Friday, May 11, 2012

A joke for all seasons

I was remembering some jokes that were hilarious to me when I was little, so I decided to see if they still hold up.

"Hey Lamocha, ask me if I'm a fire truck."

Big smile. I love people's wide smiles when they anticipate a joke.

It's so innocent, so full of hope that something hysterical is about to be said or pantomimed.

"Is you a fire truck?"

"No." Ever so slightly, I giggle.

She frowns deeply.

I love people's deep frowns when they have been told a joke that is puzzling in it's idiocy.

We both stand there, not really getting it, maybe, but at least I get to laugh.

"That ain't a joke, that's just dumb." She waves me off like a mosquito.

"Hey Jeffrey, ask me if I'm a fire truck."

"Are you a fire truck?"

"No," I laugh.

He stares at me blankly.

After a moment, his eyes fall.

"Me neither," he says.

"Hey Martin, ask me if I'm a fire truck."

"Cookie, cookie. Woof."

I want to say 'No' but I am too mad at him for making my joke break.

I try not to get mad at the students.

But I do get frustrated with them.

Sometimes they follow me too closely.

I'll get trapped down a narrow aisle and realize I can't get back out unless I give individual directions to each student in the column; guiding them on how best to back their bodies up, so as to set me free.

Or I will stop short and a line of students will all barrel into my back, like when a little kid pushes a shopping cart into your heels; except the shopping cart consists of smooshy people wearing the extremes of deodorant (too much or none) and the pain is more generalized. 

No it's never annoying, why do you ask?

One time I noticed how closely I was being followed, so I decided to test their devotion.

I walked around and around a large black table on display at a Target store.

They all circled the table with me.

No one broke rank.

No one questioned.

This is how tyrants are able to subjugate nations, I thought.

This is how Galactus swallows worlds.

We could have circled that table forever.

Pants would have been wetted or filled; stomachs left empty.

But no one would have halted the sort of forward but mostly round march.

When I noticed Target people staring, I decided to break the spell.

There are two Targets in town; one features fit young mothers in black stretch pants sipping lattes while propelling their Gap adorned children around the store.

The other stars homeless people, and smells like feet and the cashing of fraudulently collected disability checks.

If we had been in the latter, I would have ridden that train till the end of the line.

But no such luck; and the experiment had to be called off on account of unwanted attention.

These kids have enough strikes against them in the eyes of the public for me to do anything to make it worse.

And the leader of a line of people walking endlessly in a circle comes off looking a lot weirder than those that trail behind him.

Though people in the public tend to overlook me anyways, and zero right in on the troupe with me.

Often, it's little sighs about how wonderful it is to see disabled kids out in their community.

Except for those occasional people who are less than impressed by the population, like the old lady at the YMCA who always screeches out, "IS HE SLOW? IS THAT YOUNG MAN SIMPLE? CAUSE THAT'S THE WRONG WAY TO DO IT."  She is referring to Jeffrey's inability to move his legs and arms at the same time during water aerobics.

I can't blame him; I have the coordination of a fruit-rollup left out in the sun.

So shut up, old lady.

Which also happens to be what is tattooed on the back of my neck.

Though I, even in all my enlightened glory, still balk sometimes at the appearance or behavior of some of our kids.

Early on in my career as a substitute T.A., I had to wheel "Zacky" down to the occupational therapy room.

Zacky was severely multiply impaired, confined to a wheelchair, uncommunicative, and the features of his face were kind of smooshed looking, like someone was playing around in Photoshop before booting him out of the womb.

The therapists were tickling him with feathers and shoving his hands into little bowls of sand and dry beans.

They oohed and ahhed over him, saying endlessly how cute and adorable this 26 year-old man was. 

I just knew they were expecting me to jump right in and google shmoop baby wubs wubs at him, too.

They wanted me to play "Let's Destroy Dignity", one of the favorite games of therapists long overdue for retirement.

And I couldn't.

They were all saying it, and Zacky just rolled his head around in slow circles, his large eyes riveted to a point on the ceiling. 

The pressure was building.

They were waiting for me, smiles widened into menace,  but my mouth was frozen.

My fingers lamely played around on Zacky's shoulder.

After awhile, I managed a weak "Zacky.....", which trailed off into a "....zacky.....".

It was all I could do.

I'll end this with a joke I made up in my youth, back when I could tell right from wrong, the hilarious from the lame.

What did the fox say to the invisible man?

I can't see you.


  1. Your blogs about your students always strike a chord in me.

    I worked with a child who's "stim" was vocal... he would endlessly hold his mouth open and go "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhHHHHHHHHHhhhhhHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhHHHHHhhhhhhhh" until I was ready to stab an icepick into my ears just to drown it out. It was truly horrible. And when I would walk him around the school, as he bit my hand and bellowed "AHHHHHHHhhhhhhhHHHHHhhhhhHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhh" some visiting grandma or parent would smile weakly and say, "Oh, he's so precious..." and I would think, "No, he really isn't. He's annoying. Just because he has autism doesn't make this habit cute OR acceptable and I would gladly pay you my week's salary to take him far, far away from me for the remainder of the day."

    So, what do you do with an elephant with three balls?

    You walk him to first and then pitch to the rhino.


    1. Your autistic child is very familiar to me. It runs into that whole thing about what is behavioral (changeable) and what is the condition (fixed)? I have to say, I worked with a teacher who thought EVERYTHING was behavioral, he operated on the first principal that the students were people who needed to behave like people, and anything less was unacceptable. A lot of parents and therapists didn't like him, but he got his students to act like mature young adults.

      What did Tarzan say when he saw the elephants coming?
      Here come the elephants.

  2. Is this post a birthday present to me? If so, thank you.

    This was my favorite line: "This is how tyrants are able to subjugate nations, I thought." Because yes, exactly.

    Also, my town also has those same two Targets. It kind of depressed me to think that I may possibly be one of those moms. Except I'm no longer "young." (Re: Birthday.)

    Did I ever tell you I used to be a high school English teacher and every Tuesday I had to do a volunteer service with my students? I took the group (a very small group) who volunteered to work at the severely mentally impaired school nearby. I did this for five years. I always noticed that the girls (I taught at an all-girls Catholic school) who volunteered for this placement were the nicest human beings on the planet. It wasn't an easy placement. The girls who volunteered were special. I marveled at how they were with the students they worked with at that school. They were kind. They were patient. They were nonjudgemental.

    So that's a roundabout way of saying, I know who you are. I know you're one of the nice kids. So there.

    1. Happy birthday, Mandy! Are you the same age as me? Nevermind, a lady never don't ask me.
      Wha wha

      That is cool about those students....the younger they are when they are exposed to special needs, the better. It helps them get an early grip on that concept of having perspective.

      Your town has two targets, and you live in the same state as me?
      Wait a sec....are you that lady who is always picking her nose in front of Urban Outfitters?
      If so, you need to wear more weather appropriate clothing...

  3. So we're you a laffy taffy fan??
    There is a slow as molasses excitement that happens in the settings you describe. You never know what will happen but you know something will. All you have to do is wait for it.

    1. Laffy Taffy was just like eating plastic, it was like being able to eat my action figure collection when they looked so winkingly cute at me
      "Slow as molasses excitment"? cool. I really guess thats positive, right? And is the something that happens good?

  4. You know what I realized recently? I hate puns. Like, I hear them, and they actually make me angry. I have no idea why this is, and I completely understand that many people really love them. And those people who are laughing at a pun while I'm scowling usually judge me and are like "don't you see, it's a play on the word porpoise, but they it also means purpose" and I'm like "yeah, I got it. It just makes me want to die that my brain had to make that connection. But I'm sincerely glad you enjoyed it."

    Humor is weird.

    1. I love weird anger towards things. Being mad at puns sounds like a decent way to spend time.....
      shoot, I wish I had something nuetral to be mad at.
      Instead I just feel dead inside.
      Oh, hi The Weed, you're still here.
      On an unrelated note, knock-knock jokes make me resent my parents for creating me.

  5. All I want to say is: "I have the coordination of a fruit-rollup left out in the sun." I'd like to see an illustration of that -- what flavor of fruit-rollup?

    1. I will try to whip up a drawing for you, but no promises.
      My drawing ability has been flatlining lately, thats why no pictures on this one

  6. I like the drawing of you all walking too closely together, especially when I mentally add some ska music to it.

    Anyway, the first joke I ever learnt was as follows:

    "Where do you weigh a whale?"

    *Waits for someone to intone "I don't know, where DO you weigh a whale?*

    "At a whale-weigh station."

    Ah than' yew. Than yew ver' mush. I'm here all week.

    1. Not bad, not bad....
      what's 'ha-ha bonk!'?
      A man laughing his head off!

      Joke War, won by me

    2. Coming in for the coup...

      How do you catch a unique cat?

      You 'neak up on it!

    3. could be a unique anything....why cat? the punchline does not require any thing intrinsic to catness...wah, I am missing something

  7. I think you must reaLLy be a fire truck, and you use the joke as a disguise, sort of 'Transformers' in reverse maybe?

    I showed my mother your previous blog post at lunch today. She got quite a kick out of it. I love the last frame; beautiful ending.

    1. I was referring to "Let's Play Third Trimester".

    2. Thanks esb! Please continue to promote me to everyone you my inspiration continues to drain out of me, I am really hoping to swell my stats, so by the time I am world-famous and get my first interview, I will answer by cleaning out my ear with one finger and laughing like this: "ter-ter-ter-terpe ter"

    3. I can't wait for you to be sooooo famous that you have the Prez re-elect and celebs over for $41,000 a plate dinner and forget aLL us little people. I am sure by that time President Chelsea Clinton-Mezvinsky wiLL almost have her re-election for her unprecedented 8th term completely paid for.

      [This ad was paid for by the People For Any Chelsea Will Do Superpac]

    4. Oh, I was going to also mention that I could try writing some music for yer "ter-ter-ter-terpe ter" tune.

  8. I just might have to get that tattoo myself.

    Maybe with a subtle modification: "So shut up everybody"

    Except you Gweenbrick. Because you speak to good effect, and know when an endless people train around a Target display table is the right thing.

  9. And I thought working for litigation attorneys was tough... similarities, certainly... but your students win the exercise your patience award. My hat's off to you Gweenbrick. Carry on!

    1. Early on, I used to pat myself on the back for having patience-now i just grit my teeth and scream into my brain, "KEEP IT TOGETHER MAN, KEEP IT TOGETHER!!"

  10. I don't know why the pic reminded me of 'the evolution of man' image!

  11. I've joined you once in the circling the object game. When I was a teenager I had a follower. A girl who looked up to me way too much and in a fanatical way. I wanted to test how far she would go and so I shamelessly walked in circles around a building three or four times - she followed along right behind me.

    1. There is a special circle in hell for you and I

  12. This is my life with the runts I take care of, also known as my nieces. My legs are severely bruised from all the times they crash into me. They know nothing of personal space, can't follow simple directions, and can't remember much of anything, unless they have watched it on tv.

    1. I watched that video you posted of cute!

  13. I'm right there with you as I remember the final days of my mum's life in hospital when she was unable to speak, hear or even roll over and the 25yr old male nurse cutsey talked to my mum in a sing song voice - 'Let's put some lippy on and make you beautiful' and her eyes showed her humiliation and I wish she could have whacked him with a sudden spurt of defiant energy that her God would have sent if he'd been around.

    1. Hey Julie! I love that "Let's put some lippy on...." ugh. Sad for you and your mom. I wish she could have wacked him too.

  14. Mr. Brick,

    My favorite joke happens to be from Laffy Taffy:

    What is green and pecks trees?

    Woody Wood Pickle.

  15. You know that "Let's Destroy Dignity" should be the name of your book, right?
    I have an inner city Target. The ones where they attempt to crush suburban sized aisles and false frivolity into an economically depressed area with decaying buildings. A crazy man wearing long johns and combat boots relieved himself near "party supplies" when I was there last time.

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