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One day I was in Chinatown with my parents. We were waiting for a table at a restaurant called Penang which serves really good Asian food. As we were waiting, an Asian man and white woman came in after us, their name was taken by the hostess for their table. They would be waiting with us.
There was an awkward silence in the waiting area. My mother, Jennifer, opened her mouth. I cringed. She always does this. We call it “public talking.” It’s when someone feels that they need to start a conversation with some random person they see in public. My mom’s mouth was flapping away at lightning speed talking about “The great egg noodles” and how “Downtown Philly is really busy on Friday nights. . .” and making sure to not leave out that her son sings in a choir that travels the world. That’s when she said something that really stood out to me.
“Yeah, we love coming here, the food is amazing and mainly locals eat here, so it’s not full of tourists like us.”
At which point the man said
“Oh, where are you all from?”
I was just standing there internally face palming, laughing and screaming all at the same time. I knew what would come next. She then said,
“Oh, heh, no. We’re from Philly, just ya know.”
At which point I leaned over to my other mom, Angela, and whispered,
“We’re from Philly… ya know, the eh, white part.”
Angela chuckled then made her usual annoyed face. The man looked confused. The woman still had the mannequin-esque smiling face she had when I first saw her. The man responded slowly with,
“Well, we are from Washington state.” said the man.
“I’m from Quebec.” This was the only thing the woman said before my mom went back to workin’ her jaw. When the couple was seated the waiting area became quiet again until I said,
“Yeah, we love going here, the food is amazing and mainly ASIAN PEOPLE go here so it’s not full of WHITE PEOPLE like us.” Angela started to laugh louder now and Jen, realizing what she said chuckled and looked a bit embarrassed.
I don’t like to take myself too seriously. I usually try to come up with ways to get my point across or carry on conversations with humor whenever I can. Sometimes this “humor” is snarky, sarcastic, or ironic. In the case of “The Great Penang Incident”, I used sarcasm to point out to my mom that she was being an annoying public talker, and saying something that could be mistaken for racist. If I had been too blunt or too serious in pointing out the problem with what Jen said, she might have gotten too focused on me being “too critical.” By using humor, I was able to get my point across in a less threatening way which ended up opening up more dialogue in the end. If I had bluntly said exactly what I was thinking it might have been something more like, “Hey mom, you're embarrassing me and yourself and I think that your comment could be taken as racist.” This sentence might have hurt my mom’s feelings and lead to an argument. I am pretty sure that softening it with the use of humor was a better way to go.
A couple of years ago I saw my friend Elogio at a friend’s 16th birthday party. We see each other only occasionally since we both graduated from our old school in 8th grade but we still do things together from time to time. Elogio is still a good friend of mine for over 5 years now. We’re both pretty chill with each other but one thing we both enjoy doing is saying stupid stuff to each other. When he saw me, he walked over to me and said,
“Hey Jake, wow, you’ve gotten taller.” It would make sense that the guy who hardly ever grows would notice my height. Elogio, when I first met him in 5th grade, might have been 4’ 5” and I was maybe 5’ 1”. Going into 9th grade he was probably 4’ 11” or 5’ with me at 5’ and 8”. He was the shortest person my age that I knew. I responded to him in a cheerful tone,
“Yea, I guess so. I wish I could say the same about you.” Then I let out a cheesy laugh that would make Mike Brady cringe. One might think that after knowing the guy for so many years I would have laid off the short jokes. The Mayor of Munchkinland looked at me disapprovingly, I just stared back with a smug grin on my face. A grin twice as smug but not as yellow then formed on Elogio’s face, and he said.
“I guess the lack of oxygen up there is already starting to do damage to the brain cells.” There was a second of silence and then we laughed, we were probably over laughing. I then grabbed his shoulder and gave him a sideways bro-hug. I held my nose in the air, and in the most pompous voice I could muster said,
“I don’t take too kindly to that sir.” We chuckled a bit and then caught each other up on how life was going after graduating from our old school.
It was by jokingly insulting each other with sarcasm and campy dialogue that we were able to connect as friends. Most of our conversations are through jokes, but we are still able to remain friends and talk about a lot of different things.Of course, not all people take too kindly to snarky comments. Some people can’t tell the difference between something being said sarcastically and something that’s said out of genuine resentment. When people misunderstand my attempts at being a jokester, it isn't exactly good for me - even when their reaction is priceless. My use of humor can be risky and sometimes backfires. I see the world as a funny place. I include humorous comments in my daily language as a way to share with others that the world is a strange, ironic and entertaining place.