Have you ever told a joke where after you delivered the punchline, you could have heard a pin drop? Silence isn’t golden when you’re aiming for giggles. It’s a horrible feeling. I know. I’ve been there. More times than I care to remember, but then, one time is too many.
One of those times was at a get-together for new church members at the pastor’s house just outside of Washington, D.C. Except for the pastor, all those attending were total strangers. I wasn’t eager to go, but I tried to think of it as an adventure instead of an endurance contest. This happened long before I was formally introduced to my constant companion of autism.
We were gathered in a circle and invited by the pastor to introduce ourselves. After introductions, the pastor sought volunteers to speak up about anything that suited their fancy. My mistake may have been taking the pastor literally about “anything”. I thought of a story that had recently happened to me at the grocery store. I thought it might be a big hit since I had told this story at work and gotten some laughs. Not many, but some.
The story took place in a check-out line. The lady behind me struck up a conversation about the pint of crab meat she had in her hand. She showed me the price and asked, “Isn’t this price ridiculous?” The price meant nothing to me since I didn’t know what the running price was for crab.
I said to the lady, “You’re right, it is ridiculous. But I’ll be honest with you that I’ve never had crab meat in my life. If fact, I just recently had shrimp for the first time and as far as I was concerned it all could stay in the ocean.”
She responded with words I had become familiar with since becoming the new kid on the block in Washington, D.C., “You’re not originally from here, are you?”
I responded, “No, Maam, I’m not. I’m from New York.”
I don’t think she appreciated my joke. Dead silence! I’m 99.9% certain she knew I wasn’t from New York. My Texas accent was a give-away clue. HA!
I was trying to pull at her funny bone, but I think I nudged at another bone. I have since learned that “words and actions are often misunderstood by others” is on the list of autism syndrome traits.
The response around the circle at the pastor’s house was similar to the woman holding the pint of crab. When I got to the punchline, not a chortle or a titter could be heard. Finally, someone broke the silence with a serious explanation about accents and all. After the circle broke up, I retreated to the furtherest corner away from the new members club. I wasn’t the first person to leave but I sure wasn’t the last!
I wish I could forget the whole thing, but my brain’s memory hasn’t obliged me. Thoughts of embarrassing moments pop up in my brain as much as annoying pop-ups when I’m browsing the internet. I know I should try to remember instead those moments when I couldn’t have heard a pin drop because the room was livened up with laughter. In other words, those times when I did NOT have to say “Hey, folks that was the punchline.”