Today at work I was reminded of one of the funniest episodes of my youth, and thought it might make a good story for TAW. It involved me as a freshman at Heritage High School and the things I did to survive.
Hah! Made that sound suitably grim, eh? Truth is, I've shared some of my social backwardsness in the past here, so suffice it to say high school was not exactly my element as a freshman. But I had learned long before that the best way to keep people from laughing at the things I was self-conscious about was to get them to laugh at anything else. I used to be like an underground railroad waystation for passing jokes, and quickly used that to my advantage. I got a rep amongst the seniors of the class for being a primo joke teller, and it wasn't long before I was asked on a pretty regular basis if I had some new one-liner.
Another, less fortunate, detail of my freshman persona was born in second grade. In a manner I couldn't tell you then or now how, I fell off the monkey bars at 2 pm recess one day. No real damage (and a pretty cool way to get out of the end of the school day, BTW), but one of the seniors my freshman year was a fourth-grader at St. Louis Besancon when I took my spill. Now I was well known to be a part-time "super-hero" back then, and the fourth-grader-cum-senior retold the tale so that I was "attempting to fly" when I crashed. Thus to some seniors I was "Underdog", and to others "Superman".
So, back to the main story: One day I came to school with one of the best jokes I ever heard. I would trade twenty of the half-witted jokes I do remember to recall how that one went; of course, I have forgotten it. I only remember that it took a supreme act of self-will not to break up in the telling. During lunch, I had just come into the main hallway (where most everyone came after eating) and one of the seniors asked if I had a joke- and I answered, yes, and a good one. Suddenly, one of them ushered me to a centrally located seat whilst another proclaimed, "Hey, everybody!! Superman's got a joke."
I have to admit to a bit of nervousness as the entire area filled up with what had to be close to half of the school. Normally, this was my element, but this was a BIIIG crowd. So I began to tell the joke- I think I got halfway through the first sentence. Then , the principal showed up.
God, how I wish I could tell you the tale right now. What I do remember is that when the punchline came, the entire building (at least the inhabited part thereof) exploded with laughter like I'd never heard. All except Mr. Mulligan. And that was an act of will power. With a stern look that fooled exactly nobody, he shook his head, got up, and walked away without a word. And if that didn't make the joke even funnier, it sure made the memory sweeter.