It was the end of the work day. The front doors were locked, my headphones were on, and my cash drawer had been counted. All the coffee canisters were loaded onto my cart, and I was pushing it from the wrong end, toward the back door. Then, something moved, and all I could do was watch, as the double-black coffee container slipped sideways and crashed to the floor, taking the creamer with it. I think I let out a slight yelp, expecting something to break into pieces, after the impact.
You know the saying, “it never rains but it pours”? As I stood there, gaping at the coffee and creamer puddle, my co-worker let go of his mop in order to gesture in my direction, or maybe just complain… and his mop bucket tipped over. You know, the big yellow one with the wheels, it just fell over, bucket first. The mop didn’t even have time to tip first. My fellow employee turned to stare at the ever-increasing flood of mop water, and I started to laugh. Apparently, it was contagious, and everything wanted to tip over. Our deli guy laughed, too, and told us we were “trippin’”, while my boss came and peered out, cautiously, to see what was going on.
“I didn’t do it! That mop bucket fell over all by itself!”, was how I greeted him. I fully expected the other guy to accuse me of casting a spell on his bucket, but apparently it was already tipsy (or completely drunk), and ready to fall over, when left unattended. Then, I continued to chuckle, as I picked up my coffee canister and creamer bottle. Our facilities guy had no trouble cleaning up the mess, since his mop was lying right there, already.
Would this have put you over the edge, after a long day at work? I’ll admit, if I’d been too tired, I might not have reacted as well, but my sense of humor usually gets to me. How do people get through the day without laughter? Grousing your way through the day doesn’t help anyone at all. I’ve never been able to do that, because I’m too busy looking for the next thing to amuse me.
You can ask anyone I’ve ever worked with, either now or fifteen years ago (I was a summer staffer in my late teens). Especially when you work on your own, you have to be able to laugh at yourself, or you’ll never be able to laugh at anything. And laughter has always been in full supply, with me.
When I was in my teens, I was a summer staffer at a Bible camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Of course, we had separate dorms for guys and girls, but we didn’t have a central hangout spot, during our free time. So, we would compromise and sit on the front steps of the girls’ dorm to chat, before heading to our next scheduled task. Our small porch had about three steps, and there was never enough room for all of us, so some of us would sit on the railings. I loved sitting on the railing, but unlike normal people, I didn’t sit sideways with my legs hooked underneath for support. I sat parallel on that piece of wood (made from a 2×4), knees to my chest, with my feet somehow propped on the wooden beam. Nothing to hold onto, no room for mistakes, but I trusted in my own balance, which rarely let me down.
You guessed it. Someone told a funny story, and I laughed. I tipped right off the railing, without any time to even try to catch myself. Timber! The floor of the porch was only about 2 ft off the ground, so my railing had me about… six feet up? I actually hit the ground laughing, which is why the staff guys didn’t go into full-blown panic. I think they thought I’d be dead. So, they sat down in their tracks and laughed, too. If I was alive enough to think it was funny, then they were allowed to do so, too.
Just a couple of year ago, when I was the full-time housekeeper at a Bible camp in Pennsylvania, and in charge of my very own crew of summer staffers, I had a chance to train them well. The time I fell down the last several steps into the Retreat’s basement, and sprawled there full-length, trying to figure out if I’d broken anything, I distinctly heard one of my girls, still upstairs, ask the other, “Do you think she’s dead? Maybe we should go check.”. Followed by laughter.
Our full-time cook and I would have our own adventures, during on and off seasons. One time, we decided to help transport a full-sized chalkboard up the hill to the Tab building, in a golf cart that had a roof. Where do you put it? I’ll never know how we managed it, but somehow we got that chalkboard under the roof, but on top of the steering wheel, with the wheeled legs hanging off the sides. This allowed a six inch window of vision between the front of the cart and the chalkboard, so basically, you couldn’t see in front of you. We climbed onto that golf cart and drove off, paying attention to the road, from the side, and then once we’d turned uphill, praying that we hadn’t missed anything that was in our way.
Any “drunk driving” that occurred during that session was because I was laughing so hard that the steering wheel was shaking. Our maintenance guy saw a chalkboard driving up the hill, and just shook his head, when he heard the hysterics coming from behind it. But we made it up that hill without hitting anyone or anything, and managed to get it back off the cart, too.
During my final summer as housekeeper, my two summer staff girls and I had a week of strange happenings, where accidents seemed to be escalating. One day, my 2nd-in-command got zapped by an electrical outlet. I wasn’t laughing, then, because not only was I worried about whether she was okay, I was worried her boyfriend might kill me if she got hurt. : ) The following day, I opened a door and nailed my other staff girl in the center of her back. First time THAT ever happened. The following day, I was trying to fix some window blinds, while standing on a chair. And that chair wobbled, I lost my balance, and if my waist hadn’t hit the chair back, on the way down (stopping me short), I’d have hit my head on the window sill.
We’re not very superstitious people, so this is not the point where we started peering carefully around corners, wondering if the bogeyman was out to get us. This was the point where we started to laugh, joking about what would happen next. I’ve forgotten what happened to each of them, next, though it wasn’t too terrible. Then, it was my turn again, and I turned my ankle and fell down my front steps, adding to my medley of scars. I promptly informed my girls that it was their turn again, and while I chuckled, they looked alarmed. But I think it stopped after that. Have you ever had one of those weeks?
When I was in Australia, I don’t know how many times my sense of humor came to the rescue, during crazy days with the kids. I’m sure every mother has experienced those. The kids are sick and throwing up, the cat’s been using the bathroom somewhere odd (and the room stinks), and there’s a bird that got into a bedroom (and is having a hissy fit). The time my Bub threw up her whole bottle of milk on the kitchen floor, I was horrified for her sake, but the expression on her face was so surprised that you couldn’t help but laugh. The “Did I do that?” look was so clear, no words were necessary.
We had friends over for a birthday part, recently, and my brother and I helped look after the kids, outside. The three of them were taking turns on the swings, but my bro sometimes forgot that the 3 year old was just that… a 3 year old. Her hands weren’t as strong as her brothers’, and she didn’t hold onto the swing as tightly as needed. Matt pulled that swing up pretty high and… down she went, onto the ground, having had the daylights scared out of her. But before you cry out in horror, she wanted back on again, within 5 minutes. Kids are resilient, so you can laugh when these things happen. At least, I do, once I see that there’s no blood and nothing broken. And 15 minutes later, when my brother was standing on the swing, going back and forth, she wanted to sit on his feet and hold onto the swing from there. The previous incident was completely forgotten.
How often has laughter gotten you through a hard day or a hard week (or even a hard year)? Maybe you’ll think I’m just too inclined to find things funny, but I really do pay attention when I’m doing it. I don’t like being laughed AT, so I try not to do it to others, especially if it will cause hurt feelings. I do NOT like to upset people or hurt anyone’s feelings, and I really do behave myself with people I don’t know very well. I’m much more inclined to laugh at myself, and let others share the amusement. My current co-workers can attest to me keeping them laughing, all day long. But if someone trips and falls, in front of me, while I’m at work, I’m going to be concerned over whether they’re okay, not looking for the funny side of it. Having someone do something silly at summer camp is different than during the everyday.
I hope you haven’t gotten so stuck behind your unsmiling face that you forget that life is fun (as a very wise friend of mine always reminds me). Don’t be serious all the time, look for the bright side of things! Are you overly pessimistic? I can be, in some areas (though I consider myself a realist), but I can even see the funny side of that. I hope my post puts a smile on your face, and helps you to look for the joy in the everyday.