Monday, November 05, 2007

...and it's Pathological Laughter by a nose

by Brenda Roger

On Saturday afternoon, my husband and I were starving, and so we bought a bag of French fries and a coke from McDonald’s and shared them while sitting in the parking lot at the Tractor Supply Company. That was the glamorous part of Saturday night.

You see, we were visiting family in a town that shall remain anonymous. Names will be changed to protect the guilty. While munching on our fries, which were a successful solution to a skipped lunch, we joked about how we were going to choose the restaurant where we would eat the next hour with the previously mentioned family. We knew it would be safer not to leave the decision up to them.

Blasted cell phones! We were informed via cell phone that reservations had already been made at a restaurant named after a type of bird in the mystery town. “You know, the one across from such-and-such funeral home.” Egats! It did not sound promising.

We walked in through the bar, which had not contained a molecule of fresh air since about 1965, and which wreaked of Salem cigarettes of yore. The hostess led us through the smoke cloud into a room with carpet on the ceiling where acoustic tiles were not. The tables were covered in the bastard child of gold lame and vinyl. The chairs were huge and had that bent bamboo/cane look of the 1970s. I could tell you more, except I’ve blocked out most of it. I will just say that there was stained glass and foil wallpaper involved. I remember that because it is burned on my retina.

Needing to rid myself of the coke from an hour before, I excused myself to the ladies room where the extreme nature of the manifestation of our fears about the restaurant struck me like a slap across the face. I started to laugh. Then, in an attempt to stop laughing in order to make the act of nature easier, I laughed even harder. Then, breathing became difficult and funny little crying gasps were escaping from me. The more I tried to suppress it, the funnier it became. Finally, I regained composure enough to make it to the sink, where I spied a floral “arrangement” above the sink, and the whole thing started over again.

When I made it back to the table without the help of CPR, I was so grateful that I tried to focus on war and famine in order to keep the giggles away. I would tell you about the rest of the evening, but selective amnesia has taken over and the whole memory may not resurface until sometime in 2020.

I did a little research on Sunday morning and determined that I had suffered from an episode of PLC –pathological laughter and crying. Of course, I found that information on a trivia Web site where people were trying to determine if there was a name for such a thing. You see, they were trying to name a racehorse after uncontrollable laughter and couldn’t find a sexy way of putting it. Perhaps, I should write to the owner of the horse and suggest that she name the horse after the same bird as the hilarious restaurant.

13 comments:

Martha Reed said...

Brenda, are you old enough to remember the Mary Tyler Moore show? The best episode ever was Mr. Peanut's funeral - an example of pathologal laughter so profound my mother had to leave the room.

Great post! and a funny way to start a Monday. Thanks!

Gina said...

Stained glass and foil wallpaper! Sounds wonderful.

I have no taste. I love that kind of decor. I like paintings on velvet, too. Were there any of those in the restaurant?

Tory said...

Funny you should mention pathological laughter and funerals, Martha. Me and my family experienced it creating my father's Memorial Service. After intimate inquiries with good friends, I found it was not uncommon to have such a burst soon after a loved one passed away.

Maybe include it in a book sometime? Certainly one of those secrets not on public display ...

Unfortunately the same can't be said for the restaurant you went to!

mike said...

Brenda--what a delightful entry! Thanks for the Monday morning laughs...albeit at your expense. I don't know if this is the same syndrome, but when my sister and I were in our 20s (she's 18 months younger than me), we'd get into this laughing jags and it always seemed to be in a restaurant. We cried but they were tears of laughter, and probably some regret that we couldn't finish our meals but still had to pay. And you have to tell us the name of the town and what "restaurant" to avoid.

Joyce said...

I never knew that's what that type of laughter is called. My husband and younger son, Josh cause it to happen quite frequently, even in church. I usually have to separate them (like they were three year olds).

Cathy said...

My worst episode of this happened when I was married to the minister, Bob Moffat. The retired men's chorus was singing in a neighboring church, we sat in the congregation, and they sang on and on and on and on. Finally, one of us started to laugh (quietly) and the other got started, and I learned there's nothing as painful as suppressed laughter. We couldn't leave, because that would have looked bad, too.

As far as I know, the retired men and still singing on and on and on and on.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Mary Tyler Moore! There is nothing harder to stop than laughing in church. My father was usually the cause of it in our family. There were times when I had to go a whole mass without looking at him -just to be safe.

Donnell B. said...

Great story, Laughter is the best medicine out there!

brenda said...

the earlier anonymous comment was actually me. sorry.

Kristine said...

Funny post, Brenda! I think we all have had bouts of pathological laughter. I also think we've all had to frequent a restaurant such as the kind you described at one point or another.

Thanks for the laugh!

Annette said...

Brenda, we'll have to compare notes at some point. I think I've been to that restaurant, but it was back in the 70's when that decor was all the rage. Then again, perhaps it IS the same place and they just haven't remodeled since then...

Gina said...

Brenda,
At least you had a private place to laugh -- or did other people come into the restroom and wonder?

I find that uncontrollable laughter overcomes me most often about things that don't strike anybody else as funny, so I'm not just the only person laughing, I can't stop and people are saying, 'What's funny?' and I'm too embarassed to tell them (even if I could catch my breath and talk because it's so stupid!).

For example, in a folk dance class, the instructor taught a line dance that had both male and female versions, distinguished by one difference, "the men's high knees," which, well, you know what that sound like, and it's sooooo juvenile, but I had to sit down because I was laughing too hard to keep dancing.

Or the yoga class in which a foreign born instructor described what she wanted us to do (lift our heels off the ground in mountain pose) as, "Balance on your fingers and your balls." [I'm assuming that her native language didn't differentiate fingers from toes, and she meant the balls of the feet, of course. Still, once I had the image in my mind I couldn't stop the giggles.]

Same thing at PennWriters Conference last year, when Tim Esaias used the example, "Her eyes went to the bathroom." I couldn't help but wonder how they'd flush, and so kept giggling throughout the rest of his presentation.

Anonymous said...

Oh Brenda how I do sympathize with you!!!! It sounds like a place near Uniontown where my old boyfriend David took me on one of our first dates. I can't believe that place still exists. It definitely seemed like one of those places his mother reccommended.