Inappropriate Laughter

I have a problem with inappropriate laughter.

Visiting my parents’ house for family dinner is always a fun experience. Inevitably, we always turn to reminiscing about childhood stories and sharing funny memories, mostly to the embarrassment of someone in the room.

On this particular Sunday, we talked a lot about laughing at inappropriate times. For example, I shared how I laughed when a neighbor’s grandmother fell through the railing to the front foyer floor of their home; how I laughed when my sister knocked her teeth in on a playground, and how I always try to make my husband laugh at very serious moments during wedding ceremonies. I think everyone has had a case of “the giggles” in church as a child. My sister and I shared how we would often laugh inappropriately when our parents spanked us as children. Once, when a former boss gave me a directive, I chuckled a little. When she asked what was so funny, I only laughed more out of discomfort.

I know that I have a problem with this. It must be a coping mechanism or something.

So last night, after we all shared some funny stories about getting the “giggles” at the wrong moments, something so horrible happened to my mother that I almost cried laughing.

After dinner, my mom asked my sister’s fiance if she could ride his Yamaha scooter. He said sure, since she had done it before with no problems. My husband and I were already in the car, about to pull out of the driveway, when my husband said, “How funny would it be if she crashed that thing?” I chuckled and so did he. After all, we were already in that mindset right after a funny dinner, when everything you talk about is comical because you have been laughing for the past hour.

Can you tell where this is going?

My mother mounted the scooter in what I can only describe as a Hawaiian shirt, a “mom skort” and sandals ensemble. She took off quickly and were impressed as she seemed (for a few seconds) to know exactly what she was doing. Suddenly, everything went wrong. She swerved left, swerved right, then simply tipped over and the scooter landed on top of her in the middle of the street in front of a neighbor’s house.

Immediately, my husband and I burst into laughter, uproarious, inappropriate laughter. It was horrible. Here was the woman who birthed me, lying in the street after a horrendous scooter crash, and all I can do is laugh at her misfortune….and her legs splayed in the air….and the replay of the image as she went flying….ok, so you see it was kind of a tiny bit funny. Maybe a little?

Even as we approached my mother, who was lying in the street with a scooter on top of her, we continued to stifle our outbursts. When we finally reached her, a neighbor was offering to call 911, and my father was reassuring the neighbor with “No, she’s fine.” When my father reached her, he said, “Okay, get up, the embarassment is over.”

But it wasn’t. Not by a long shot. No, it was only just beginning.

My mother continued to lie in the street, clearly unsure whether to get up so we all knew she was ok and could laugh, or whether to stay prostrate and powerless, imploring our sympathy. After some coaxing, we were able to get her to walk back home, bloodied knees and elbows. She was fine after all, with the exception of a few scabs and some bruises she probably has this morning.

Later last night, my husband and I could not sleep, replaying the story to each other from our respective angles and different perspectives, and wishing we’d had the forsight to record it all on our camera for later exploitation on YouTube. We both agreed that it was just minor enough to be funny, but had it been any worse, it would not be funny at all. But, even as I said that she was very lucky not to have been seriously injured, I am still not so sure I would not have laughed in the very same way.

That’s how I know I have a real problem with inappropriate laughter.


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