Among the things we’ve missed in recent months is those long drives to visit faraway family or national parks. Maybe just for the cocoon comfort of the family car.
When our children (now adults) were little we went on many such drives. We had our rituals, those on-the-highway games to pass the time while the miles passed beneath us. Thinking back, I now see why the kids grew up to think my jokes are lame.
Humor is an epoxy that binds people together. Now, I could have written “mucilage” instead of “epoxy,” and it would have been funny because it sounds funny, in that preteen sense of “Hah! Dad said ‘mucilage!’” If I had said “mucilage” during a car trip, the girls would have fallen into pangs of hilarity. For the next day or so they’d keep finding ways to ambush each other by sneaking “mucilage” into the conversation, to wit:
Dad: “That’s the Painted Desert over on the right.”
Child 1: “Can I have a juice box?”
Mom: “You mean ‘May I,’ and, yes, you may. Here it is.”
Child 1: (Slurp, slurp)
Dad: “And out the left side there’s a herd of ...”
Child 2: “MUCILAGE!”
Child 1: “Mumph!”
Child 2: “She’s gonna spew!
Child 1: (Projectile juice spouting.)
Both girls: (Spasms of sidesplitting hysterics ensue.)
This vignette is later described as, “Dad made me spew.”
Sometimes my role in fomenting hilarity is more active, especially in the field of song lyrics. You may recall an oldie first recorded by the Skyliners, “Since I Don’t Have You.” It is a whiny, self-absorbed wail about all that the lead singer doesn’t have, such as “hopes and dreams,” “fond desires” and “happy hours.” The miserable schmuck works himself into falsetto keening with the stanza: “I don’t have love to share and I don’t have one who cares.”
Except, there is a brief pause between “don’t have” and “one who cares” — just long enough for me to insert the word “underwear,” which I do.
You would think that George Carlin, John Belushi and Monty Python’s entire Flying Circus had materialized in the car from the screaming, choking, snorting paroxysm in the back seat. For that moment, the thought of a falsetto singer admitting that he had no underwear was the funniest joke in the world. The merriment was repeated every 50 miles or so, with “underwear” replacing “mucilage” as the one-word punchline.
From that day on, “Since I Don’t Have You” has been known in our household as “The Underwear Song.” It no longer brings on near-faints from laughter, but it is a musical tradition, sort of like Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” — you know you’re going to hear it again, and it’s comforting in a time when everything else is unpredictable. From the first few notes, we all know, “Oh, it’s The Underwear Song again.”
(Note to reader(s): this also applies to the Art Garfunkel rendition.)
Hah! email@example.com just wrote “mucilage” and “Garfunkel” in the same column. (Snort.)