Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Nov 5th 2008 12:00PM by Tegan Quin
This Week's Theme: LAUGH
Editor's Note: This column was written prior to the U.S. presidential election.
I've struggled all week with what to write about. This week I'm writing about "Laugh." Or I should say writing on "Laugh." Neither wording makes me feel any clearer on what I should write.
I do a lot of laughing. In fact, a few weeks ago, in the middle of a four-show run in Los Angeles, I apparently woke up laughing. Thankfully someone was there to witness it or I probably would not have remembered in my post-dream state. You know those moments that are so funny but no one is there to witness but you? This is my biggest want in life. To find someone to bare witness to those moments.
This past Sunday morning, after brunch, I sat cross-legged in my aunt and uncle's living room writing funny stories about my childhood. How did the story about Sara and I moving our family van in the K-Mart parking lot at age 6 -- while my mom unknowingly shopped inside -- have anything to do with "Laugh"? I mean, we laugh every time we argue about the plausibility of the story with my mother, but does this really fit into a column? And, if so, how? Also, did I want to try to explain why my mother would have left us in the van at age 6 in the first place? Did it really happen? Too complicated and perhaps not funny enough to get a laugh anyway. And was this what I was writing about? Things that were funny? So people would laugh? Is this how I would pull it together? My column?
I attended a wedding in Atlanta this past weekend. A few times I found myself in heated conversations about the presidential election. A few times I was shushed because talking politics at a wedding is neither appropriate nor respectful. But it's an exciting time we're living in, and even as a Canadian I catch myself talking a lot about how the election might affect me.
Ten years ago, if you had asked me (and many people did) if I would ever live in America, I would have told you absolutely not. Countless times I have enthusiastically listed the attributes of Vancouver and Canada as a whole, and why these things would keep me living comfortably and happily in America's Hat (i.e. Canada). "Never! Not for any reason! Give me a break!" I would laugh off Americans and fellow Canadians when pushed on the topic. But alas, here I am typing to you from a house in Los Angeles, where I am currently living part-time. I'm giggling over these words as it feels like a confession. I'm also laughing because of the silliness that phrases like "never" and "not for any reason" conjure in me now. If I've learned anything in the past 10 years, it's that the second you say you'll never do something, before you know it, you've willingly shopped for a dress and high heels. This makes me laugh. This, of course, has nothing to do with the election, but it does have something to do with the wedding.
On the plane coming back to L.A. from the wedding, I watched Senator Obama giving a speech in Cincinnati. I was in a middle seat even though I had checked in ahead of time online. Apparently, "everyone checks in online now." This according to a Delta employee, who distractedly tagged my bag as I politely (very Canadian) asked if there were any window or aisle seats. "I did check in online," I said, to which she shrugged. I laughed. It made me uncomfortable, as it always does, when people in positions of authority seem complacent or unnecessarily aggressive. I laugh at funerals. I laugh at weddings. I laugh when someone yells at me. And I laugh when someone who used to have the power to look and see if there were any available window/aisle seats, shrugs helplessly at a machine. "Nerves," I tell myself. I laugh because I'm nervous. Or maybe so I don't cry? Or perhaps it's to diffuse the pointless rage I feel when I'm traveling?
Where was I? Oh, yes. In a middle seat somewhere between Atlanta and Los Angeles at 35,000 feet. So, I'm between 2 adults on the flight watching CNN, and more specifically, Barack Obama speaking to an enthusiastic crowd of supporters about how anyone making under $250,000 a year will not see any change to their taxes, and that includes plumbers. And I sort of cracked up. The people I was sitting between both looked at me, then the TV and then they looked away. I'm not sure if they were Democrats, but who knows. Just because they didn't immediately turn their TV's to CNN doesn't mean they were Republicans silently judging me ... but I assumed they were anyway.
When I sat down hours earlier upon boarding, the women next to me witnessed me trying to turn on my overhead reading light. When I finally figured out that the controls for the light were in the menu on the TV, I turned to the women and burst out laughing. "That took all my brain power. I've exhausted all my genius. I may as well turn the light off as my brain is too tired to read now." One of the women sort of laughed and then apologetically explained the TV's to me as if I had never used one. It was horrifyingly funny. But only for me.
This opened up the floor for conversation. After touching on where we live, why we live there and what we do, I caught a glimpse of Obama on CNN and asked her if she was excited for the election. I should not have asked this question because it is impolite to talk politics with strangers, and it's also stupid to ask someone at the start of a five-hour flight what they think about an election. Mention it in conversation as you disembark the plane, if you do it at all, but not at the start.
She remarked that she was, in fact, "excited for it to be over with." Which is fair. "So am I," I said. At that point it would have been totally reasonable for me to pick up my book or plug in my headphones. But I didn't. Because there is something explicitly wrong with me and I have no manners. I'll spare you the details of the next 20 minutes. To sum it up, I basically ranted about the war (yep), taxes, health care and abortion. Then I cheerily and awkwardly turned back to my book after basically demanding that she go to sleep. Fun! I'm laughing at this now, but I wasn't then.
The family behind us had two kids under 5. During the flight, the older of the two pushed the younger one off him and they subsequently got into an argument. The parents, as well as most of us around them, laughed when the youngest declared the older "insensitive." For no reason, I then tapped the woman I had assaulted earlier and said, "My sister and I are 28, and still fight like that." Although I know she was attempting to smile, it appeared to me to be a grimace.
Upon landing, the second the seat belt sign was no longer illuminated I sprinted to the bathroom and avoided any awkward goodbyes with my middle seat section. The first toilet was stuffed full of recycling and garbage. The second bathroom gave way to a toilet out of water and full to the brim with s---. I laughed so hard I'm sure people waiting in the aisle, who didn't already think I was insane, now did.
To tie this all together, let me say this: When Sarah Palin laughs, it feels condescending and patronizing. It ignites deep-seeded irritation and anger inside me. When John McCain laughed through parts of his "town hall" rally on Sunday, I felt sorry for him. The laughter seemed mean-spirited at times, and often too scripted. But when Senator Obama laughed about how even plumbers wouldn't see their taxes raised, or quipped that John McCain spent most of his time talking about Obama, rather than what exactly he was going to do to help the country through the economic crisis, I felt like Obama's laughter was similar to mine in that moment in the bathroom -- looking down at a toilet that had run out of water, full of s---. It was funny. A real kind of funny, though. Not awkward funny or patronizing funny or mean-spirited funny. It was just kind of funny. And so I laughed.
And though no one was there to bare witness to my laugh, it was enough for me to know someone would have to come clean up the mess. I quietly hoped that they would find it even just a little bit funny, as I had. And I also hoped they didn't end up needing a plumber.