Gentle Humor

I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Month: October 2012

Beaten by Waves Like Gerard Butler

I saw Gerard Butler on the Daily Show last night. My, my, my he is one fine specimen. He was promoting his surfing movie, “Chasing Mavericks,” and they showed a clip with this giant wave rolled over him – it was thirty feet high and looked like a tsunami. When John Stewart asked him about it he said, “Yeah, it was really scary – I looked up and saw this thing and then it rolled over me, and another one was right behind it. I finally got up to the top for air and here was another one…”

Spoiler alert: He survived but only after someone on a ski doo got to him and hauled him out. The movie’s insurance company said, “You inexplicable idiot. No more. You use a stunt double from here on out!” Butler didn’t say those exact words, but I imagine this is about what the insurance said to him.

The purpose of this blog, however, is to tell about MY experience, which was quite similar to Butler’s except the waves were higher. Or at least they seemed to be. We were in Maui at this “locals only” beach full of surfers and their families, along with the odd pale tourist.

The waves were easily ten feet high, which is no sissy wave, especially when you think of most waves being three or four feet. It’s daunting when one is coming right at you. You see nothing but a wall of water and then, if you don’t have enough sense to dive under it, you get pounded like tough meat in a butcher’s shop.

When you dive under, you feel the wave rolling over the top of you, from your head to your toes, like one of those chairs that massages your back when you get a pedicure. It would be pleasant if it weren’t so utterly frightening.

Once the wave rolls over you, and you come up for air, you open your eyes and see another ten-foot wall of water. It’s right there. If you’re lucky you gulp a breath of air and dive down to the ocean floor and feel the wave rumble over you again. You come back up, thinking that these crazy back-to-back giant waves are just a fluke,  and another wall of water is right there, big as life and twice as ugly.

I was hoping to get the hang of it after about twenty of these, but I didn’t. I was worn out and started swimming back toward shore, which was about fifty feet away. When I got out of range of the giant waves crashing on me, I got sucked up by an undertow. It started sweeping me sideways like I was a cork in river rapids. I tried to remember the rules of undertows from my lifeguard days, “Don’t swim against the undertow, swim parallel to shore but consistently try to make your way toward shore in a diagonal fashion.”

As the water continued to drag me sideways and out to sea, I started to panic, which the Lifesaving book said not to do under any circumstances or you’ll drown for sure. There was a lifeguard on the beach looking all official and worthy, and he simply watched me sweep by, apparently thinking I had the situation under control because I didn’t have enough wind to yell for help. Luckily, I turned and saw a head behind me being swept along at my exact rate of speed, and we went racing through the water like this for a good ways, making a parallel and somewhat diagonal course toward shore. Just seeing the other head bobbing along made me feel less anxious, and I was able to relax and really experience how exhausted and close to drowning I was. Then my toe brushed against a rock and I realized I had the possibility of getting dragged over jagged rocks as well.

But (spoiler alert 2) I survived it. It was one of the rare times I’ve been really afraid in the water. I have a whole new respect for waves and the ocean, and for Gerard Butler. I’m going to see the movie just so he and I can commiserate together in my mind.

Frightening Spam

I logged in to write today’s blog and found this new comment from one of my delightful followers: “Hello, folk! Do you have wonderful leisure time after work day? Are you glad with your chick ? We may advise you good solution of relaxing with ideal female companions. You can look through them on www….”

Hum, I do, in fact, sometimes have wonderful leisure time after work day. Also I bet chick is a typo for check, and well, to be honest, I’m not happy with my check. It could be bigger. And I always have fun relaxing with ideal female companions – who wouldn’t? This website seemed to be a great place for me to visit, and it was so friendly, what with calling me “folk” and all.

So curiosity got the best of me, and I clicked on the link. I can honestly tell you that I was shocked and appalled to find a site with pictures of semi-naked women. These are not the ideal female companions I was picturing. Some of them had chests that would make a jersey heifer jealous – I felt sorry for them – they’ve got to have back problems lugging those things around.

At the bottom of the page was an empty photo box with the words, “Your picture here.” Oh my, I don’t think so. It would take ten of me to make up the size of some of those gals, if you know what I mean. That’s just on the one side.

I sure learned a couple of things tonight. (1) If something sounds too perfect on the internet, it’s probably going be tacky, (2) I will never visit another website from a comment that WordPress recognizes as spam, and (3) I’m thankful that I don’t have forty extra pounds of meat sagging on my chest or I might be SOOO tempted to jump into that empty “Your picture here” box.

Those anatomically preposterous women will haunt me this Halloween Eve worse than werewolves and mummies. Oh the horror!

The Curse of Pepper

I love pepper. I sprinkle it on everything – potatoes, tomatoes, popcorn, ice cream, cottage cheese. Pepper ranks right up there with chocolate and salt.

Salt and chocolate, however, don’t make me gag. Pepper does. It’s a real medical thing – pepper gets in some people’s throats and makes them cough like they’ve got a hair ball, except worse.

For this reason I try not to eat pepper in public. It doesn’t happen every time, but if pepper hits the right spot in my throat it’s going to be five minutes of severe coughing and gagging and people yelling, “Is there a doctor in the house?”

Once the coughing starts, I can’t make it stop. Drinking water – nope. Holding my breath – I end up raining a waterfall of spit drops on whoever’s in range. My eyes water like I got sprayed with concentrated onion juice, and my face gets red as a monkey’s bum.

In restaurants people get these really worried looks on their faces like I’m going to keel over in front of them. They’ll get up and start patting me on the back – patting harder and harder until they’re knocking what minuscule air I have left out of me. It does no good since the coughing must follow its full five minute course, and not a second less.

Sometimes I’ll get up and go to the bathroom to finish out the gagging in there, but this is not so good. There are smells in there – that I feel like I’m gulping odor molecules down as I try to catch my breath.

Today I choked at work on some pepper I mistakenly put on my collard greens, and while someone was talking to me I started to sputter. I tried to force myself not to cough, and it worked for a few seconds, until my coworker said, “Are you okay, your face is getting red.”

I couldn’t answer because it took all my strength and concentration to stifle the cough. To no avail, though. It started, and my coworker got upset because he thought I was dying, until my other coworker said, “She’s okay, she must have eaten some pepper.” I got up from my chair and headed for the bathroom. I heard him holler after me, “Are you going to be okay? Should I call a doctor?”

My other coworker piped up and said, “Hey, yeah, call Dr. Pepper.” They laughed, and I went in the bathroom and nearly fell over – they have GOT to get that fan fixed – and five minutes later returned.

“Hey, did you see Dr. Pepper when you were in there?” They giggled – I could tell they’d been sitting there making up Dr. Pepper jokes, so I decided to join in.

“No,” I said, “but I sure could use a pepper-mint. Anyone got one?  And your jokes are so corny – no, even worse than that, they’re pepper-corny.”

Pepper brings the clever out in me, I guess.

How to Find Happiness

Happiness. What is it, where do you get it, how much does it cost, why is mine on backorder, and when is it going to arrive?

What is it? That’s easy. It’s feeling good while, at the same time, not feeling guilty. Guilt is a big deterrent to happiness, and it especially afflicts those of us who were raised religious. A lot of things that could make you happy can also make you guilty – like you could steal something and be happy that you have it, but then feel guilty about stealing it – unless, of course, you’re a heathen.

(I only added the part about being raised religious so I could use the word “heathen.” What a great word. I so love the very sound of it.)

Where do you get happiness? In simple things, for instance, winning the lottery. Show me someone who’s won a couple million bucks and I’ll show you one happy honcho.

How much does happiness cost? They say you can’t buy it, and I believe that’s true, because I’ve never seen it in a store. If you find some, please buy it and send it to me.

Why is my happiness on backorder? Ha, ha, that’s funny. But seriously, a lot of the time happiness seems to hinge on some upcoming thing, like, “I’ll sure be happy when I get off work today.” So while I’m working, I’m not really “happy” because I’ve told myself I won’t be happy until quitting time. That’s a lot of unhappy hours.

And when is that backordered happiness going to arrive? Ha ha, another funny comment. I’m full of them – it just delights me. You can force yourself to be happy by doing this very thing. When I make mistakes, like washing a contact down the sink, I start cursing myself for being so stupid. Then I’ll look in the mirror and say, “You’re such an amusing clutz, that’s why I love you,” and I feel better. It’s amazing that I can completely override a negative emotion and talk myself into being happy, or at least not so dejected.

I once tutored this high school student who was perpetually miserable. He wanted to spend the whole hour session complaining about his mom, his classmates, his teachers, everything. Once I got so fed up that I jumped across the table and bitch slapped him. Not really, though I wanted to. Instead I drew a world and a big face looking at it with a frown. I said, “This is how you see the world.” Then I erased the frown and put a smile on the face. “But you could also see the world this way. The world itself doesn’t change. It’s just how you look at it.”

The kid bitch slapped ME. Not really, I just love saying “bitch slapped.” I’m laughing right now after typing it. It’s a blessing to be easily amused. But seriously, if you’re waiting for happiness to show up on your doorstep looking like a winning lottery ticket, you’re going to have a whole lot of dull hours. Happiness has a better chance of getting a toehold if you try to find humor in your everyday life – like when you’re reading this, and sending ME that winning lottery ticket.

Be Yourself – What a Bunch of Nonsense

When you were a teenager, did a grownup ever say to you, “Just be yourself?” To me this was exactly like them telling you to “Go look it up in the dictionary.”

How would you find the right spelling of a word in a place that requires you to know the right spelling of the word to find it? Grownups never had an answer for that, because they had never actually cracked a dictionary themselves, unless they were English teachers. Why couldn’t they at least give us a hint – a couple of letters – to get us started?

I could have used a hint about being myself as a teenager. When I was being myself and, say, flipping someone with a rubber band because that’s the kind of person I was deep inside, someone would get mad at me. Maybe it was because I was so good at it – I could hit someone in the chest with a resounding “thwack” at thirty feet. I finally realized it was a skill I shouldn’t practice on human targets.

Same thing with hitting people with snowballs, especially when the snow went down their shirt. So even though my “self” wanted badly to cream others with rubber bands and snowballs, I had to deny myself or risk getting a shovel full of snow in the face. Which actually happened to me last winter.

Let me tell you about it. I’ve got this cranky neighbor who was shoveling snow one day as I was walking my dog up the street. I playfully threw a snowball at him from about eight feet away that hit him in the leg. He happened to have a shovelful of snow ready to sling it to the wayside, and instead heaved it at me as if to say, “I’m a jerk and don’t you forget it next time you come around here with your playful BS.”

The snow hit me right in the face, and since I wasn’t expecting it and had my mouth open, it went down my throat and clogged my windpipe. I couldn’t breathe. It was quite frightening. I got my throat unclogged eventually by coughing forcefully like a three-pack-a-day smoker. Then gulping in the cold air caused a whole ton of new coughing. I have to admit I played this up a little once I realized I wasn’t going to die. It was a dirty trick to hoist a whole shovelful of snow in exchange for one measly snowball.

Here was a guy being himself (a jerk), and causing misery all the way around. It cost him a a lot of blubbering pleas for forgiveness and a bottle of wine he brought to my house later by way of penance.

I don’t think anyone should tell kids to be themselves. Tell them to be nice. If they don’t know what nice is, spell it out for them. “Don’t hit people in the chest with rubber bands, even if you are the best rubber band shooter in the whole universe. Plus don’t strangle people with snow.”

If you want to know the truth, I still don’t know who my “self” is, but I know I like the parts of me that are kind and sweet and considerate, and see the fun in life. So I’m glad that self is starting to win out over my other self which is ornery, mean, and spiteful and will cough a few minutes longer than necessary to make a jerk feel guilty.

In conclusion, thanks to my dear friend, Google, I never have to pick up a dictionary again. Not that I ever did before. A dictionary is like a First Aid kit. It’s good to have around but you never, ever want to actually use it. Although, who knows, you might find your “self” in there. It’s one place I haven’t looked.

Stubborn Southerners

So when I was back in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago, I went with my friend, Mary, to see her mom, Belle. I used to practically live at their house growing up. Mary’s dad, Demp, gave me the endearing name, “The Boarder.”

Belle lives in Fall Branch, out in the country, and since Demp passed not too long ago, her thirty-ish nephew, Josh, has been staying with her. Josh is a computer engineer who is currently out of work, most likely because he has no social filters. Mary informed me on the way.

Josh was downstairs stoking a fire in the unfinished garage/basement, but came up later and joined us at the kitchen table. Mary dished him up a bowl of chili.

“It sure is hot down there,” he said. “But if I build a hot fire in the basement, it’ll warm up the whole house. That way we don’t have to turn the heat on yet.”

Then he said, “Man, I’m hot. I’m going to take my pants off.”

“No you’re not, Josh,” Mary said in a low, controlled voice.

“Why not?” he said. “I got boxers on – it’s the same as wearing shorts.”

“No it’s not, Josh. You will not take those pants off and sit here at this dinner table eating chili,” she said firmly.

“I don’t see why not,” he said, and eased his tall, lanky body into the chair, brought his head close to the bowl and started wolfing down chili. All you could see was the top of his blond head.

Mary looked at me and mouthed, “See what I mean.” Then she said, changing the subject, “Do you get the Hallmark channel, Suzy?” I said yes. “We don’t get it here anymore unless you pay extra for it.”

Josh yanked his head up. “That’s not true!” he said like he was defending his mother’s honor. “It’s free with cable.”

“It used to be, Josh,” Mary said with contrived patience, like she was talking to an impudent child. “But a few months ago they took it away.”

“They did not,” he said like a defiant child. “You can still get it for free.”

“They sent us a letter, Josh, and said it wasn’t free, and when we didn’t pay extra they dropped it.” Her voice rose as the last words came out.

“You can still get it if you have cable,” Josh said, not giving an inch.

They went back and forth like this for some time, their voices almost shouting. Belle leaned over and said to me under her breath, “They sent me a letter too and said you had to pay more or they were going to cut it off.” I started giggling because it was so ludicrous. Who gave a crap either way? But these two were NOT going to let it go. Finally I said, “Mer, I want to get a picture of you and your mom.”

“I want you in the picture, too,” Mary said.

Josh jumped up and said, “I’ll take the picture.” I thought it was pretty nice considering he and Mary were this close to coming to fisticuffs over the Hallmark channel just seconds before.

My camera has an on/off button and a button to take the picture. That’s it. An imbecile could operate that camera. Josh, the computer engineer, didn’t seem to have any trouble. He pointed the camera at us, then looked at the picture on the camera’s screen and said, “Oh, that’s a good one, but let’s take one more just in case.”

We posed with arms around each other, grinning like a mule eating briars, and he took the picture.  Again Josh looked at the back of the camera and said, “That’s a really good one. You’ll be happy with that.”

Later that night, when I got back to my aunt’s house where I was staying, I uploaded all the pictures I’d taken, and every single one was there except the two that Josh took. My camera is a $400 Canon point and shoot, and it doesn’t make mistakes. Either Josh didn’t press down the shutter on purpose, or he deliberately deleted the pictures.

Mary might have won the pants battle, and she didn’t back down one bit during the Hallmark skirmish, but I do believe that Josh got the best of her in the end.

Su-then Hospitality

Speaking of Tennessee and being Su-then – that is a whole ‘nother world down there in Dixie. The things they do are amusing at every turn. The Cracker Barrel is an example.

After my lengthy flight from Portland, OR to Knoxville, TN (the closest airport to Kingsport that I could use with my airline miles), and renting a car for the last leg of the trip, I was starving to death and didn’t want fast food – I wanted collard greens and fried okra and black eyed peas and corn bread and other such Su-then fare. I wanted Cracker Barrel. I called my family and my Uncle Martin gave me the names of three exits with Cracker Barrels between Knoxville and Kingsport, an hour and a half drive away.

I parked the rental, mouth watering, and stepped up on the long porch of this mecca of southern cuisine. I passed all those wooden rocking chairs and for a second I was tempted to sit a spell, but figured I’d better get my name in because it was Saturday evening and the place was packed.

After a small wait in which I browsed the country store and thought about how good it was to be back in the South, a sweet girl with a cherub face seated me at a little table in the middle of the action. Waiters and waitresses zipped from table to table and said things like, “Hello, darlin’. Can I git you something to drink, sugar?” It was like that through the whole meal. I couldn’t take two bites without someone asking if they could get me some more water, “honey,” and if I was enjoying my food, or “Sweetie, can I refill that tea for you?”

When I went to the cash register to pay, an ancient woman with more wrinkles than a wadded up linen shirt was behind the register. I mentally stereotyped her, no doubt slow and fumbling, as she handed the change to the couple in front of me. When I stepped up to pay she briskly took my money and started ringing me up. “Sweetheart, did you have a good supper?” she said. “Can I interest you in some of this hand lotion? It smells so sweet. Oh and you really ought to try these caramels – they just melt in your mouth!” Not only was she quick, she wasn’t taking “no” for an answer until she up-sold me something from the gift shop.

With the drive ahead of me, it was going to be late when I arrived at my Aunt Mary Ellen’s house, and it was already way past dark, but I eased down into one of the wooden rocking chairs on the front porch and felt myself rock back and forth like the pendulum in a grandfather clock, listening to the soothing sound of wood rolling over wood, remembering the taste of that good southern food, the smell of the fresh-baked cornbread, and the sounds of families exchanging stories all around me as they visited at the Cracker Barrel on a Saturday evening. I mentally willed myself to slow down to Tennessee time.

I’d come back “home” to take a little break from life and get centered – and as I sat there rocking, I knew it was going to be a perfect trip. A couple walked slowly out of the restaurant, holding hands. He grinned at me and said, “How y’all doin?” There are no strangers in Tennessee – but there are some strange people. I’ll tell you about one of them next time.

I went to Tennessee a couple of weeks ago to get some fried okra and brush up on being Southern. Or as Atley, my son Chris’s friend, would say, “Su-then.” He’d make jokes about my accent, saying, “Chris, your mom’s Su-then,” putting an emphasis on the “Su-” part to bring out the accent. It got laughs from everyone, so I went along. When I’d say something like, “Atley, can you pick up your glass and take it to the kitchen?” he’d say, “Suzanne, you Su-then.” Maybe you had to be there to truly appreciate it, but now in my head the word is no longer “Southern” but “Su-then.”

Anyway, on one of the layovers in the airport (no one flies to Tennessee from anywhere in the US without laying over in Chicago or Dallas or both), I decided to write out my top most fun times, and was kindof surprised at the things I wrote down.

They weren’t the times when I went to expensive dinners or to fancy plays or even tropical vacations. They were just regular times with one thing in common. I was with someone and we got the giggles until everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, became funny and we burst out laughing over and over again at absolutely nothing.

I’ll give you a for instance. After high school I dated this guy who was pretty funny – I called him Bangum, a Su-then pronunciation of his name. He had a great bunch of friends who fortunately became my friends, and once when Bangum was out of town, his friend, Adrian Ferguson, asked if I wanted to go see a horror movie at the drive in. This was about the extent of our entertainment options back in the day in Kingsport, Tennessee – going to some B-movie at the drive-in.

The movie was so bad that we could predict every plot point coming way before it happened. It was the kind of movie anyone with any taste would have left after the first few minutes, but Adrian kept making sarcastic remarks about everything and I got the giggles. This prompted his humor to seek loftier heights, and he kept firing funny comments, each one more ludicrous than the last, until I was begging him to stop so I could catch my breath.

He wouldn’t stop. He had a captive audience, and there was plenty of material  on that giant outdoor screen. I can’t remember the plot, seems like it was about an illusionist who was so good that he could actually saw a woman in half – blood squirting out in all directions – and the audience only saw the box with the lady’s smiling head on one end and her wiggling feet on the other. Of course we, the moviegoers, could see the poor sawed lady screaming and guts and blood everywhere.

There was something in the movie about hitting a woman with a rubber hose. It was supposed to be horrible, but the whole concept of someone attacking a woman with a rubber hose sent us both into hysterics. Here’s the scene in our car.

Adrian: “You’d better behave, woman, or I’ll beat you with a rubber hose!”

Me: “Ha ha ha, oh please stop, don’t say rubber hose again, ha, ha, ha, no, no, no don’t I can’t take it anymore, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Where’s the bathroom – stop or I won’t make it, ha, ha, ha, please, you have GOT to stop.”

Adrian: “I’m going to beat you with a rubber hose.”

Me: “HA, HA, HA, oh please, please, please stop, HA HA HA HA HA oh my gosh I can’t breathe, stop, don’t say anything for a couple of seconds, let me catch my breath, ha ha ha.”

Adrian: “I’ll beat you with a rubber hose.”

I don’t’ know if I made it to the bathroom in time. I don’t know if we even stayed to the end of that dreadful movie. All I know is that I laughed longer and harder and with such complete abandon that I didn’t even feel like I was part of the world anymore.

That’s the great thing about going back to your hometown – I got to see Adrian and Bangum during my visit, along with a myriad of other friends and family – and we relived lots of fun times with fresh laughter.

I don’t care what Atley says, I’m darned happy to be Su-then.

Copyright © 2017 by Suzanne Olsen