Whimsy gets me into trouble. The part of my brain responsible for seriousness and tact loses priority pretty quickly to the part of my brain which oversees the production of punch-lines, mischief, and merriment. I have an especially difficult time resisting any good setup for a joke, no matter how inopportune the timing might be.
For example, once when my wife was complaining about the pains and difficulties of pregnancy, I might have implied that, for me at least, she was one of them. Her lead in was so beautiful that I started giggling in delight even before I told my joke. I had to say it after that, because otherwise she might have thought I was laughing at her pain, when in fact I was just mocking her. (Oddly, she didn’t see this as an improvement at the time.) Then later, during a conversation about additional children, when she asked me if I could bear another nine months of her being a difficult pain, I said something like, “It’s been more than nine…. Oh, you meant while you were pregnant.” (Have I mentioned that my wife is merciful?)
What can I say? I have a sickness.
The most notorious example didn’t involve my wife, however; it involved my sister. Thankfully she also inclines toward mercy, or my life’s story might have ended in a barrage of tiny fists. (She’s smaller than I am, for which she and her husband are probably thankful.) Actually, who am I kidding? If she weren’t merciful, she would have smothered me in my sleep before I perfected my skills at being a nuisance little brother. (And perfect them I did.)
The story starts with her first car. It leaked. Actually, that’s not an adequate description. That sounds like a slight problem with the seal around one of the windows, something that might cause an annoying drip. What she actually had was a swimming pool cleverly disguised as a sporty coupe. It was evidence that car seats, similar to plane seats, can be used as floatation devices. We could have traveled the desert without fear. Her car had tides. Well, I’m exaggerating obviously, but it was pretty bad. She got used to driving with wet feet.
Finally she bought a brand new car, a pristine and wonderful car for which she had labored and saved. She was so proud of it. (Cue the foreboding music.)
Not long thereafter we were driving along a boring barren stretch of highway–the only sort available in the desolate swamp of my youth–when a rainstorm materialized above us. It didn’t appear a foot above our heads and affect only us–I think that sort is mostly for bad moods in cartoons, or for my wife when I tease her about being unpleasant during pregnancy–but the weather transformation did happen in what seemed like a matter of seconds. Suddenly we drove from dry road to wet, at speeds entirely ill-suited for the exchange.
The wheels lost their grip, the car started spinning, and we careened off of the road into the adjacent lake. Don’t worry; we made it out of the car. That part of the story isn’t interesting or important though.
As we stood beside the highway in the minutes afterward, my sister was understandably upset. I tried to be calm and comforting; I tried really hard. After all, not only had we just faced the possibility of severe injury or death, my sister’s new car was stuck in the water and most probably totaled. It wasn’t a time for joking.
Unfortunately, trying to comfort my sister about the fate of her water-bound car just reminded me of the puddle carrying debacle it had replaced. I couldn’t help myself.
“Look on the bright side,” I quipped in my pluckiest voice, “you’re probably used to having a car filled with water!”
Her answering look was somewhere between “Et tu, Brute?” and “For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”
She got the last laugh, I suppose. She eventually gave that car to me and got one for herself which, to my knowledge anyway, has never imitated the Titanic.
Also, I think I was the only person injured. While we were waiting with the police for a method of recovering her car, I had an itch on my ankle that I couldn’t reach. I didn’t try any elaborate methods though, because it didn’t seem important enough at the time. Later I found out that the itch was a bug, though. Apparently it used my helplessness to burrow into my ankle. I still have a scar.
See how much I suffer for my art?