The place was London – spooky, thrilling, pompous, historic, charming, expensive, wonderful London with its razzle-dazzle intertwine of ancient and pop-cultural life.
Hubby Mark and I walked trillions of miles through downpours, sprinkles and blazing sun to see the Royal Palace, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly Square, remains of the infamous 19th-century prison Charles Dickens described in Great Expectations and, naturally, the original Hard Rock Café.
We were sooty, damp and delirious with wanderlust when we arrived back at the London train station to return to Rochester – our nesting place for the two weeks Mark was on business assignment.
Wrestling through thick crowds inside the train, we couldn’t believe our luck when we spotted two empty seats facing one another inside a nice enclosure. We chatted happily as we nestled noisily among the passengers, rattling our numerous shopping bags and goodies.
A tomb-like silence soon settled on our senses.
Taking a better look at our seatmates, we realized that all four men wore expensive three-piece suits, perfectly unscuffed shoes, buffed nails and meticulously groomed hair – you know, the English version of the perfectly turned out guys in GQ.
Each man had an open newspaper in front of his face and appeared deeply engrossed in it.
No other signs of life were manifest in the “GQ gentlemen.”
Good grief! Mark and I conveyed to one another with saucer eyes – we’re in a PRIVATE gentlemen’s car, and the men were too polite to tell us!
Our jeans and street-trollop appearance suddenly became unbearable. We’d been in rain and dirty city streets all day. Might we even be, uh, smelly?
I couldn’t bear it! I squirmed. With a man on each side of me, I was a giant toad trapped inside a tiny teacup. Everything I did seemed animated. Loud. Preposterous.
Mark and I were now…
agonizing and insufferably common;
wretched street characters from a Dickens novel;
In desperation, I glanced at Mark sitting between the two men opposite me. Did he comfort me, quell my fears with a simple shoulder shrug or a nod of the head?
My dear husband committed THE UNPARDONABLE SIN. He rolled his eyes in an animated arc and puffed out his cheeks. His expression screamed at me, Sheesh! What a bunch of stuffed shirts!
He knew better than to commit this act of treason.
All my life – which he is fully aware of – I have battled a private affliction of the most humiliating kind; that is, in terribly absurd situations, I am struck with uncontrollable hilarity that cannot be checked.
My PROBLEM took over.
An outrageous fit of laughter possessed me. Vulgar snorts emitted from my nose and throat. Soon, heaven forbid, the unthinkable happened. I started to wheeze at the end of my laughs. For me, that’s a common side effect of a fierce laugh attack. I continued to stifle loud guffaws, followed by those exasperating wheezes. Meanwhile, all around us…
no eyes moved from the newspapers—no faces reflected any emotion.
I couldn’t look at Mark. If I did, he made another face. I threw on my sunglasses. They immediately steamed up from the combination of damp air and my elevated body temperature. I grabbed my newly purchased Dickens paperback from my shopping bag and pretended to read, silently begging God to strike me dumb.
I’d like to say that I gained control on that train ride, but that wouldn’t be true. I calmed down to just the occasional giggle, though, which I turned into a little dignified cough. It was comforting to know that I at least looked less dense with my nose buried in a Charles Dickens novel.
Mark and I tumbled from the private booth and off the train as soon as rails and wheels allowed. Taking in gulps of air, I was relieved, and mad.
“Why Mark? Why did you do that to me?”
His eyes danced with orneriness. “You know, next time, turn your book right side up. It’s a lot more effective.”
I died of mortification standing right there at the train station.
Indeed, looking back, I pray that anonymous group of Englishmen will think of me sometimes with benign humor as they puff their Cohiba Behike cigars or patiently turn at the tailor’s shop while being measured for their pinstriped Gucci suits.
Perhaps one of the four gentlemen is a Shakespeare devotee who will *charitably* attach these words to his sanguinary memory of me:
I had rather a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad.
What do you think? Do I dare show my face in London again? I still feel embarrassed about it, but I cherish this experience as one of the funniest of my life. It was so completely silly!
How about you? Have you ever been hit with a very inappropriate laugh attack? What did you do to come out of it or to save face? Or did you? Please share! We’d love to hear about it!
I truly hope you’ll pick up a copy of my novel Silki, the Girl of Many Scarves: SUMMER OF THE ANCIENT. It’s available at your nearest Barnes & Noble Bookseller (note: ask them to order it from their Master List…they know it’s on there! ), on my website, B&N.com and Amazon. For your convenience, it’s also available for the Kindle, the Nook and most other eBook readers.
If you love the Southwest and kooky little characters that make you laugh aloud as authentic danger and mystery swirl at every turn, you’ll love this novel! The second book in the series, CANYON OF DOOM, debuts in early 2013.
While you’re here, please have a look around my website. To sign up to receive notices of my new blogs, recipes, appearances and media news, just leave your email address above. I’ll take care of the rest. Y’all come back soon … I miss you already!