I have an offbeat sense of humor, and sometimes things I think are funny fall flat.
I guess that’s true of many, if not most, people at one time or the other, but it doesn’t feel terribly universal when you’re sitting with a group of your peers and realize either you weren’t as hysterical as you thought, you were totally off with your reference, or your peers are your peers because of job title, not age, and they’ve never heard of the (very famous, Oscar-winning) film you used as a punch line.
In my case, I was working at a major bookstore, and we were having some annual pre-holiday training. The staff was split into small groups, and the various managers led their groups in practical exercises.
Quentin, one of the assistant managers, was in charge of my team, all seven of us. I was in my 40s, Quentin was maybe 30, and the six others were no more than 25. I should have known better.
“You have a customer who’s going on vacation to Turkey with her husband in January, and she wants to put together a Christmas stocking with things he can use for their trip. What would you suggest?” Quentin asked his bored employees.
The suggestions were made half-heartedly. A map — a travel guide to Turkey — some games or crossword puzzles for the plane trip. My team members were missing the obvious.
“A DVD of Midnight Express,” I said.
No one got it. In fact, they’d never heard of the movie. As it turns out, none of them were even alive when it was released. Well, Quentin may have been in diapers, but he still wasn’t familiar with this iconic film. I was left with the option of either explaining my joke (usually a bad choice) or telling everyone to ask their parents.
For those of you not familiar with Midnight Express, it’s a fictionalized account of the true story of a man arrested for smuggling hashish out of Turkey. It was a tortuous experience, and eventually he escaped, before certain death in the Turkish prison.
Okay, maybe not the film to watch before a vacation to that beautiful country. Still, I laugh at my own joke even today, more than ten years later.
The stereotypical requirements for a desirable spouse go like this, “attractive, intelligent, with a good sense of humor.” Translation? “Someone I’m attracted to, who is as smart, but not too much smarter, than I am, and who laughs at the same things I do.” I know there are people out there, even other people on that same job (who sadly were on a different team), who would have laughed at my joke.
My friend Laurie would laugh. That’s one of the reasons she’s been one of my best friends for more than 35 years. We may find humor in odd things, but we’re sharing the joke. Her husband has the same brand of humor, and it’s helped get them through some tough times. In fact, they can joke about the pitfalls of marriage, something some of my friends forget to do.
You have to laugh, or you’ll go crazy. Find the humor and share it.
And hang on to the friends who can’t help themselves and laugh with you.
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