Monday, March 07, 2005

The Rolling Chopstick Phenomenon

There is a Japanese phrase to describe the ease with which adolescents are driven to giggling: "Hashi ga korogattemo okashii toshigoro" ("the age where even a rolling chopstick is funny"). But, as members of my family will testify, I have been at "that age" for most of my life, often driven to sudden, inappropriate laughter by my own thoughts at the worst moment possible. I'm sure I'm not the only person who has this problem. Certainly there was at least one time in your own life when you went to get a haircut, and you started chuckling at some dumb thing that popped into your head, and had to explain to the stylist why you were laughing. Well, here are some real-life examples of the Rolling Chopstick Phenomenon (or RCP) happening to me:

My family's dentist was located across the street from a carwash. For something like eight years straight, the carwash's changeable marquee carried the same message: "FOA MY BRUSH." The inexplicable space in the middle of the word "foamy" would prompt a booming voice in my head to yell, "Fo' my brush!" This, in turn, caused me to laugh during my fluoride treatment, and I had to explain to the hygenist what was so funny. (Or not so funny, depending on your point of view.)

Similarly, I was driven to laughter by a plaque on the wall of my optometrist's office. The plaque commemorated the doctor's receipt of a Jaycee honor called the John H. Armbruster Memorial Award, and sported a relief carving of Mr. Armbruster, a frumpy, old man with glasses. At first glance I misread the award as the John H. ArmBUSTER Memorial Award, which naturally lead to a mental image of the frumpy, old guy breaking people's arms. The optometrist's reaction to my laughter was very similar to his reaction six months earlier, when I told him that I had permanently messed up my vision by watching the entire Superbowl through a pair of 3D glasses.

Most recently, I bit my lip to stop myself from laughing during an English lesson, when I suddenly remembered a line from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, completely out of context:

MRS. GLOOP: You boiled him up, I know it!

Incidentally, there have been many other times when Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory planted "the seed of silliness" in my brain, usually via some twisted revision of the Oompa Loompa song, or the idea I had a few years ago for an alternate ending where the Wonkavator transforms into a deadly missile that homes in on and destroys Charlie's house. I am also reminded of the part where Mr. Wonka says something like, "Don't lose your head. We wouldn't want anyone to lose that...yet." The "yet" really got my hopes up. I waited and waited for Charlie and the Chocolate-Induced Decaptitation Rampage...and I'm still waiting.

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