterwards, each time I saw him, I would imitate a redwood tree falling. Knee slapping, eyes watering, I would guffaw like a barking seal when I was done. He didn’t find it very amusing, nor did my other friends. You are evil, they told me.
When I went back home to Vietnam, my reserved cousins were absolutely shocked at my brazen laughter. When one almost tumbled into the creek, I was doubled over in hysterics. When she straightened herself out, she looked at me and said, “How can you life at the misery of others?” Hmmm, easily I thought.
But I’ve gotten better. I have controlled my fits of laughter so that I don’t bust a gut immediately. For instance, a couple of months ago, I was washing my hands in the bathroom, when a man, using the urinal, lost his pants. I don’t mean lost as in he couldn’t locate them, but lost as in the middle of relieving himself, his pants plunged to the floor. I couldn’t see the reaction on his face nor could he see mine since he was facing the wall. For that, I was grateful because I was desperately trying to suppress my reaction. Another man came in, stopped and did a double take when he saw the underwear-clad man. He saw me and tilted his head towards the semi-naked man, I shrugged, feigning ignorance. I left as the man bent down to lift his pants back up. I barely contained my laughter as I walked out.
I think Miss Manners would probably advise us to ignore these situations and pretend they didn’t happen, but that’s easier said then done. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t exclude myself when I fall or trip. If I take a tumble, I’m the first one hunched over laughing afterwards. It’s funny. It’s the reason why videos of people nose diving or ass cracking are the most watched videos on the Internet. C’mon admit it, you chucked a little, if not a lot, when you imagined my friend with his face buried in the carpet and ass to the ceiling. It’s ok if you did, he’ll never know and trust me, I won’t tell. We’ll just make it our little secret.