A Twist of Humor

This is a column with a twist of humor. A new column will be posted every Monday.

Location: Newfoundland

I was born, raised, educated, and married in Toronto. I moved to Newfoundland twenty some years ago with my wife. So far nobody has asked me to leave. My wife asking me to leave doesn't count.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Beware Of Pregnant Women In Elevators

So there I was in this creaky old elevator on my way to a medical appointment. My only companion on this journey was a very pregnant woman. And because the trip had been made many times before I tried to enliven it somewhat by trying to see how much I could make the elevator shake by bouncing up and down. It was when I had the elevator shaking at its peak that I noticed a look of bewilderment, followed by a look of disapproval, from the pregnant woman. (I seem to cause these looks a lot.) It has been my experience that women don’t like to see men having fun. So I stopped.

Somewhere between the third floor and the fourth floor I noticed a red button above which a notice stated in big bold letters “DO NOT PUSH BUTTON”. Between the fourth floor and the fifth I stared at that button with all the wonder I usually reserve for the universe. Between the fifth floor and the sixth floor I pushed the button. The elevator shuddered to a stop and went dark.

Through the darkness the voice of the pregnant woman struck my ears, her words rimmed in ice, she asked me, “was that absolutely necessary?”

I looked at the dark ceiling of the elevator for an answer and said, “ah…well…as to necessary….well umm… you see…necessary is an…intriguing word…umm.” Needless to say I was let down horribly by the ceiling. When the lights went back on I glared at the ceiling reproachfully for its lack of help.

My eyes wandered from the ceiling to find the woman sitting on the floor. I also noticed a puddle of water. I looked up at the ceiling for the source of the leak. That’s when my pregnant elevator companion said, “I’m having my baby!”

“Umm” I said, “do you think that’s a wise thing to be doing now? For some inexplicable reason my sensible question seemed to goad her into anger and she flung a string of colorful and I must say creative expletives at me.

Quickly grasping that a crisis was at hand I turned the full force of my male intellect to the solution of the problem. After all, males if nothing else are problem solvers. I was immediately seized with the idea that if pushing just one button got us into this predicament then pushing all the buttons at once would probably get us out of it.

I was about to act on my idea when I heard a loud gasp behind me. I turned around to reassure my impetuous companion not to worry, because I knew what I was doing. She was still on the floor stubbornly intent on having the baby in a stuck elevator. Just as I opened my mouth to tell her to hold on I saw a baby’s head make an appearance. I quickly offered her my assistance. I assured her I could push the baby back or at least keep it where it was until a more opportune time was at hand. At this she let loose with another torrent of invective. I think this was due to the baby causing her some discomfort.

I have heard some women do swear during childbirth. I have to say though, I went through more than twelve hours of labor when my wife gave birth to our son and I never felt the need to utter even one mild oath. Despite all the dire warnings I heard before hand I encountered no problems at all. In fact I found it to be totally painless.

Despite my best efforts to persuade her otherwise, by the time we were rescued my elevator companion had delivered a baby son.

When she and her baby were on a stretcher I considerately asked her if she would like to know my name in case she wished to name the baby after me in recognition of the assistance I had given to her. This has been known to happen so I didn’t think the question was totally inappropriate, however, it surprisingly elicited even more expletives directed at me even as she was wheeled away.

I was in the middle of telling the elevator repairman that they really ought to do something about that red button when I saw the formerly pregnant woman sit bolt upright on the stretcher as it was taken through the lobby door. She pointed her finger at me and said, “you!...you!…you!…MAN!!!

When I related my ordeal to my wife she said the poor woman had saved her best expletive for the last.

Whatever did she mean by that?

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006

Unintended Consequences

When I was a youngster living in the time just after the Bronze Age, mothers used a subtle form of terror to control their children. I suppose it is still used by some today.

They would say things like, “If you don’t stop making those faces your face will freeze in that position, or if you don’t stop that you’ll go blind.” (Although I wear glasses today I didn’t go blind.) Another popular terror threat was, “If you don’t behave, the monster, or the boogeyman, or your father, or fill in the blank (as long as it’s scary) will get you.” The scariest threat was, “If you don’t behave this instant I’ll tell Santa.” I ask you, how many terror threats can be used on a child before he or she becomes paranoid?

A terror tactic used by my mother to keep me and my younger brother away from the dangers of the river that flowed not far from our house was to tell us the water in the river was so poisonous, that if one drop got on our skin, death would be instantaneous.

That was a major terror alert if there ever was one. It even beat being ratted on to Santa.

Of course the threat, although it scared us, didn’t keep us away from the river. It just added an element of forbidden excitement. It also added more paranoia to our already ample supply.

One day a bunch of us were playing cowboys down by the river when my favorite cap pistol fell into the deadly water. After it was carefully fished out with a stick, our paranoia got the best of us. After a rowdy and enthusiastic debate, we decided the only thing we could do was give the contaminated pistol a decent burial so as to keep instantaneous death away from ourselves and unsuspecting victims who might come in contact with it.

Shortly after the somber interment, calamity struck our posse of cowboys again. My brother somehow got the deadly poisonous water on his skin. Talk about excitement!

That thrilling turn of events caused another rousing debate to ensue.

On one side of the debate were those who said my brother should follow my cap pistol under the ground. Just to be on the safe side they said. Those opposed to that idea said he should be kept above the ground and observed for any signs the poison was working. My brother was of the opinion that being above ground was the better option, thank you very much. My position on the issue under debate was ambiguous. It was true he was my brother and I had grown used to him over time. However, because I was the eldest, if he succumbed to the poisoned water I would surely be blamed for the mishap. I hasten to add that at no time did the idea enter my mind that all his toys and other stuff would come into my possession if he became a permanent neighbor of the pistol.

I was coming around to the view that it was better to be safe than sorry and plead ignorance if my parents missed my brother and asked where he was, when one of the more pessimistic cowboys pointed out that we had no shovel to dig a big enough hole and not much time for obtaining one because it was close to supper time.

I then decided, much to the disappointment of most of the others, to take my brother home and hope my parents wouldn’t notice if he shriveled up and wasted away from the poisoned water.

Except for when my favorite television programs were on I kept a close eye on my brother, watching for any disturbing symptoms; and no matter how many times I asked him how he was feeling, the answer was always the same, “I’m alright, leave me alone you stupid jerk.” Considering the precariousness of his health I made some allowances for his ungracious responses before my patience ran out and I gave him a good poke in the stomach.

His snarky responses soon led to more than a poke in the stomach.

Because he really was alright it led to a big fight between us. I don’t want to speak ill of my brother but his attitude about my premature acquisition of his toys and stuff, while he was busy watching cartoons, left a lot to be desired.

My mother’s terror threat almost had unintended consequences for my brother. However, in her defense she probably had an overly optimistic opinion of the common sense of her eldest son.

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

Ants In My Pants

It started innocently enough. My eighty year old mother-in-law wanted to find some of her relatives. That they were dead and residing appropriately enough in a cemetery didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for the quest in the least.

You would think locating dead relatives would be a fairly easy task, considering that their mobility is somewhat restricted.

We rummaged through several cemeteries on the finger of land that separates Trinity and Conception Bays in Newfoundland, without digging up the hint of even a second cousin four times removed.

Eventually we found ourselves in an old decrepit graveyard that had been abandoned by all except for the permanent residents and one got the feeling had they been more mobile they would have left the premises too.

After searching in vain in that bedraggled weed patch masquerading as a cemetery, we called a halt to our search.

Before we left, I sat down on a comfortable soft mound on the ground to retie my shoe lace while my wife started to wander back to the car and my mother-in-law inspected one last decaying tombstone.

At some point in the tying of my lace I noticed that my white shorts had turned black. That’s strange, I thought. I then noticed the black was migrating up onto my shirt. I slowly realized the black on my shorts were ants and the soft comfortable mound I was sitting on was an ant hill.

As my wife and mother-in-law looked on in amazement I flailed away at the ants while divesting myself of my clothes, save for my sneakers and socks.

So there I was, wearing not much more than ants and a look of panic dancing and jumping around the tombstones while at the same time slapping my hands at the army of ants who were making themselves at home on my various body parts.

In the middle of my gyrations an old man materialized. “Are you going to paint your face?” he asked me.

“Paint what?” I managed to shout while rolling about the ground.

“I saw a fellow on TV the other night-on a program about the Amazon. Except for the shoes and socks he was dressed like you, only he had his face painted. He was dancing and jumping around just like you too.”

I managed to mumble through the leaves that had gotten into my mouth while I was rolling on the ground, that I was indeed not an Amazonian, nor was I going to paint my face or anything else.

“Does he belong to you two?” he asked my wife and mother-in-law who were slowly edging their way to the car.

They denied any knowledge of me while moving more quickly to the car.

“You belong around here?” he asked.

“No.” I replied, while doing a pirouette that would have made Nureyev green with envy.

“Where you from then?” he asked.

“Random Island.” I replied, while slapping at my arse.

“You sound like you’re from some place else,” he probed.

“Well, originally I’m from Toronto.” I replied, doing a jig and evicting ants from my belly button.

The old man paused for a second or two and then said, “Well that probably explains it then.

Minus most of the ants and wearing most of my clothes, I joined my wife and mother-in-law in the car where they ignored me as best they could. My mother-in-law said pointedly, “I didn’t see anything.” My wife assured her that she hadn’t missed much.

Unfortunately I still felt as if I were crawling with ants.

This feeling persisted and intensified so much that I pleaded with my wife to stop the car at the nearest secluded pond so that I could dive in and wash away the feeling of ants crawling on my body.

When we finally found such a pond I was so beside myself that I vaulted out of the car before it came to a complete stop, stripped off my clothes and dove into the water.

Immediate relief!

After a few minutes of diving under water and splashing about I looked up toward the shore and saw a dog with a cocked rear leg doing his best to raise the level of the pond. Beside the dog was a man.

“You’re in my drinking water.” he said.

I looked at the dog that was still hard at work and then back to the man and said, “What?”

“That water you’re splashing about in is what I make my tea with,” replied the man.

He also informed me that the majority of the town council would take a dim view of a naked man splashing about in the town water supply.

The dog, who apparently was a kindred spirit to me, didn’t seem to mind my presence in the water. He was now blissfully sitting in the water having a luxurious bath. Perhaps he, too, had had an encounter with crawly things that day.

Not wanting to do a disservice to the man’s tea, I stood up to make my way out of the water.

Upon doing so I heard shouts behind me. I turned around and saw a group of female hikers.

I sank back down into the water and looked around for help from my wife and mother-in-law.

They, however, were in the car driving away.

The man asked me, “You belong around here?”

“No,” I replied, sinking deeper into the water.

“Where you from then?”

“Random Island,” I said, going into even deeper water.

“You sound like you’re from away.”

“Well originally I’m from Toronto” I mumbled as I moved out into even deeper water.

While he pondered over my answer I sank under the water, the last shreds of my dignity floating to the surface in my air bubbles.

Before I went under I heard him say, “Well that probably explains it then,” and I saw the group of female hikers nodding in agreement.

© Mike Cook 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Beware Of Flying Turkeys

Getting through winter is like treating a hemorrhoid, you alleviate what discomfort you can and endure the rest.

However, one of the problems with trying to alleviate the discomforts of winter is that it leads otherwise sane people to do crazy things such as skiing.

If that seems like an extreme statement, consider this: once these irrational people get to the ski slopes they attach skinny sticks to their feet and then have themselves hauled to the top of a cliff where, clinging to a precarious perch, they make the incomprehensible decision to toss themselves to the bottom.

Whatever the reasons for this bizarre behavior, orthopaedic surgeons and their bank managers take much delight and financial comfort in this winter madness.

You might think that the skiers would be deterred by the sight of the ambulances lined up at the bottom of the cliff and the paramedics scurrying about scooping up broken bodies, but no, over the cliff like lemmings they go, right into the arms of the waiting medics.

As I’ve written above, winter does strange things to the minds of people, and I have to confess I’m not immune to this insanity.

Cross country skiing is the form my winter madness takes and while it isn’t as extreme as downhill skiing, it isn’t without its dangers.

For instance a poor sense of direction can also be dangerous as I discovered one winter day when my unreliable sense of direction led me astray.

The cross country trails at my ski club intertwine with each other and are in very close proximity to the downhill ski slopes. This combination caused me an unforgettable adventure one day when I was skiing through the woods and concentrating so hard on keeping upright and undamaged that I unknowingly went in the wrong direction for two hours.

So you can imagine my surprise when I skied out of the woods and found myself atop a very high downhill ski run.

I dug my toes into my ski boots, peered over the edge, and saw some downhill skiers bouncing their bodies down the steep incline. I was thinking what fools they were and how you wouldn’t catch me doing something as bizarre as throwing myself down a cliff, when a strong gust of wind upset my balance and sent me over the edge.

So down I went, in a churning bundle of snow, legs, arms, skis, body, poles, and fear scattering everyone in my path like bowling pins. Somewhere in my chaotic journey I found myself flying through the air like an eagle. A turkey suddenly finding itself flying wouldn’t have been more surprised.

My amazement at this phenomenon came to an abrupt end against the door of the women’s washroom which I knocked down en route to a stall occupied by the startled president of the downhill ski club.

I made my apologies and tried to take my leave with as much grace as I could muster but this proved difficult because she was standing on my neck yelling for help.

I managed to distract her by cleverly turning blue from lack of oxygen. She decreased the pressure ever so slightly when the blue turned to a spectacular shade of purple, allowing me to squirm from under her boot.

When I made my escape from the washroom, I noticed that the people I had knocked down like bowling pins were forming into an angry mob whose focus for some reason appeared to be on me.

I quickly sensed that perhaps this wasn’t going to be my day and made my escape into the woods on the cross country ski trails.

The outcome of all this was that I didn’t go near the skiing areas or Madam President for the rest of that winter.

I did spend a lot of time sitting in a lawn chair in my basement under a sun lamp sipping margaritas and reading travel brochures on places like Bora Bora, Tahiti, and Hawaii.

As I wrote at the beginning, winter can be a pain in the . . . well, let’s just say it can be a pain.

© Mike Cook 2006