Then Diet Coke Came Out of My Nose
My brothers and Peter know all too well what happens if you make me laugh when I'm drinking something. It's never pretty and usually involves one or all of the following:
Even with the risk of choking ('I don't know officer, all I did was tell her a joke and then she was dead.'), the other two possible outcomes are so amusing that trying to make me laugh when I'm drinking is a sort of game that my brothers and Peter enjoy playing. I take precautions when I identify that mischievous glint in their eyes and have been able to reduce the chances with quick reflexes. (Or at least minimise the damage by rushing to the sink or rolling down the car window.)
Sometimes though, laughter comes from the most unexpected sources. I was home alone reading Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. It's about the disintegration of a marketing company in the post dot.com bubble world. Even though I worked for a software company at the time, the characters and predicaments are all too familiar. (I especially appreciated the guy who photocopied library books to read at his desk, an activity that looked like real work. On more than one occasion when I worked in tucked-away cubicles, I put small paperbacks inside technical how-to books. To the casual observer, it looked like I was working on learning XML when in reality, I was reading trashy novels. The curses of the open workspace put paid to this activity in later jobs.)
Then We Came to the End is an amazingly well-written book with believable characters and situations. One of the things Ferris gets right is the way people find bizarre and whimsical ways to relieve stress in an uncertain and tense environment. The following two paragraphs got me mid-swallow and nearly caused a catastrophe:
A fun thing to do to let off steam after layoffs began was to go into someone’s office and send an e-mail from their computer addressed to the entire agency. It might say something simple like “My name is Shaw-NEE! You are captured, Ha! I poopie I poopie I poopie.” People came in in the morning and read that and the reactions were so varied.
Jim Jackers read it and immediately sent out an email that read, “Obviously someone came into my office last night and composed an e-mail in my name and sent it out to everyone. I apologize for any inconvenience or offense, although it wasn’t my fault, and would appreciate from whoever did this a public apology. I have read that e-mail five times now and I still don’t even understand it.”