Monday, August 17, 2009

Paula Poundstone and Me

You know, some things that are just fine in the privacy of one’s own home should not be done in public places. I’m usually pretty tuned in to the proprieties of basic good manners and common sense. But in the past few days I’ve succumbed to some social pressure (I’ll explain in a moment) and I’ve been doing it in the customer lounge at my car dealer (just an oil change, thanks for asking), and in the waiting room at my dermatologist’s office. (Just a check-up; thanks for your concern.) What am I doing? I’m reading Paula Poundstone’s very funny book, “There’s Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say”. The pressure?—it’s due back at the library tomorrow. The problem?—I can’t control my laughter.

Now there was a time when I didn’t find Paula Poundstone funny at all. But in the past few years, hearing her on “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, ‘the NPR news quiz’, I have developed a full appreciation of her humor. I look forward to her appearances, and she never fails to crack me up. I’ve pretty much learned to time my coffee sips to avoid her input, so as to keep from squirting coffee out my nose. Ouch. Please don’t laugh—it’s happened more than once. Okay, more than twice.

Now I’m reading this book, and I can’t renew it because it’s on hold by another (probably selfish) patron, so I’ve taken it with me to the oil change and the skin screening. I can tell you that several customers of my car dealer moved to the other side of the room when I: 1. couldn’t control my laughter, and 2. I was continually doubled over, clutching my sides. Now, I was able to keep silent, so maybe they thought I was sobbing to myself, but I guess it wasn’t pretty. It rarely is. Anyway, they were sure to establish distance.

In the doctor’s office, there were only a couple of other people, both older-looking men, both dressed casually, and both successfully ignoring me. Or perhaps they feared that I was some psychopath about to burst into a hellish rage, and felt that their best hope for safety was to feign ignorance. Well, feign away, boys, I may be crazy, but I don’t act on it. I’m just laughing with (not at) Paula.

I’m not sure where she gets these thoughts, but I’m pretty sure they’re not normal. But then again, maybe ‘normal’ is just a setting on your dryer. In any case, I’d love to know what makes her tick. She finds a funny way to look at life’s ordinary events, and is able to ask questions we wouldn’t have thought of on our own. With her to guide us, we learn about the Civil War, Helen Keller, Charles Dickens, the Wright Brothers, Joan of Arc and more. Yes, she explores all of these topics (and more!) in her book, and you wouldn’t believe some of the great (and questionable) stuff you’ll learn.

The real lesson, though, is to keep the hilarity at home. It’s much safer there. And then you won’t have to wonder why the dermatologist put you in restraints.


  1. I know what you mean. If you laugh in public it tends to freak people out.

  2. I think I will go see about this book.... I know I have always liked her but didn't she get mixed up with some child abuse allegations? That was pretty shocking... I am glad she is on Wait Wait Don't tell me I really like that show too!