“The best way to make your audience laugh is to start laughing yourself”
– Oliver Goldsmith
I’m a storyteller. I like the funny ones, but honestly any story will do. It’s the joy of reliving the moment through words that makes me happy… or sad, depending on the tale. And if I’m lucky, sometimes it strikes a chord with the recipient too. There was one such moment last week when I shared a story with my friend Rosie. And she said something to me that I’ve heard before and typically ignored – that I should write. So I’ve decided to include some of my short stories here in my blog. The first of which came to me tonight for no particular reason and can only be referenced to Benny Hill.
One very good friend of mine, Melissa, who lived with me for years (and can therefore testify as witness), once planted this seed with me. Being the entire opposite to me in her sensibility, organisation, cleanliness, steadiness and general approach to life, she one day proclaimed that wherever I went, Benny Hill music surely must play. It’s funny how you go through life thinking your world is completely normal, until one day someone takes a good hard look at you and points out your uniqueness. “Uniqueness” being the kinder version of what one could say. In this case, mine was a comedic ridiculousness that is just life for me, and that according to Mel could only be accompanied by the theme tune to Benny Hill. But once this was out there, it could not be unseen, and I do own now that it is entirely true.
Shortly after the day of Mel’s proclamation, came the moment of truth. Unfortunately for me, Mel and I didn’t just live together, but at the time also worked together (albeit in different departments) and between she and my boss, I was often the butt of many jokes. If the two were sat in a room together my ridiculousness was always the inevitable topic. So it was a very brief period before the Benny Hill remark became public knowledge in my workplace, and in my worklife.
On this particularly memorable day, our department was to meet with Qantas at their headquarters near Sydney Airport. My boss, Chris was flying in from Brisbane, giving us the opportunity to meet clients together earlier that day. It was for this reason that we had a hire car, and given the clients were mine, I was the nominated driver. Following the meetings, five of us piled into the tiny lawn-mower sized car, and off we headed to the outskirts of Sydney Airport to meet with the flying kangaroo.
I was still fairly new to Sydney at this point, so it was my colleague Julius (aka Dilbert) who provided the directions. While normally quite a calculated man, poor Julius was distracted (as was I) by the noise generated by the clowns in the backseat, and the result was poor route calculation of his in-built GPS satellite. His instructions were late in delivery, and at times slightly confused. Although whether the confusion was at my end or his, who can really say…
It was as we were speeding around the cross-city tunnel entry on two wheels, and I was remarking on the similarity of this experience to Mario Kart, that the car’s inhabitants realised the hands they’d put themselves into by having me at the wheel with a broken GPS-Julius. With laughter and jokes the whole way (probably to distract from the fear), we made it out to Mascot, circled a roundabout at least four times while Julius re-calibrated his route and eventually found our way to the underground carpark. It was as we were orbiting the roundabout a second time that my boss, Chris, who had recalled the Benny Hill remark, managed to blast the theme tune from his phone. This didn’t help GPS Julius’ concentration (no compute), nor my driving as I laughed myself almost to tears at the hilarious appropriateness of the song at that moment.
But the fun didn’t end there.
As we entered the carpark, it was clear that at this late point of the day, finding a parking space was truly going to be an issue. As the driver, and the person responsible for the wellbeing of both colleagues and hire car, I found it a stressful moment. I admit there was some extra perspiration apparent as I was forced to reverse through a narrow gap in a packed car park in said hire car, when I was assured we’d driven past a possible parking spot. Though it was tense for all of us, to their credit those in the car stopped giggling long enough to spot an empty space. Unfortunately it was the size of a matchbox, but it was deemed just large enough by super-computer-Julius, who calculated it to the millimeter.
Being a country gal by origin, I promised I could handle it (choosing not to recall that time I’d reversed into my farmer boyfriend’s ute that one time), and everyone was forced out of the car so I could reverse park. While others stood around watching impatiently, GPS-Julius calculated each minute angle and gently guided me into the impossible spot that couldn’t have been more than one metre wide. With barely marginal success I positioned our little lawnmower hire perfectly in the tiny gap afforded us in that oh so generous carpark, to great applause. Or maybe it was only me gleefully clapping with delight and relief. But there was definitely clapping. Possibly my heartbeat in my ears.
After a moment’s pause I realised the battle was far from over, as my door could barely afford to open 30cm. Knowing there was no other way, and refusing to give in after coming this far, I removed my shoes and handbag, which Julius kindly held for me, and began to manoeuvre myself out of the tiny gap that the door would allow. It was at this moment that the Benny Hill music found its way back onto our airways thanks to my ever supportive manager Chris, and it was all I could do not to collapse into a fit of hysterics again.
To fully comprehend the comedy of this next moment, you have to know that there were two cars traveling to Mascot that day. There were a number of Account Managers risking their lives together for the sake of punctuality, in a hired clown car with our boss Chris, eager not to be late (as Account Managers do). And then there was Stephen, the classy, laid-back, King of Sales, cruising luxuriously in his shiny new Jeep, sunglasses glinting with self-satisfaction. He’d left the office after us, to many warnings that he shouldn’t be late. Late?! He’d scoffed at the suggestion. It may have perhaps added an element of competition to our commute, had we not circled the roundabout just that one extra time…
So there I am, no shoes, sweating and frazzled, trying my best to climb like a lady and maintain all dignity despite my rising pencil skirt, when King Stephen comes squealing into the carpark in said Jeep and pulls a rockstar park at the end of a row of cars opposite me, where clearly there had been no park existing. He bounces out of the car a mere moment after we’ve managed to find ourselves a park, to witness me, legs akimbo, straddling a lawn mower and squealing for everyone to avert their eyes. As the Benny Hill music continues mockingly in my hot ears, truly setting the scene for the whole event, His Highness takes a lazy lean against his illegally parked car and nonchalantly quips “Tight squeeze Larko?”.
I climb barefoot and shame-faced over the open car door onto the bonnet of our hired clown car, and acknowledge to myself that perhaps Mel was on the money. Perhaps I should resign myself to the fact that this theme song will be played at my funeral and just give my permission already.
“Here rests Larko. She was ridiculous. But man, could she reverse a TOIGHT carpark”, as they lower me into the dirt, Benny Hill playing jubilantly in the background…