Kill the air with laughter


I try to make people laugh. But sometimes they choke.

I’m standing in line at a corner store and someone in front of me is sharing a laugh with the cashier. He gets his change back, still laughing and the cashier says a final, funny remark as he leaves.

Now I approach. The cashier’s got a big smile on her face and is still laughing.

But in that that second where she pulls her gaze from her laughing partner to my face, her smile disappears; her lips curl back to a business-like, unemotional position and her laughter stops with a noise that sounds like a speeding car coming to a sudden stop “HaaHahah, Ahhhhh  Mmmmm.” It says: “Oh. You. You’re a stranger. Great, back to work”.

Now I feel like the Grim Reaper. My presence has blacked out the sun, and sucked the joy from the room.

But rather than accept the new, somber mood, I’ll invariably say something because, I gotta keep the fun going. Partly it’s a challenge – “You think this guy can make you laugh.” “Watch this.” But mostly it’s not to be a killjoy.

The cashier then says: “Your drink comes to $3.00.”

“$3.00?  Does this have alcohol in it?”, I reply

Once I see the look on the cashier’s face, it’s clear awkwardness has clubbed fun to death.

“Uhh. No there are no alcoholic drinks in here”, she says.

“Right”, I say politely and hand her a five dollar bill, and wait for my change, wincing from the shrapnel of my comedic grenade.

World Cup blue balls

I’m Canadian and grew up with hockey and baseball as my two primary sports. While I played soccer as a kid – I’ve never followed it and can only cite Real Madrid and Manchester United as teams I know off the top of my head.

Nevertheless, I like sports – so I planned to watch some World Cup games this past weekend, and not because of some romantic notion for the “old country”. Yes, I have English family and distant, distant ties to France. But I’m Canadian. I’ll cheer more seriously for the Montreal Canadiens or Ottawa Senators than a country from which I’m once removed.

But I still want to watch and see what soccer is all about. (Yes, soccer. Not “football” as much of the North American media now refer to it, in what seems like a contrived attempt to fit in. “Football. See, I respect your sport. I’m cultured and worldly just like you!”)

Firstly, I think the World Cup tournament lives up to its name much better than Major League Baseball’s World Series. According to the World Series, the U.S., Canada, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Korea and Japan are the world, which is maybe also how Disney envisioned things when they wrote “a small world after all”?

The second thing I’ve realized watching some games, goals are as rare as an albino platypus and corner kicks as ineffective as putting a cap on the BP oil leak, leading to failure 9 times out of 10.

In a hockey game, shots generally come at a goalie consistently, creating lots of goal chances. In soccer, it seems just kicking the ball on net is an accomplishment. The majority of the time the ball sails over, around or beside the net or just bobbles around in front of the net without the goalie touching it.

I quickly began to understand how scoring a goal in soccer is more of an engineering feat than scoring a goal in a hockey. It’s the equivalent of launching a space shuttle versus starting a car.

So many things have to go right in succession. A good pass, a good run or ball handle, a good view at the net, and a good kick on goal. Then it’s still no guarantee.

As a fan – you’re constantly disappointed. A good pass – yeah!, A good ball handle – holy fuck, yes!! – And then the ball is stolen. Shit!

The farther each sequence goes, the more brutal it gets without a goal:

A good pass – okay! A good run or ball handle – shit yeah! a good view at the net – Yes, yes, yes!! Oh, but he kicks it 50 feet over the goal.

Jesus Christ!

I felt like I’d developed blue balls, experiencing one failed climax after another.

In response, I began to lose enthusiasm for each good step, the longer the game went on:

A good pass – big deal!, A good run or ball handle – whoop-tee-doo he’s just gonna screw it up! a good view at the net – Whatever!! Sure enough, it would end with another ball rocketed into the crowd.

And then, finally – miracle of all miracles – like a photographer trying to capture a rare species that comes out once every 25 years between 8:12 and 8:13 during a full lunar cycle with an easterly wind and low tide – it happens.

GOOOOAAAALLLLL!

The ultimate release.

I thought, of course, announcers scream it like this. They’re having an incredible orgasm, having been thwarted by 30 minutes of false promises.

Now that I understand pent up frustration is central to being a soccer fan, it makes sense some fans apply twenty pints of beer to the pain.

Sick in public

Yesterday I felt sick to my stomach at work, and as I was leaving to go home someone came up to talk. Great.

The more we talked, the more I felt sick and anxious. If I replied to her one more time I was certain it was going be all over her feet. I visualized myself doing it and already felt humiliated, anticipating the whispers and finger-pointing at work in the next few days:

(whispered) OMG. Him. That’s him. He threw up all over his workspace. It took the steam cleaners until midnight, to get it out. Gross.

And, the obligatory jokes:

Hey, I didn’t know that’s how you felt about us.

Thankfully I escaped the conversation, my workspace, and the entire office vomit-free. Aside from a few shaky moments on the subway I made it home and was huddled around my toilet in time for the fireworks.

After my close call, I thought about the last time I was sick or someone I knew was sick in public, during the day, without it being alcohol related. Not an easy task. The only clear example that came to mind was from way back in elementary school.

Our class was watching the movie Poltergeist. (A crazy choice, thinking about it. Had this been played in a class today, I’m convinced parents would stir up such hell it would make Poltergeist’s version seem Disney like). I think it was near the end of the year and the teacher had run out of things to teach us, or were plain tired of us and used movies to kill time.

There’s a scene in the movie where a female lead falls into their backyard swimming pool. She flails about, grabs a skeleton that’s resting in the water and lets out a loud horror-movie scream. Right then, a girl in my class, sitting on my left, snapped her head to the right to look at me. She had a look of resignation, as if she couldn’t hold back something she was about to do. Oh, I thought, she’s going to cry.

No, vomit. All over the ground.

Panic. Desks and chairs flew to the side of the room as if magnetized, while we scrambled out of the splash zone.

After another minute, when it was clear, the show was over, everyone left the girl alone with her thoughts and a puddle of half digested popcorn.

But even today, the one-two-three sequence –  the high-pitched movie scream, her sad look and finishing sound effects  – BLEEECHHH – play like a song, which still makes me laugh.

She could win a Field’s medal, outwrestle a shark in an underwater cage match, create a lemon/lime fruit hybrid – Lemime!, or be the first person to juggle swords while riding a unicycle across Canada. But the first thing that would come to mind is her sad face and heavy heaving.

It’s entirely unfair.

And, that’s why I’m glad I made it home.

5 words and expressions ready for retirement

1. Douche (bag) (y)

Yes, it’s been fun because there’s something satisfying about saying the middle part of the word – OOOOOO. But I think it’s lost its novelty now that it overwhelms comment boards and conversation for the remotest slight:

That shopkeeper shortchanged me. What a douche.

My dad won’t give me the car. Fuckin’ douche.

But I think another reason to retire “douche” is that it’s a fairly open-ended insult. Calling someone a douche suggests they may redeem themselves in the future. A motherfucker – not so much.

He or she may be an idiot, arrogant, have bad taste in music or be an obnoxious self-promoter, but using douche means you don’t necessarily want to wipe them from the earth.

In many cases, you’ll probably see this person again through work or acquaintances. So, “douche” satisfies as a middle ground insult, enough to distance yourself from the insulted, but not enough to nuke them from your life.

Still, I think if you’re going to insult someone, why not put your back into it?

Consider in place of douche, then, the simple and pointed: Asshole.

A satisfying choice because it says what it means, and can help cross someone off your Christmas card list.

2. Jump the shark

Time may fold on itself, the earth may open into a bottomless sinkhole and you may never know if you had a second shot with Jenny Higgins, if I say this ultimate of paradoxes.

But its gotta be said:

Jump the shark has …. jumped the sharked.

It was inevitable.

Just as an aging baseball player has to face up to his slower bat, weaker knees and shrunken testicles from years of steroids, jump the shark has to go belly up to make way for the next generation. It was fun while it lasted.

I’m a fan of Happy Days, and The Fonz will always be cool, regardless if he jumped over a shark on waterskis or rode a llama down Main street.

So to ring in the death knell of jump the shark, here are three other animal options to replace it:

Kicked the kangaroo McDonald’s kicked the kangaroo after Super Size Me.

Fucked the fish
Axl Rose fucked the fish after his fourth promise and renege of Chinese democracy.

Balled the bear – Adopting African babies, balled the bear after Bruno.

3. By <X>, I mean the complete opposite

Used anytime a writer wants to be self-referential and tell you “I AM SMART! Don’t hold the rest of this article against me”, is now as common as a dandelion. But a gorgeous, inspiring, transcendent beautiful and idyllic one.

By gorgeous, inspiring transcendent beautiful and idyllic, I mean nightmarish and traumatic

4. In situ

Socrates was probably the first guy to use this expression in writing, but 21st century writers have it fully hijacked.

It means – in the place or site of something. For example, viewing the Mona Lisa in situ is much more profound than viewing it on the Internet.

But instead of saying – viewing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre is much more profound…writers can now show you they know Latin, and brag about their latest vocabulary acquisition even though in situ may sound like a deviant sexual act or morbid torture instrument.

Maybe most ironically, in situ accomplishes the complete opposite of what it’s definition intends – it sounds out of place.

5. Curate

In their tireless efforts to create new names for obvious things, marketers have stumbled wholeheartedly on “curate or curator” to now replace the title writer or editor.

Here’s a couple examples from job descriptions:

The media curator will gather and write and reassemble and help us look through all of this information that’s out there, putting a magnifying glass on certain parts of the virtual world and saying, ‘Here’s something to look at.’

A content curator is someonewho continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online“.

Rather than just produce words as a writer and collect and organize information for a magazine as an editor, a curator does the exact same thing, but can now appear a lot more culturally relevant whenever someone views their business card.

The pain of a bad joke

I feel physical pain when someone tells a bad joke. It’s like hearing the wrong note played on a violin.

How do you get holy water?
Boil the hell out of it.

Screeee. Raaannnnng. Aiieeeee.

I react like I’ve experienced blunt trauma.

My shoulders hunch immediately, like they’re protecting my body from another bad joke to come.

I instinctively grit my teeth and breathe out of my mouth to avoid inhaling the same air the joke had a second ago. Like the air has suddenly turned toxic.

Then I turn my whole body and head away from the joke teller almost in contempt.

As if their joke was so morally reprehensible, it was like I’d opened a door and found them having sex with a pig while wrapped in layers of bacon and ham.

Finally after a minute or two, I open one eye to see if I’m still in the nightmare. And, if all’s well, I stretch my body back out, shake out my hands and legs as if I was covered in spiders, and struggle with the overwhelming need to take a shower.

My favourite TV channel


I preferred watching my sister watch TV growing up, rather than an actual TV show. Soap operas especially. She would repeat a cycle of six emotions for each soap sequence she watched:

First, alertness and surprise.

Jesus Christ why is Vivian talking to Victor now!!! He sold their baby to Guatemalan guerrillas in exchange for mining rights to oil. Don’t talk to him.

Second, fear.

Oh god, I know something bad is about to happen. I just know Victor’s going to hurt Vivian somehow. Tie your tubes Vivian, save your babies!

At this point her hand would usually go to her bottom lip.

Third, hope and happiness.

Yes Vivian, tell him how deranged his deranged mind is! But whoa. You still love him. Don’t throw it all away. You still have to admit your love, Vivian. Yes, yes tell him now!!!

Fourth, melancholy and sadness.

He doesn’t love her. I can see it. Here it comes, he’s gonna tell her he doesn’t love her.

Fifth, disbelief and suspicion.

Why’s he telling her he loves her? He doesn’t even come close to loving her. I know he doesn’t. Wait a minute  – he’s saying it to use her for something. To go to Guatemala!  Wait, noooo Vivian. He’s going to sell you too. Don’t do it. Stay in Wyoming for god sake.

Sixth, anger.

You sonofabitch Victor. How could you betray your own wife!!! She’s stood by you when you were possessed by the Devil, possessed by a sheep and possessed by an antelope. She even talked you out of a sex change, you bastard!!!

Next comes a commercial break or a new scene. She takes a deep breath, resets her expectations, and the cycle begins again.

Endless entertainment.

Powder room? Urination station!

I think it’s funny that we still call two piece bathrooms – Powder rooms as if we’re living  in Victorian times and must speak in euphemisms:

“Good sir. Could you tell a Lady where she could, Ahem (clears throat),  powder her nose”

2010 translation:

“John. Where’s the bathroom (wiping sweat from forehead), I have diarrhea.”

Possible names to replace powder room:

Poo closet

Pee suite

Waste dump

Urination station

The in-house