'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
SPENDING LENT IN THE GUTTER (MOUTH)
Easter is just around the corner, and I can’t wait. Easter means a lot of things to a lot of people: the unofficial start of Spring; the beginning of baseball season; the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord. But this year, for me, the arrival of Easter means that Lent is over. Thank God.
This year I did something really dumb: for Lent I gave up profanity. Additionally, I decided that every time I catch myself cursing I must put a dollar in a large coffee can.
Giving up profanity for Lent was not dumb in the sense that there was no need for me to do it. On the contrary, I was shocked by how often and easily my everyday conversation can resemble a Robin Williams or Richard Pryor comedy routine (minus any clever humor). And it’s not even golf season!
Giving up profanity was dumb in the sense that it has turned out to be the most difficult thing I’ve ever given up for Lent. Over the years my various Lenten sacrifices have been awfully painful, as the cock-eyed optimism of Ash Wednesday inevitably gave way to the reality of six weeks of grueling drudgery.
About ten years ago I gave up coffee for Lent. For a month and a half I had a pounding headache, and on Easter morning my personal “sunrise service” took place on the doorstep of a local Dunkin Donuts store. I was grateful an employee opened the door at 4 a.m., even though the store wasn’t scheduled to open for another hour. (I think he was afraid my tearful pounding was going to shatter the plate glass doors.)
Another year I decided to give up television for Lent. When my family and I came home from evening Mass, with ashes still smudged on my forehead, I noticed in the newspaper that a crucial UConn vs. Syracuse basketball game was about to begin. So that particular Lenten sacrifice lasted barely half a day.
A few years ago I gave up donuts. Donuts?! Me?! Surely it must have been temporary insanity on my part. I think the Church allows some leeway for those poor souls with impaired psychological and emotional faculties. I actually went the entire 40 days that year without a single donut. However, my consumption of pastry, pie, and cake increased somewhat. (I am using, of course, the definition of the word “somewhat” that means: “900-percent larger,” which coincidentally is the same definition used by Congress when they recently announced federal spending will increase somewhat.)
I’ve realized for years that I’m a gutter mouth—and I’m not proud of it. I usually blame it on my job, since I often work with truck drivers, warehouse workers, and contractors. But I wasn’t working with these folks when I was in the 6th grade and discovered that using certain words made me “cool.” (I was using, of course, the definition of the word “cool” that means: “most definitely not cool.”)
And I wasn’t with construction workers in college, when my fraternity brothers and I would go weeks at a time without uttering a single word that did not begin with either “S” or “F.” (The only guys we ever addressed by their real names were Sam and Freddie.)
So now I’m trying to clean up my act, and it’s turning out to be very difficult. But on the plus side, if I fail in this attempt to acquire some class, at least when Easter arrives we’ll be able to pay off our mortgage. I wonder if the bank will accept coffee cans stuffed with cash?
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