Friday, January 29, 2016

"A Big Laugh From An Unexpected Direction"

No Chinese person has ever made me laugh.

That’s not racism.  It is simply a fact.

As racists like to say.

(For Broadway show-level exculpation, See:  The song from the musical Avenue Q, entitled “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist… Sometimes.”) 

How big is my sampling in this experiment?

Not big.  I’ve had a Chinese accountant for thirty-five years, and although he is beyond competent in his line of endeavor, I have never considered him a reliable font of comedical merriment.  Although that could have less to do with his ethnic derivation than his being an accountant.   (He opined, slamming two categories of humanity in a single sentence.)

However… he went on, trying gamely to dig himself out of a hole… there is a single, reverberating exception to this overarching observation.

One of the all-time biggest laughs I have ever experienced came via the auspices of an elderly gentleman of Chinese extraction.  And I am not just saying that to regain a foothold in decent society.  The gentleman really cracked me up.

Here’s the situation.

I am dining alone at a Chinese restaurant in Miami Beach, Florida, where I have gone on vacation, specifically because I was too lazy to go somewhere where they spoke a different language.    

Now that’s lazy.

Having completed my meal, which as I recall was very good, I give the “high sign” to my waiter, a solemn-demeanored, Chinese septuagenarian, indicating that I am ready to receive the check.

Shortly thereafter, the waiter arrives at my table, setting a small plastic tray containing the check and a cellophane-wrapped fortune cookie down in front of me. 

I unwrap the fortune cookie and I examine the message scrolled up inside it.  It says,

“You will soon enjoy a financial windfall.”

To which I immediately replied,

“Great!  I don’t have to pay the bill!”

Removing the tray, which now included my credit card, the venerable waiter shot back,

“Not now.  Soon!”

I toppled instantly out of my chair.  And if I didn’t, I should have.

Because his reaction was fast and it was excruciatingly funny.

I was reminded of that episode of unexpected hilarity when Dr. M, after dining with a friend at a local Chinese eatery, reported that she had received the exact same message in her fortune cookie.

I felt nostalgic, but also somewhat confused.

I somewhere knew that the messages in fortune cookies are regularly recycled.

The reprise of this one, however, left me wondering how many waiters responded to their “Wise Apple” dinner patrons in a not dissimilar fashion.

I had come to believe that my Miami Chinese waiter experience had been unique.

But now that seemed considerably less than a certainty.

Who knows?  Maybe a lot of Chinese people are funny and are just patiently awaiting their moment.  Its arrival producing a Vesuvial reaction:

Uncontrollable laughter…

Mixed with indescribable surprise.

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