Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lugubriosity

I am not perfect, and this is often most evident in my social skills. There are two things I am accused of most often:

1) Sounding like I am being sarcastic, or like I am kidding, when in fact I am trying to be sincere.
2) Regarding the darkest ideas possible like they are normal and appropriate to common conversation.

I don't mean to apologize for this. Far from it, it is part of who I am, and my good friends have learned to accept it as I have learned to reign it in. It does often lead to awkward moments though, and the company I am keeping makes all the difference as to whether these misunderstandings can be laughed into dismissal.

I recently made both of these mistakes at once at a class for expectant couples.

This class was designed to teach nursing techniques, and was held at the hospital we are going to deliver the baby in. It was taught by a very kind and friendly nursing specialist, and so I expressed our concern that the baby would be taken away or kept from us right after delivery. The woman assured us that no, this hospital was very into letting the parents immediately bond with the baby.

Now, before I continue the story, hold onto that moment in the conversation while I give you some insight into how my mind works.

When I think of babies being born in a hospital, I am taken to a pop culture image that I thought was shared in the collective unconcious. You know in television and in film that classic room babies are often kept in? It's just rows of clear, plastic, lidless crib-boxes with clipboards attached to them, and on one side of the room is that big clear police-interrogation room glass. Babies are then held up to the window by parents, doctors, and nurses for visitors to see while rows of other babies sleep or gurgle or cry together in their seperate compartments. I have a picture of myself meeting my little brother this way. I figured everyone thought of those rooms being a place babies go, and that it could be a little cold and detached if the baby spent a lot of time in there.

So the nursing instructor goes on about how great the hospital is, and ends with:

"It's a really wonderful environment, I'm really lucky to work here. They give you lots of opportunities to bond."

"That's so relieving to hear," I said, "That's so much better than taking my baby to a room full of babies in drawers."

Why I chose the word "drawer" I couldn't tell you, other than I thought it was a completely sincere synonym for those tiny crib-boxes. I was not in tune with the collective unconscious of the room, however, because they stared at me horror struck. The instructor, the other couples, and my wife all thought I had just made a joke about a baby morgue. A room full of dead babies in drawers. Closed drawers.

I was attempting neither to be funny nor make a reference to anything dark, but there I was pushing the entire room into a boat on that wacky river Styx.

I have tried to craft this story into a stand-up joke onstage a couple of times in the last week, and the groan I elicit is so overwhelming that it's not worth the laugh.

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