Monday, January 05, 2009

Toilet Humor

While hiking up Camelback Mountain with my almost-twelve-year-old son the other day he asked me how I got this gig writing a humor column. Between attempts to draw air into my lungs with what seemed to be a male elephant with a thyroid disorder sitting on my chest and his less-than-fit girlfriend sitting on his lap, I began to explain to him the laborious process of sending out thousands upon thousands of e-mails begging people to read my work and asking them if they would be kind enough to pay me in a currency recognized by the US Government – the market for beaver pelts and beads is way too volatile for my comfort level – for running my humorous little anecdotes on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Thinking I made a fairly reasoned explanation, I left him to ponder this wisdom and began to ascend a portion of the trail that required the use of handholds and carefully choosing where to place my feet to assure I would live long enough to write a couple more columns. By the time I reached the top of that stretch, Jack had already scampered up some other way – I swear he has mountain goat blood in him, which may not be too hard to imagine because both my wife and I have relatives from the South – and he awaited my arrival with a follow-up question: he wasn’t so much concerned about the ins and outs of how one goes about getting a job writing a humor column; he was more bewildered by the fact someone actually thought I was funny enough to pay me in something OTHER THAN beaver pelts and beads AND publish my musings in a newspaper – a vanguard of truth dedicated to keeping the public informed and up to date on what’s happening in the world (when the cable is out).

Rather than trying to reason with him (and in the interest of preserving what little breathing capacity I had left), I just looked at him and said, “It’s just one of the great mysteries of our time. It ranks up there with Stonehenge and why the French are so enamored with Jerry Lewis.” He began to ponder on that, and I’m not quite sure to this day if it was the natural phenomenon of Stonehenge or the absolute absurdity of the French’s love that caused his pensive nature.

As we were completing our ascent, I tried to see it from my son’s perspective. I’m the guy who marches him and his brother to bed on school nights – no humor there. I’m the guy who broke it to him that there’s a difference between boys and girls – definitely no humor there; that was just cruel! I’m the guy who demanded silence when trying to fix the toilet and then proceeded to break that silence with a few choice words directed at the fixture in question in a tone that seemed to be begging a response from an inanimate object – that’s not funny, that’s nuts!

Do you think people’s children see them the way the world sees them? Did Abraham Lincoln’s son see a true statesman when he looked at his old man or was he thinking, “What’s with the hat, dad? You’re tall. We get it.” Did Marie Curie’s kids see a pioneer in radioactivity or were they saying to each other, “Do you think mom will ever make a meatloaf that ISN’T burned to a crisp?” Did Socrates' kids recognize him as one of the founders of Western philosophy (which is contrary to the popular belief that it was John Wayne), or were they saying, “Enough with the questions. Yes, I want you to pass the salt NOW.”

The next time one of your kids gives you that look that can be interpreted as “was I adopted”, don’t bother breaking out a DNA test. Just wait until they get ready to go on their first date and break out the volumes of naked baby pictures of them when their date shows up, and they’ll wish they were adopted.

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