Whoever said their high school years were the best years of their life is either lying or extremely forgetful. I remember the awkwardness of entering high school and trying to make a name for myself. I loved to travel, I had sung in a family trio at a very young age, so high school choir seemed to be the natural choice.
In order to hide my insecurities with my new classmates, I joked a lot. I quickly became known as the funny new freshman. Sure I liked to tell witty stories but not on command; I prefer spontaneous humor. It becomes a bit annoying when people even now introduce me to someone and as if I were their personal court jester and say, “Say something funny.” That places a lot of pressure on an individual.
Our choir had finished a concert in Connecticut and this trip found me a bit melancholy. It’s not often that I am, but when I do get this way I prefer to keep a low profile. One of the choir members parent’s lived on the route home so we stopped and refreshed. We ate some snacks and used their bathroom facilities. It’s not often you cram a modest suburban home with 30 high school kids and a high profile bus sits in the driveway.
Looking back I’m sure my female classmate (whose home we were in) wanted to show off her new friends to her parents, but it was a bit overwhelming for me. She started asking me to entertain and my peers began demanding that I say something funny. I declined, they wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was emphatic that I wasn’t going to be manipulated into being put on the spot.
I exited the room and found the bathroom free. As I conducted business and reentered the room, the whole room immediately erupted into raucous laughter. Everyone was pointing at me as if I had told the funniest story in the world. I was confused, the very thing I declined to do, I did without saying a word. For prominently sticking through the zipper of my pants as if it were a transport flag on a load of lumber, was the flapping tail of my long white shirt. I had not tucked my shirt in properly and it was now sticking out my fly.
Embarrassed, my face burned as if I had traded my hair dryer for a blow torch. With my dignity in tatters, I held back my tears and exited the house to go outside and sit in the bus alone. It was my intuitive choir director Mr. Carl Wessman who followed me to the bus. Sitting beside me, he said, “Don’t take the mistakes of life too hard. Your sense of humor is a natural gift, use it even if it’s at your expense to make others smile. ”
I have thought of those words often in my life. I still like to make people laugh, albeit not from an improperly tucked shirt. I have even suffered many other foibles and mishaps more embarrassing than the zippered incident. But the additional words of advice my teacher gave me that one night sticks with me today. “If we can’t laugh at our self, who can we laugh at?”