I have just returned from my mandatory reemployment assistance orientation meeting at the unemployment office. It was better and worse than I expected. I was picturing a dismal, spare, strip-mall type office, and was pleasantly surprised when I turned the corner and saw a cheerful, welcoming, building with a large awning and optimistic National Parks style entrance.
Oh. Never mind. That was the Prostate Care Center.
The unemployment office across the street was dismal, but not oppressively so. There were eighteen of us in the waiting room holding out summons letters. Nobody would look at anyone else. I was concerned it was going to turn into a scene from The Full Monty. It didn’t.
It doesn’t happen very often, but maybe once or year or so, I go into a fit of laughter so uncontrollable that it is probably dangerous, and certainly alarming. Once it starts, it can not be stopped. It is like hearing the sound of a train and knowing a tornado is close. That first uncontrolled snicker turns into gales and gales of laughter, to the extent that I double over, helpless, and come up with tears running down my face, my hair a mess, my nose running. It’s a lot of fun, unless it happens in a Serious Situation.
During my most dreadful class in graduate school, we had an adjunct professor who took himself very seriously, but had an air of the ridiculous about him. He showed up every week in a natty black suit, impeccable necktie, businesslike briefcase.
And Crocs. The man wore Crocs. To class. With a suit. I….oh hell, it’s starting again, I could cry laughing just thinking about it. He was taking attendance one day and got to my friend Geoffrey, and of course pronounced it “Joffrey.” He later shortened it to “Joff,” which Geoffrey-pronounced-Jeffrey thought was amazing and encouraged all semester. Geoffrey-pronounced-Jeffrey used to be in an improv comedy troupe and could roll with any proposition. Every time Professor Crocs would say, “Joff? Any thoughts on this discussion point?” I would look up and see Michael, with one eyebrow raised and chewing on a pen so as not to betray any emotion. Karl would say juuuust under his breath “Awwwwright!” and Virginia would pass me a note about it, while Sarah would work diligently to answer questions in haiku form, which is what you have to do when a class is that silly. We would get to the break and stand on the patio, and I would fall apart, absolutely dissolve into crying hysterics, and I would stay in gasping breaths, “You. Have. All. Got. To. Stop. Looking. At. Me. No. Eye. Contact. Whatsoever. I. Mean. It.” And they would feel so bad about me being all impaired from the laughter that they would agree, but only for five minutes at a stretch. It was excruciating.
I felt it coming on in the middle of unemployment class today: the hint of ridiculousness, added to the stress of being somewhere you really don’t want to be, tethered to the inanity of being made to fill out forms for swipe cards only to be told they no longer exist, plus the frustration of listening to a long painful explanation of job search documentation requirements which is then repeated, verbatim, for the one person out of eighteen who just returned from the restroom. The tone, on the whole, was positive and professional, delivered by an official with a beautiful and unplaceable accent, with every fifteenth word being unrecognizable. A couple of people got emotional, when we were definitely NOT sharing personal job loss stories, and shared their job loss stories anyway. One woman asked the facilitator, whom she’d known for twenty minutes, if he’d serve as a reference for her. Nobody was particularly joyful. Fair enough.
I held it together with pretty good grace until the guest speaker came in, a well-intentioned representative of a kindhearted group dedicated to Promoting Healthy Relationships. He made us all close our eyes and envision our perfect relationship, which to me was any relationship anywhere outside of the dismal office at the employment agency. He told us he was there to invite us to free Healthy Relationship workshops in our time of stress. Single people are welcome too!
Thank you, kind sir. I would LOVE to discuss this at my mandatory reemployment assistance orientation.
As he left, he said he was raised to bring gifts when he’s a guest somewhere. He circulated amongst the attendees distributing…..lip balm. “So you can all remain kissable during your unemployment!” he told us.
I felt a tsunami of laughter welling up inside me, the kind that tears down buildings and washes away everything in its wake. A cataclysmic episode. The dam was about to burst. Tears of hilarity and hysteria prickled at my eyes. My stomach felt prepared for a serious ab workout. I chewed on my pen and looked intently down at the stack of random papers in my lap. I counted to a billion. I made no eye contact. I breathed through it.
Good heavens. That was close. This much pent-up ridiculousness can’t be held back forever, though. It’s coming. I don’t know when, and I can’t stop it. Consider yourselves warned.