“I’ll Behave, I Promise”

Posted by mwallach on December 23, 2011 in Crazy Follows Me Everywhere |

Dear That’s Life,

It goes without saying that I try to find humor in all aspects of life. Sarcasm, my default setting, often gets me through challenging or difficult situations that could otherwise leave me in tears. That said, I do appreciate that while it may often be entertaining, even humor has its time and place.

Sometimes even my children prefer I shelf the classic sarcastic retort in exchange for a normal response. During a heated conversation with my daughter, I was about to lighten the mood with some sort of comment akin to what I might usually say, but was asked to stop even before I started. “And don’t think you can make this better with some sort of joke or sarcastic line, Ma,” she said, knowing full well with whom she was dealing. “It’s not going to help.”

On more than one occasion, this child has called me out on something I have done, and she’s been right. Stopping me in my tracks at that moment, however, I was at a loss as to what to say. While she may have been correct that humor was not what was called for at that second, all I could come up with was, “It won’t?” Suffice it to say that right before she walked away out of complete frustration, she gave me a good stare, followed by a roll of the eyes – all of which I rightfully deserved.

Although I admit my behavior in that instance was worthy of rebuke, I am not sure why numerous people have decided to deliver stern warnings regarding my behavior in anticipation of an upcoming event. I have not even done anything wrong and despite that, numerous fingers, both literal and figurative, have been waived in my general direction. That is not to say I have not earned myself a reputation. Regardless, I have been convicted of and am being punished for a crime I have yet to commit. (Wasn’t that the premise behind Tom Cruise’s “Minority Report?”)

With a drive north across the border scheduled for the end of the week, considerable preparation has gone into this trip. I have made sure my passport is handy, my car has extra windshield fluid in the trunk and my warmest boots are packed. While the cold does not bother me, there is also no reason to freeze. In addition, extra food and spare blankets have been readied should something go awry. I also reminded my fellow passengers, who are not members of my family that they, too, need to check their passports lest I need to leave someone at the border. Amidst the conversations back and forth between the friends coming with me, it seems there is an underlying concern that when we arrive at the Canadian border, despite our passports being current, we will not all be granted entry by our neighbors up north.

Three separate people have felt the need to tell me not to make jokes when we arrive at the border crossing. It seems that either the border police do not have great senses of humor, they take their job very seriously or they take their job too seriously. Maybe it’s a little of everything. Somehow, my cracking jokes is so ill advised that there is worry it may detain us or even prevent us from making it across the border altogether.

My husband, ever the adult, was the first one to give the advice. “When you arrive at the border crossing,” he said, “refrain yourself from making comments.” He was concerned that my inner repressed comedian would get the best of me. Forget that my jokes could get me in trouble, he was worried they would not let us through. While I assured him I would keep the jokes about the open bottles of booze in the backseat to a three comment minimum, let’s just say, that did not make him feel better. “See?” he replied with more than a touch of frustration. “THIS is what I’m talking about.” I smiled, told him to relax and promised I was just kidding, though I was already satisfied with the reaction I had just received.

While I know I can behave when I need to, others have not been as easily convinced. Another friend who has made this trip often, and met numerous sets of border police, warned me as well. “I know, I know, I know,” I replied, sounding like a petulant teenager whose parents keep telling her to take out her nose ring and cover her tattoos before they arrive at Grandma’s house. Knowing me well enough, she still did not believe me. I had joked with her that I was prepared to leave any of my fellow passengers at the border if their passports were expired, despite my friendly reminder to make sure that was checked. She laughed – and then told me they were not the ones she was worried about. “Just keep your mouth shut,” she said, sternly but with a smile. “They really don’t think things are funny.” I promised I would not do anything to compromise the trip, but I think she is going to have to see it to believe it. Once I arrive safely in Canada, she’ll see I did just fine.

It seems my friends know me well, as a third friend delivered the same warning, prompting me to post their comments on Facebook. “Am I that transparent?” I asked my Facebook friends. After telling someone else about the advice I had received and the comments on Facebook in response to my post, she had something else to add. “And after you get through,” she said, “don’t post anything sarcastic about the border police either!”

Ye of little faith. But if all else fails, I assured one of my fellow passengers he could always use the “Your Honor – she’s an idiot” defense that my husband was prepared to employ in traffic court, had it been necessary. Talk about preparing for anything that my come our way on this journey, one of us in the car is a lawyer.

As Seen in the South Shore Standard Dec ’11

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