Holding Back Laughter And Other Public Disasters

At a very young age, three I think, my mother sat me down in our living room and handed me a Berenstain Bears book. I don’t remember what it was about. Let’s just pretend it was the one where the little boy bear freaks the actual fuck out because while they were all on their journey toward moral enlightenment, he realized none of them had bothered to but on any goddamn shoes. Yes. I think it was that one.

So my mother sits me down on the couch, hands me this book, and says, “I’m going to teach you how to read.”

It turns out that either she was an actual wizard, or I had picked up the basics prior to our lesson because I read the entire book in one go.Now let me pause here and explain that I’m not trying to advertise myself as some advanced creature. While I started reading at a young age, I reached other milestones at a slower pace, things like walking and, believe it or not, talking. My point is that despite the medical pacing we’ve subscribed to, kids just do things when they fucking want to. I apparently wanted to read young.

My son is much different. Fueled by what can only be explained as demonic prowess, he started walking at eight months. (If you’ve never had a baby, this is fairly early.)  Because we were stupid, my ex-husband and I celebrated this with the unparalleled glee brought to us by ignorant first-time parentage. I will not encourage such a thing next time around. In retrospect, it was a rather unsettling event the first time he walked. He’d pulled himself up using the table (also his first time) and then he just fucking walked off. I imagine you’d feel the same panic and confusion if you walked in on your cat smoking a cigarette.

Anyway, back to the point. As soon as I figured out that I knew how to read, I never stopped. I suspect that this was part of my mother’s master plan for peace. You can’t talk or run or scream when you’re reading. She played a well-executed game of literary freeze tag, and I have nothing but respect for that. Nicely done, Connie.

Here we are now, present day, and I’m on my way to a convention. I forgot to fully charge my iPad last night, so I had to take a trip back to Paleolithic times and buy an actual book with pages and shit in it.

They didn’t have any trashy historical romance novels available (my poorly concealed, highly embarrassing guilty pleasure which may or may not surprise you.) They did, however, have Tina Fey’s book Bossypants which I’ve meant to read for years as I highly respect her sense of humor.

We’re about two hours into a five hour flight and after cheating my way through a crossword puzzle, I decided to read a bit.  The book is a surprisingly easy read. I’m not sure what I expected, but it’s definitely worth picking up if you haven’t already.

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I read…I’m gone. It’s gotten better since I’ve had to constantly listen for the sounds of a small child, but if I know I’m in the clear, I disappear. I’m gone. I don’t know where the fuck I am, what time it is, who in Christ’s name is around me – I basically get sucked into a black hole.

Whilst in my Tina Fey black hole, I apparently laughed out loud a few times. “Out loud” is probably an exaggeration as I was more giggling quietly to myself. I know what I did because I was there with me, even if I was in my black hole. It was more along the lines of a visible laugh, less of a physical one, like when you know someone is undoubtedly amused but they’re not quite wheezing and choking. I don’t know why I’m feeling so defensive about this or why I feel compelled to excessively explain this, but whatever. I digress.

Since I was in my black hole, I forgot that I was sitting fairly close to someone. I was in the window seat, and he was in the middle. He must have arrived at the arm rest auction before the aisle guy and myself because he won all the arm rests. In fact, I wrote this blog post in my journal with my face pressed against the window. I have the marks to prove it.

While I was IRL LOLing, he had begun, unbeknownst to me, to stare at me. I have no idea how long he was staring at me, but I froze mid-shoulder shake when I finally realized. I then turned slowly toward him assuming he’d been trying to get my attention. Maybe he needed to move into my seat since he’d already claimed half of it with his elbow. I tried to be accommodating.

All he did was stare at me. It wasn’t an angry stare. It wasn’t a gaze of admiration. He was merely looking at me like he was silently acknowledging that I was in possession of a face and he’d just so happened to notice it.

He continued to stare even after I looked away. He finally looked back at his laptop a few seconds later and carried on like nothing had happened. I pressed my face harder against the airplane window and struggled to hold back the laughter that would be nothing like the soundless snickers of yore.

Holding back laughter is always disastrous. I tried doing this in the symphony once. I was with Amanda and our friends Joe & Chris who no longer speak to us. We got a case of the giggles and wound up laughing and snorting our way through a particularly sad piece about the death of a young friend. The difference then was that I could blame my laughter on Amanda and I could claim that she was culpable for egging me on. This time I was just a girl smashed up against a plastic partition teeming with all manners of terrific diseases, and I had lost the battle. I was laughing loudly, tears streaming down my face.

I eventually calmed down until I caught him staring at me again. Another round of laughter. He eventually went back to his work.

I still have no idea what about that situation made me laugh. It’s not particularly funny – more odd, to be honest.

Why was he staring at me? I wasn’t being loud. I hadn’t attempted to reclaim the armrest THAT WAS RIGHTFULLY MINE BUT WHATEVER I’M OVER IT. I just don’t understand what he was looking at.

I don’t know, maybe it’s peculiar for people to laugh when they read. I just enjoy laughing and there are obviously unfortunate repercussions when I try to hold it in. (Amanda and I miss you, Joe & Chris.)

I’m not trying to get all ‘Murica on you guys, but I think it’s well within my right to laugh wherever I want. Speaking of that, I concluded that there was no way this man was American. Americans don’t stare at you and make unwavering eye contact with you unless they’re trying to sell you something or they’re going to kill you and turn your skin into a replica Hermes bag.

I have no idea what the purpose of this narrative is other than maybe…do what you want. If you want to laugh at the symphony, do it. If you want to start walking really young, have at it. Embrace your inner kid and do things whenever the fuck you feel like it.

And if that doesn’t resonate with you, at least leave with this: I probably sat next to a serial killer on a flight to San Francisco and I lived to blog about it.

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