'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
TABOO TOPIC A LOT OF HOT AIR
There was a fascinating news item in Sports Illustrated a couple of months ago: “According to a recent report in the U.S. journal High Altitude Medicine and Biology, mountaineers who climb higher than 11,000 feet are susceptible to a condition called High Altitude Flatus Expulsion, or fits of violent flatulence, because the stomach’s resistance to the expansion of gas is reduced.”
As I read the brief article, I did what I always do when this particular topic arises, either in word or deed: I began to laugh uncontrollably. I’m not sure why I find this particular topic so funny. (I have to refer to this particular topic as “this particular topic” because the slang F-word used to describe “this particular topic” is even less welcome in my household than that other profane F-word so common in rap lyrics, Bobby Knight half-time pep talks, and episodes of The Sopranos.) My brother-in-law insists that “this particular topic” is the universal language of humor, and if you ever find yourself in a hostile foreign country (like Arkansas) unable to communicate with the natives, all you have to do is emit rude bodily noises and the locals will immediately start laughing along with you and offer helpful assistance, like giving you directions to your hotel or deciding not to kill you.
My wife looked across the breakfast table and asked what was so funny, since the only emotions I’ve ever displayed while reading Sports Illustrated were tears of sorrow over articles about the Red Sox. I composed myself and recited the story, and as expected, she turned pale, pushed away her plate of scrambled eggs, and gave me a dirty look while muttering, “We live close to sea level. What’s your excuse?”
There are two widely different views of “this particular topic,” and the two views just happen to split along gender lines. Males view it as simply a natural biological function, and no, we did not hold it in and wait for you to walk into the room, dear, it was just a coincidence, and yes, we suppose we could have gone out on the back porch but that would require getting up from the couch and we might have missed an important play because this is, of course, a crucial playoff game, and no, we don’t think being offensive is funny, and yes, we’ll try to be more considerate in the future, and as long as you’re up, could you get us another beer?
While on other the hand, females view “this particular topic” in a completely different light: it is nothing more than an optional biological function, and anyone who forces himself to do such a rude thing in front of the children is undermining our parental authority as mothers, and we wonder why we even bother to teach the kids manners since their father acts like he was raised in a barn, and we’re so upset we need to lock ourselves in the bedroom and lie down, and don’t you even think about trying to come in here for that because we are pretty sure we’ll have a splitting headache for at least the next six weeks.
Men often take up expensive and risky hobbies when they reach middle-age: hang gliding, white water rafting, motorcycling, and the most dangerous of all, flirting with the new receptionist. I can see why these activities offer death-defying thrills, but there’s one expensive and dangerous activity I could never understand: mountain climbing. Why would someone pay a fortune to go through so much pain and face the very real risk of becoming a permanent Popsicle?
But now I know the answer. Mountain climbing offers middle-age guys the opportunity to relive those laugh riot keg parties of their college years, when they spent entire evenings performing the campfire scene of “Blazing Saddles” and laughing so hard they were sure they must have cracked a rib.
And I bet mountain climbing isn’t even very strenuous. Once you reach 11,000 feet, you just let the laws of physics take over and ride the jet propulsion all the way to the top of the mountain. I think I’ll call some of my old college buddies and meet them at the base of Mt. Everest. They can bring the beer; I’ll bring the beans. Last one to the top is a rotten egg (and smells like one, too!).
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