March 1, 2018


Last night, the kid and I stopped by a Rite-Aid to pick up some huge waterproofing bandages so P.J. can slap one onto her trochar site like Flex Tape and shower without flooding her peritoneal cavity and turning into a water balloon.  These things matter.

When the kid and I are having a discussion out in public, we rarely notice others or pay any mind to their reactions.  Once, we were in the drive-thru at Wendy's, and the cashier opened the window right when a heated family argument about Grand Theft Auto V was taking place, and she heard the kid yell from the back seat, "I haven't even killed any prostitutes yet!"  A second lucky cashier once heard, "Who the fuck puts mayonnaise on their hot dogs, Jason?" at a Taco Bell.  I just give the cashier my debit card each time with a dead innocent look on my face, as if daring her to suspect that I might be piloting a shuttle for deranged minors.

Rite-Aid was no different.  Any customers in the vicinity of the aisle that held hair dye, styling products, bladder control pads and first aid supplies would have overheard our conversation.

Me:  "There is nothing funny about the word 'sip'.  It just means to drink a quantity of a liquid in a small amount.  It's just a word."

Kid:  "...." (He can't speak because he's doubled over laughing and his face is red.)

Me:  "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

Kid:  *wheeze*  "Sip!"  (Walks while making audible trying-to-suppress-laugh sounds.)

Me:  "You're smoking weed, aren't you?  Where did you get it?  I don't even smell it on you.  I should smell it.  Did Jason give it to you?"

Kid:  "I'm not ... smoking ... weed ... swear ... SIP!"  (The diaphragmatic laugh-spasms are preventing him from forming complete sentences.)

Me:  "You should have stayed in the car.  I told you so."

Kid:  *wheeeeeeeeeeze*

Me:  "Just hang on.  Bandages.  Where the fuck are ... oh, those.  Yeah.  These should do it."

Kid:  "... BANDAGES!"

The new funniest word in any language ever gripped him afresh and he leaned against a display of pool noodles and clutched his stomach.  I walked off and went to pay for the bandages.  When he was capable of joining me, I looked at the teenage cashier.  "Do you think the word 'sip' is funny?"  She started giggling.  This set him off again and did not help my case.  "But you can't go by me," she said.  "I laugh at everything."

Out of the door and walking back to the car, our voices fading into the distance ...

"It's not funny!"

"Yes, it is!"

"It isn't!  There is nothing funny about 'sip' or 'bandage'."


I know we laugh the resolve cognitive dissonance, but that doesn't explain adolescent giggle fits.  There is an entirely unrelated process going on in teenagers, probably to do with hormones or not being jaded from over-exposure to life.  Most things aren't boring yet.

Nah.  My money is on their croggled brain chemistry.

We were all there.  It's impossible to recapture the sensation of every single god-damned thing you encounter being funny, but we can at least remember it happened.

My best friend and I were what our teachers described as easily amused.  Well, okay, one flat-out said "weird" and then changed it to "easily amused."  Given that we were at the time floating in a pool of other teens, this means we stood out somehow from the baseline.  She liked us, so I have to believe it was a compliment.  Um.  I'm sure it was.  A compliment.  Work with me, here.

Our reputation was enhanced by what happened to the physics textbook.  That kind of shit gets around in the teachers' lounge.  We were out driving around one night and in the process of trying to turn around in the muddy driveway of a ramshackle house, out in what felt like the howling wilderness, physics happened and we found that her car was suddenly facing the wrong direction, with its rear bumper undesirably close to a tree, and also the car was pointing toward the sky.  Trying to move it only spun mud.  Following the required mutual freak-out, we realized that we had to get ourselves unstuck.  The only objects in the car were my physics textbook and a folder.

There was nothing for it.  In a hasty demonstration of what physics can do to help a person, for instance, drop a ball bearing from a plane at 35,000 feet onto a small desert island, or launch a rocket, or avoid having one's whereabouts on a given evening discovered and thereby also avoid being grounded until age thirty-seven, I ripped off the front cover of the book and wedged each piece of book under a rear tire.  This provided the nudge of hoped-for traction, and my friend gave it some gas and the car shot forward back onto the road.  She got out and we walked over and surveyed the remains of the physics book.  Pages were fluttering down in accordance with the laws of gravity and settling into the muddy ruts.  The torn-off cover was across the yard.

I respect books.  I gathered all of the pieces and bunched them into a sort of memorial pile.  The next morning, the caked mud dried to the pages, I presented the heroic erstwhile book to our teacher as a symbol of the power of physics.  It had taught us much.  She considered the apparition for a moment, and then looked at us and said, "If I don't ask what happened to this book, will you promise not to tell me?"

We told her.

Fast-forward six months.  The two of us were asked to attend a convention for some society that has to do with being smart and getting good grades, an event that required dressing up and behaving properly.  Adults who have forgotten what it is to be young tend to think that "gifted kids" are also mature for their ages and fully capable of conducting themselves appropriately in civilized settings.  So they have these conventions.  And I will never understand why we were nominated to go.

The teacher who was the society adviser drove us there, weighed down during the two-hour drive with the creeping realization of her error and the knowledge that it was too late to turn around.

We did convention-type things there.  We ate convention-type food.  We stayed in a convention-type hotel room at a convention center.  We befriended the girl in the next room, whose name was Amy and who seemed to dwell on our plane of weirdness, in that she was just as easily amused.  We found ourselves at a table with Amy and our teacher and couple of other miniature adults one afternoon, replete with dry chicken breast and tasteless split-top rolls, expected to listen attentively to an old white man in a suit and tie give a speech about something boring, maybe ambition or achieving your dreams.  Something like that.

Our table's proximity to the speaker, and our proximity to each other, combined with our ages and the supremely boring speech to create conditions in which it was virtually impossible not to engage in unseemly giggling.  A leftover crust of roll was funny.  The tablecloth was funny.  We knew how to behave, and we were wearing dresses and pantyhose and proper shoes, but we were also teenage girls.  The air above our table held the tension of suppressed laughter.  The pointed glances from our teacher only made matters worse.  If we were boilers with meters, the needles would have been in the red and something would have started beeping or hissing.

At this point, most of the others in the room were fighting drowsiness.  We were not.

The three of us held it together in tenuous self-control until the speaker, who was reaching the impassioned bit of his motivational drivel, hammered on the podium with his fist and in a raised voice declared, "You have to ask yourself, 'What do I want to be in twenty years?'"

Amy very quietly said, "A bird."

The details are fuzzy, but I seem to remember that what happened next caused the man to resentfully pause his speech and regard the spewed ice water running down the left side of his dead-sensible podium, while we were escorted out of the room, which was large, so the escorting-out took a long time, and all eyes were on us.

Hmm.  Yes, I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be a speech about ambition and really going places in the world.  For our part, we went out into the lobby, where we finished discharging the pent-up laughter.  I don't know Amy's fate, but my best friend and I were quickly back in the car and on the road home.

Who says we didn't go places?  I'm a bird, am I not?

If Amy had said, "Sip," it would have had the same effect.

I was just giving my kid a hard time about the weed.  Weed at his age would be redundant.  He doesn't need it.  He's easily amused.

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