HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
July 16, 2007, Herald Journal

Laughing is not allowed now


It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. We laughed our heads off at something funny when it was either impolite or totally inappropriate to do so.

When I was a freshman in college, my roommate and I were carefully inching our way down the sidewalks on glare ice. I grew up in Miami, Fla., where it was never cold enough to make ice, much less cold enough to make ice to walk on.

Another of my friends joined us. She was from California and didn’t know anything about walking on ice either. She began berating us for walking so cautiously. She said the safest way to walk, was to walk normally at a normal speed.

Whoosh. Both of the California girl’s feet went out from under her and she fell smack on her back. We tried to stifle our laughter because the California girl was furious we saw her fall. We couldn’t, though. We were exploding with laughter. In between guffaws we said we were laughing about something else, although I’m sure she didn’t believe us.

That same year, my sister and friend were sitting in church behind a man who might have been sleeping or maybe he was just hard of hearing and didn’t realize how noisy he was. He suddenly went “Ho-ho-ho-hum,” right out loud.

My sister and her friend got the giggles and couldn’t stop. It was the kind of giggles where no sound comes out, but your whole body shakes.

As soon as my sister got control of herself, out of the corner of her eye she’d see her friend shaking violently next to her. She’d start laughing all over again. It was a vicious circle, because she made her friend laugh, too.

People in the congregation were giving them dirty looks for laughing, but they were helpless. The loud man was oblivious to the whole episode.

The third incident happened a couple of years later, again while I was in college. There had been a fresh snow the night before. The maintenance workers cleared the sidewalks, but not the sidewalk intersections. There were little ridges of snow for students to climb over on the way to their next classes.

A girl ahead of me tried to climb one of those slippery little ridges. As her feet slid down the sides of the ridge, she speeded up her footwork to try to regain her balance. Soon her legs were moving so fast sliding down, over and over, that they looked like a wheel, the way cartoonists draw someone trying to run fast. She finally fell forwarded onto the ridge and the sidewalk intersection.

This was the hardest I have ever laughed in my life, and yet I didn’t make a sound. I don’t know how I did it, but I ran to the bathroom in a nearby building, ran into a stall, closed the door, and then my laughter erupted. The other girls in the bathroom thought there was an insane person in that stall.

I bet you can think of times when you laughed and weren’t supposed to. In fact, you’re probably laughing about it now.