Shared Absurdity

Laughter is a wonderful thing. Laughing in public can be equal parts joyous and embarrassing depending on the situation. But laughing with a stranger over a shared absurdity is, in my mind at least, a delight.


I’ve been told many times in my lifetime, as recently as a couple of weeks ago, that I have a great laugh. Strangers have sought me out in restaurants or stores to let me know, the creator of the laugh they heard from across the room, that they love my laugh. I’m not really sure why this happens; I think everyone’s laugh is a kick in one way or another. So whenever someone takes the time to compliment me on mine, I’m always flattered and just a little baffled. I do know that I have a loud laugh. Folks at one of my previous, open-office work environments told me they could always find where I was by just following the sound of my laughter. Nice, I think, except this was a very strait-laced company so I’m not sure this kind of ‘behaviour’ met with executive approval. Oh well; another good reason I’m not there anymore. But what comes with this ‘gift’ of a ‘great, loud laugh’ is, in my mind, the responsibility to share it as often as possible. Make other people laugh too because you never know, that may be their only laugh of the day.

I tell you this because yesterday, during an ordinary, mundane visit to the vehicle licensing office, I experienced a completely random, delightful laughing fit with the woman who was helping me.

Allow me to tell you a story

Since moving here to BC, I have been on a marathon attempt to get a BC drivers’ licence and health card (here in BC, they are one and the same… smart, no?). Unfortunately, on my first visit to the licensing office, I was advised that because the ID’s I presented (my Ontario drivers’ licence and my passport) did not have matching names, I could not apply for a licence. My drivers’ licence has my middle initial and my passport has no reference to my middle name. Honestly. So began my epic quest of getting a replacement birth certificate (did I mention I had just moved across country and none of our belongings had been delivered by the movers?). I waited until our belongs arrived and searched in every logical place (and a few illogical ones) I could think of for my birth certificate. I know I had one, it was just a question of where?

After that search ended fruitless, I applied for a replacement certificate online. Given the two options for speed of processing, I chose regular which was described as 3 – 5 weeks. This was mid-August and we had three full months to comply with the provincial expectations for updating our licences. No problem, I thought foolishly.

I won’t bore you with the details but SIX AND A HALF MONTHS LATER I finally received my replacement birth certificate. All I can say is, the Ontario provincial government likes snail mail. A lot.

To the licensing bureau I go…

So off I went, finally, to the licensing office to get my new BC drivers’ licence. How exciting! The associate assigned to me asked about my glasses and if I needed them to drive. Not legally, in Ontario at least but nonetheless off we went to the eye exam area. At this point, my anxiety piqued just a bit because I have strabismus; a condition where my eyes do not align properly. One of the impacts, for me at least, is poor depth perception and an inability to see images in 3-D… this saves on movie experiences because going to a 3-D theatre is a waste of money for me. But practically speaking, eye exams generally include a component testing depth perception, which I inevitably fail. Would this be cause for denial of my licence here? Let the worrying begin.

The first test was just a series of four numbers on different coloured backgrounds; easy peasy. Then the attendant asked me to read off what was in box 2B. “Excuse me? I don’t see a box 2B.”

“Just read off what’s in the box. 2B” she repeated.

“I don’t see a box 2B” I repeated. This could go on a while, I thought inwardly.

“I really just need you to try, here” she said. What was I to reply to that? I am trying, I just don’t see anything even close to being a box 2B. Or not 2B (Ha! Sorry, had to do it). Was this a strabismus-induced blindness? Would this disqualify me from driving in BC? My mind began racing.

“I’m sorry, I don’t see a box 2B” I said again at which point she let off an annoyed-sounding sigh, paused and then remarked, “oh wait, maybe I didn’t turn it on.”

Shared absurdity

And there we have it. The two of us burst into deep, raucous laughter, her for the sheer ridiculousness of the situation; me the same with a healthy dose of relief mixed in. What a silly little exchange but everyone around us was now looking and I’m sure wondering, what on earth is so funny about an eye exam? But what also happened was a lot of smiles peaked out from behind masks, eyes squinting and cheeks rising in happy observation.

Shared absurdity*. It made my day, and hers’ too so she said. I hope you get a chance to share a laugh today. You’ll be better for it.

 *If you like the idea of shared absurdity as I do, take a few minutes and watch this TED Talk; you won’t regret it.

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