ducks

“Hey, I got quoted in The Atlantic.”

“What?”

“I’m reading an Atlantic article about an AskMe thread, and they quoted me… OH WHOA, they blockquoted me.”

It was a good thread: full of compassion, laughter, and condolences. MeFi member dmd (identified in The Atlantic as Daniel Drucker) posted this question: “My father passed away this morning. I’m going through his file, and I came across JOKES.TXT … which contains only the punchlines. Can the Mind please tell me the jokes?”

He included the list of punchlines, and one by one, community members popped in to offer their sympathy and answer the question. (It’s worth pointing out that MeFi guidelines require AskMe responses to answer the question above all things; a response that doesn’t answer the question is promptly deleted. In a condolence thread, it’s possible that a response offering only condolences miiiight stand, but it’s by no means certain.)

By the time I saw that thread, someone had already explained the punchline about the ducks, but I was able to add a suggestion, and a memory of my own:

O9scar outlines the riddle above, but it’s worth mentioning that this one works best deployed not as a joke but as a casual bit of trivia tossed off when you see a V of birds in formation.

Person 1 [points to birds]: Hey, y’know when you see birds flying in V-formation? And sometimes one side of the V is longer than the other? You know why that is?
Person 2: No, why?
Person 1: More birds on that side.

If you do it casually enough and your friends are sufficiently curious about random subjects, you may even be able to use it on the same person more than once. I caught my own much-missed father with that gag several times. My sorrow for your loss, and thank you for that happy memory.

As MeFi member HotToddy (quoted in the Atlantic‘s closing paragraph) says in the MetaTalk appreciation of that thread, “What an amazing thing, your dad inadvertently arranging for your friends to tell you jokes all day long on the day he dies.”

My own father would have loved to be involved in this discussion — and now he is, through my memories and my story. I love you, Dad.

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fancy

My brother-in-law J. had, among his collection of tin toys and keepsakes, a can of… peanut brittle. Uh-huh. A faded, peeling, scratched-up old can, smelling strongly of basement mildew, promisingly labelled peanut brittle.

But when you opened it, did you find delicious peanut brittle, as the label indicated? You did not! When you twisted and pried the stubborn lid from the tarnished old can, HORRIBLE SNAKES would fly forth!

And I mean HORRIBLE SNAKES: musty old fabric, worn away with time, here and there the sharp spikes of the spring ends poking through. Even if they didn’t scratch you when they sprang out, trying to cram them back into the can was a tetanus-tempting chore.

So one Christmas, I bought J. a new set of Snakes in a Can. (Note: I couldn’t find peanut brittle, but apparently the Snake Nut Can company is still doing booming business; I was able to find one immediately at the toy shop across the street from my apartment.)

When I wrapped my Christmas gifts at Grandma & Grandpa’s house, J.’s daughter A., then not quite six, wandered in to help. I showed her my gift for her dad and asked her advice: should I leave the can in its packaging so J. would know it was a joke can?

Or… should I remove the wrapping so he would think it was a can of fancy nuts?

A.’s little mouth twisted in delight. Unwrap it! Take it out of its packaging! Let him open it all unawares! FANCY SALTED MIXED NUTS! He’ll never know! Y’know why? Because it doesn’t say peanut brittle!

She even helped me take off the cardboard-and-plastic packaging and wrap up the tin of FANCY SALTED MIXED NUTS prettily in tissue and ribbon. When we exchanged gifts the next day, I said “Oh, J., I have something for you,” and asked A. to fetch it from under the tree and deliver it, which she did, snickering and flicking thrilled, guilty looks at me the entire time.

J. put on his best poker face, accepting the present and unwrapping it nonchalantly, taking his sweet time and sparing me only one keen glance as he unwound the ribbon.

A. stood by, hopping from foot to foot, choking back her guffaws. Once, she almost fell over.

And then: “Oh! FANCY SALTED MIXED NUTS. Mmm. I love these, thanks. I think I’ll open them… right now.” J. leaned in toward his little daughter.

She took a huuuuuuge step back.

J. and I both almost burst out laughing. But we managed to hold it in…

… unlike the snakes, which sprang out into the room as A. and J. and everyone else started laughing. “Oh, snakes! YOU GOT ME!”

It was a good Christmas.

coupling

Me: Argh!
The Fella [hurrying solicitously from the next room because my back is bothering me today]: Whoa, what happened?
Me: No, nothing, nothing. I just did that thing — that thing where you bang something, y’know.
The Fella [louche and with a theatrical leer]: Roger that!
Me: Y’know, when you bang your —
The Fella: Copy that! I do know it. Ohhhhhhh yeeeeeah.
Me: I hit the ball of my ankle on the futon, is all.
The Fella: Cannnnnn dooooo.
Me: All you heard was “ball,” wasn’t it?
The Fella: Annnnny time.

everything

The Fella returns to the room from grabbing a beer. Before he sits, he reaches out, and strokes the top of my head.

Him: Oooh, your head is so nice.

Me: Thank you. It’s right at the top of my body. That’s where I keep it.

Him: I like everything about you.

No punchline, folks. No joke. I just wanted to document this moment so I won’t forget it. Because I like everything about him, too.

pet names

The Fella: Hi, burpington!
Elsa: Hi, babe. You’re awful nice.
The Fella: … did you just call me “baby hotbox”?
Elsa: What?
The Fella: Did you just say “Hi, baby hotbox?”
Elsa: “Hi. Babe. You’re. Awful. Nice.” But yes, from now on, I’m calling you “baby hotbox.”
Fella: That’s nice.

made for each other

I turn on the TV. The actor onscreen is turned away from the camera, so we glimpse the merest flicker of face: the line of a jaw, the edge of nose. Instantly, we both blurt out “Is that The Gersh?”

That’s right:

A) We have a household nickname for Gina Gershon.

B) We can both recognize her in a split second, even when she’s got her back to the camera.

It’s nice we found each other.

a fine how-do-you-do

The Fella: Your hands are so soft.
Elsa: They’re getting rough. I think I have to buy some fancy-lady lotion.
The Fella: I’ll get you some Zelda Fitzgerald gloves.
Elsa: Did she have crazy*-lady gloves?
[a pause]
Elsa: [way too excited at the prospect] Like, did she have the nervous disorder where she picked at her hands? And she wore gloves to keep from doing it?
The Fella: … no. She had fancy-lady gloves. She drank champagne in them. She smoked cigarettes in them.
Elsa: A lady doesn’t eat, drink, or smoke in gloves, though —despite unschooled suggestions to the contrary — it is perfectly proper to shake hands while wearing gloves. A lady should leave her gloves on rather than delay the handshake.
The Fella: A lady should bang in them.
Elsa: But Zelda mighta drunk champagne in her gloves. Or smoked in ’em.
The Fella: She mighta banged in ’em.
Elsa: Anything one may properly do in gloves, one may properly do in bed. Wait. I mean, I suspect handshake etiquette is the same as banging etiquette. Wait.
The Fella: [waits]
Elsa: [laughing] For example, the senior lady always initiates it with the younger lady! ETIQUETTE JOKE!
The Fella: Uh-huh.
Elsa: And the lady always makes the invitation, not the gentleman, but if he extends it, you’d be rude not to put your hand out for it. ETIQUETTE JOKE!
The Fella: Mm-hmm.

*I’ve been slowing trying to replace casual able-ist slurs in my everyday speech. It isn’t going super-well.