I can recall many occasions in my life when I have laughed so hard that I was literally gasping for air, trying to stop and couldn't. Times I thought I might die on the spot if I didn't get away from the person sharing the hysterical laughter with me. Some of those times are “you had to be there” stories and I couldn’t do them justice in writing, but I can think of a couple worthy of sharing. Isn't it funny that we seem to be more prone to uncontrollable laughter at the worst possible times?
For me, it was often Sunday mornings in church as a teen and pre-teen. My friends and I would purposely sit behind a man who would make the hour long service much more entertaining for us than the pastor. It was rumored that he actually suffered from narcolepsy, though I didn't know that until many years later. He would doze off repeatedly during the service with his head bobbing all over the place. The funny part was that he'd wake up many times from his own snoring but he’d nod right back off just moments later. My sister recalls one time when his head slammed down onto the back of the pew in front of him with a loud thud. I missed that particular incident, but watching him nod off provided great entertainment for my friends and I, in between writing notes and games of hangman or tic-tac toe during the sermon. We could usually maintain our silent laughter, where only our shoulders would shake, without uttering a sound. Sometimes, one of us would lose control and let out a slight snort, which would have a contagious effect on the others, resulting in the kind of laughter that was almost impossible to control. Once you lose control of that silent laughter and you make a noise, you're usually in for a real battle to maintain control.
I once suffered from uncontrollable laughter at the veterinarian's office when our first dog, Chelsi, had undergone surgery to remove a cyst from the tip of her tail. We were aware that she would be required to wear a lampshade looking contraption around her neck, for about two weeks to keep her from biting at her tail while it healed. We'd been forewarned that she might look a bit awkward. She was a large white German shepherd and as soon as I saw her walking down the hall towards me, I burst into laughter. I was standing at the counter with my checkbook when they brought her out. She was banging into the walls on both sides of her, and as sad as that may sound, I started laughing so hard I couldn't stop myself, even in front of these people. My husband was laughing, too, and by this time had been given the leash to hold onto her. She was banging into chairs in the waiting room and watching her with this big lampshade thing on her head was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen. Of course, knowing her personality and seeing her reaction made it even funnier than if it had just been some random dog. I totally lost control and the more I tried to stop laughing the worse it got. I was literally bent over laughing right there in the clinic. I'm sure the vet staff thought I was evil for laughing at my poor dog. I was trying so hard to stop but I couldn't. She was a big dog and the thing she was wearing was the size of the biggest lampshade you can imagine. She was running into everything and completely disoriented. Every time I looked at her I would burst out laughing and absolutely could not stop. My husband, whom was also still laughing, ended up taking her outside just to get her away from me so I could try to gain my composure. I apologized to the staff and eventually managed to write the check, but continued snickering while I stood there, as hard as I tried not to. It was all I could do not to laugh hysterically until I left. When I got outside it only got worse. I was gasping for air as we walked to the car. The shade had banged into a curb causing her to stumble and she was bumping into cars and I couldn't stop laughing, in spite of how much I loved her, and the fact that she'd just had surgery.
We stopped at a store on our way home and I waited in the car with her. People walking past would catch a glimpse of her and stare at us and then I'd laugh even harder. The laughing continued long after we arrived home. The sight of her trying to maneuver her way around the house and trying to eat and drink with that thing on was killing me. I had bouts of laughter for several days until she finally managed to get around without banging into everything.
I experienced that same kind of laughter about ten years ago at the funeral of our ninety something year old great-great uncle. As far removed as that relation may sound, we'd actually grown up being very close to him. (I'm not so sure my mother will appreciate hearing this story and my sister might not be too thrilled with me either) My sister and I had opted to make the four-hour trip to the funeral with my brother and his wife and would be leaving at 6am. The night prior to the funeral, she and and I went to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Cook-Off and stayed out entirely too late. By the time we crawled into bed it seemed like my brother was ringing the doorbell. I know neither of us slept on the trip and were both delirious and exhausted when we arrived. The service was beautiful and I never intended to start what would turn into another one of those bouts of hysterical laughter at such an inappropriate time. Did I already mention that we were delirious? She and I were sitting very close together (possibly trying to keep each other awake) and she whispered something to me. I couldn't help but notice that her breath didn’t smell very good and never should've said it, but I did. I whispered to her, "Where's the dog?” She asked, "What dog?" I replied, "The dog that just took a dump in your mouth. You need some gum, like yesterday". The hysteria was ON. It was all either of us could do to keep from snorting and rolling right off of the pew. It was awful. We were both about to lose control at a loved ones funeral and trying desperately not to. I do believe there was a snort from one of us but we were able to pass it off as crying. However, it barely passed. I'm not proud of myself for this, although it was a pretty good one, if I do say so myself. It was out of my mouth before I could stop it and I didn't realize how hard it would cause us both to laugh. We were beyond shoulders shaking and were trying to muzzle ourselves. After the funeral, we made our way into the hallway and could hardly even look at each other or anyone else, and were in no shape to speak to anyone. Here we were at a funeral suffering from sidesplitting, gut wrenching laughter. Somehow, we managed to pull it together when we saw our mom and grandmother approaching us.