When my humour falls flat…doh!



I like to think that I have a reasonable sense of humour though most of my friends are far too polite to point out otherwise, Gawd bless them! But sometimes my humour falls completely flat and when it does I think it amuses me even more than when it is well received. Is that wrong? To illustrate, I shall firstly give an example of when it has worked…and then some examples of the many times that it hasn’t.

An example of when it has actually worked

It was a few years ago when I was still a Firefighter. I had gone to work at another fire station for the evening to cover a shortfall in personnel. Whilst there I spoke to Phil about what he was going to get up to on his days off and he told me that he was going to be helping a guy from my station with a house move. Now Phil was fairly new to the Brigade at the time…and so was Katie. Katie was also based at my station and was also going to be involved in the house move the following morning. Now where the idea came from or why I thought of it I don’t know but just before we both went off duty the following morning I quickly hid myself in the office, typed up a letter, addressed it to Katie, placed it in an envelope and gave it to Phil. Knowing that he and Katie would working together that morning I asked if he could give it to her. I also said that I’d had a little bit of a falling out with her so asked if he could just give her the letter and not say it was from me.  “Really?” he asked.   “Yeah.” I confirmed, “Just give it to her and let her read it i that’s okay. She’ll understand.” Phil then politely and obediently nodded and agreed to give her the letter. We finished the shift, I returned my fire gear to my base station and then went home. I was still a bit tired from the previous shift so had actually forgotten all about the letter until I received a call when I got home. It was from Steve, also from my station and who was also helping with the house move. He had been driving the removal lorry and had had to pull it over because he said he’d been giggling so much. It was then that he had to hand the phone over to Katie who then ‘thanked me’ for the letter between blushing fits of laughter. I had expected the letter to raise a wry titter or the odd chuckle but thankfully Phil had kept to his word, had said nothing and had simply given Katie the letter. He then sat in the removal lorry next to her and, having just met her, politely remained quiet as she read it. The actual wording of it I can’t quite remember but it was something like this. “Dear Katie. My name is Philip and fink yoo are a very luvly looking lady. I luv yoo very much and wood like to won day hold hands with yoo or even hav a big kiss on yoor lips and then won day we cood get married and liv happily ever aftu. Pleese forgive me telling yoo this way but I is very shy and did not want to tell yoo to yoor face. Lots and lots of luv, Philip. xxx”

Eventually Katie had to ring off because I couldn’t hear her over Steve’s giggles and Phil’s loud Anglo-Saxon themed feedback in the background.

An example of when my humour has, well…has not worked quite so well

Picture a man going on a journey through sight and sound…well, see the guy behind him? Yeah, well that’s me arriving at Brigade* headquarters. It was, again, some years ago but this time I was based in Brigade training in central London. I had gone to headquarters to attend a meeting with someone but on this particular occasion I’d forgotten my ID swipe card. Even though I was in uniform I was still required to carry it so when I realised I had forgotten it I was obliged to ask if I could sign in instead. The security guard on reception stood and leaned over the counter. “I need to see your ID Sir.” Undeterred by his size or demeanour and aware of my hidden Jedi powers I simply waved my hand in front of him and stated “You don’t need to see my identification…you can go about your business.” The Sithcurity guard merely looked down at me and remained silent.  I turned and gestured behind myself. “The droids are for sale…if you want them.” I waited. Nothing. I just looked down at the log book, shrugged at him with a smile and signed it. It should be noted that I can do a reasonable Alec Guinness impression so to this day I’m still not sure how this mind trick did not work other than that he was perhaps a Toydarian.

The Fire Service again and this time I was attending a training course at Harrow training centre. Our training had recently been outsourced so the staff there worked for an outside company. It was the first day of my ‘Incident Command’ course and I had just arrived at reception. The woman behind the desk smiled politely at me, “Good morning, welcome. Which course are you on today?” “Dancing.” I confirmed. “Dancing? Eh?” Her facial expression and body language confirmed that she was surprised by my statement. I interjected before she was able to continue, “Oh please, no! Please tell me I haven’t got the wrong day. Oh come on, I’ve been travelling all the way from Kent. Don’t muck about!” She looked at me, still puzzled. “I’m sorry…but…we don’t do dancing here.” I paused and shrugged with mocked disappointment. “Well what else you got then?” She looked down her list of courses and reeled them off “Erm, First Aid? Incident command…?” “Incident Command? Yeah, that sounds okay. Okay, put me down for some of that.” I said. It was then that she realised that I was clearly a buffoon and she quickly peeled off her look of concern and replaced it with a stick-on look of amused relief. But the thing was…she had not understood my attempt at humour and was instead simply relieved that the whole sordid affair was now over and that normal service had been resumed.  The other thing that amused me about this was that I’d been in full Fire Brigade uniform at the time so the chances of me actually having turned up for a real dancing lesson were obviously slim to none to obviously not! Later that same week I approached the training centre and could see the same woman sitting at her desk again. I ran the last few steps into reception and pretended to be out of breath. She looked up from her desk with genuine concern. “Is everything alright?” I pretended to quickly catch my breath. “Not really. Do you have a contact number for one of the trainers on the Incident Command course?” “Erm, yes, I think so…somewhere, why, what’s wrong?” “I’m driving in at the moment and I’m stuck in heavy traffic about an hour away on the M25. The traffic is horrendous and I really don’t think I’m going to make it in on time.” Much to my surprise and mischievous pleasure she suddenly looked flustered and quickly began looking around the reception for a contact number. As she did she tried to reassure me. “Are you sure you’ll not be able to make it in? Is the traffic really that bad?” “Yes…” I said, almost absently as I was busily, mentally, scratch my head trying to work out why she still hadn’t fallen in. “Oh dear.” She said. “And whereabouts did you say you were stuck again?” I lowered my brow sceptically at her. “Erm…the M25? I’m currently stuck…in my car…on the M25? About an hour away?” Now I had actually begun this as a statement but had re-toned it toward the end of the sentence into a question in the hope that she would see that even I did not believe what was coming out of my mouth. “But…you’re there!” She actually pointed at me in just case I wasn’t sure. “Oh good.” I said. “I made it!” She paused, remained still for a moment and then her whole body seemed to slightly deflate with a silent sigh. She smiled blissfully unaware of what the Hell I’d been talking about but was simply now glad that, whatever nonsensical problem I had been professing to have had, it was suddenly now gone.
I hadn’t meant to make her feel silly of course nor did I try to come across as being disrespectful but whatever humour I had tried to inject into an otherwise potentially dull day was clearly misused on her. I on the other hand was giggling like a buffoon all day to myself about it.

Even the other day my wife and I were planning to go to the CROMA pizza restaurant at the Odeon in Tunbridge Wells. I rang them to confirm that they were open and, having done so, I then asked if I needed to make a reservation for a table for two. “No that’s fine Sir, we’re not fully booked but it is on a first come first serve basis.” Without thinking I replied, “Oh, okay then. I’ll make sure to walk in before my wife so as to ensure at least I get served.” Without batting an audible eyelid the waitress simply reassured me, “Oh no that’s okay sir, I’m sure you should both be able to get in!” The thing was that my statement was out there. I couldn’t take it back and trying to explain it would have been awkward at best. I had to just hope that she thought no less of me when I arrived and also I made a point of standing behind my wife as we arrived so as to put the waitress off the potentially judgmental scent.

When thinking about writing this blog I was reminded of the time that my brother Shaun recalled to me that he once stated to his teacher, during a class as a mature student in night school, that the person sitting next to him was “Chewing gum Miss!”, before which he had even put his hand up to await permission to speak. The teacher then explained that, being mature students, the person next to him was “probably old enough to be make up their own mind about such things, don’t you think Shaun?” She had apparently said this with a note of derision and disappointment and I found the whole event quite funny when it was recounted to me as I could imagine myself being in that very same position. I have heard this tone of derision many times in my life so I could easily imagine being in the middle of that room having made the very same statement and then wanting the floor to swallow me up…all the time knowing that everyone else in the room would be assuming I was a complete prat. I’d also be very aware that I was then going to have to find some later way of convincing them otherwise if I thought it worth it.

My humour doesn’t always fall flat but, when it does, I’m often left feeling slightly disappointed that the recipient has misinterpreted its meaning or has missed my intention to include them within the joke. This disappointment however is often flavoured with the taste of self amusement and with the knowledge that…it will only be a matter of time before I do it all over again. DOH!

* Fire Service as it is now known

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