Friday, February 15, 2008

Hernia Boy

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a pretty hard time keeping a straight face. If something is funny, I tend to laugh. Not chuckle, not smile, but a full out, gut grabbing laugh.

As you can imagine, that has posed some serious problems for me in the past.

Growing up, I played violin. I still do to this day, just not in the same capacity as I did in the past. In my younger years (in what felt like a different life – doesn’t it all for us?), I had dreams of becoming a professional musician. I wanted to play in the Minnesota Orchestra, and would pretend that I was playing on-stage while practicing endless hours.

My parents were extremely supportive of my dreams: they encouraged my participation, they paid for years of music lessons, purchased violins and violin equipment (strings, rosin, sheet music, bow re-hair), attended numerous concerts and practices, and carted me and my sister to and from weekly lessons. Even though I’m not playing violin now the way in which I envisioned myself, undoubtedly I would not be the person, or athlete that I am, without my musical experience. (My parents – especially my Mom – were heartbroken when I decided to pursue a different path than what was originally thought… but to this day, I am SO GRATEFUL for everything that they did for me. Like I said before, music and the violin, was one of the best things to ever happen to me… and I simply wouldn’t be the same person without my instrument).


As pupils of the Suzuki Method, my sister and I attended weekly group lessons. These hour-long sessions were a chance for us to play (violin) with one of our three teachers, and other pupils in same level. Karyna, who started playing a few years after me, was grouped in a slightly younger group of kids (although she was very talented and was one of the younger ones… aw – she made her big sis so proud!). There was one other boy her same age in her group: Sam.

Sam was interesting.

Sam was the jokester. Sam was the prankster. Sam wanted attention. Sam was oftentimes in a bad mood. But... Sam didn’t like to participate in group activities.

So when he did, we were all surprised.

One night, Karyna’s class was playing “Simon Says” with their violin bow, a great way of making a game out of proper bow position (FYI – the violin is held in the left hand, while the bowing is done with the right). It’s important to have a sound grip, a solid technical foundation, so that in a violinists later years – when the musical passages become increasingly difficult – one has complete control over their bowing.

“Simon Says wiggle your pinkie finger…” Julia, the teacher commanded.

Diligently, the class wiggled their pinkie finger.

“Simon Says make B-I-G circles with your bow…” Julia continued.

The class made B-I-G circles with their bow.

“Simon Says place your bow silently on your strings…”

And the class placed their bows silently on their strings.

Next, Teacher Julia asked for a willing volunteer to be the new Simon. I was sitting in the middle of the room, next to Mom. There were about 20 or so parents and other children in the room, and 8 violin pupils in the front.

We were all taken aback when both of Sam’s hands shot up, violin and bow in hand.

“Sam!” Julia stammered, as flabbergasted as the rest of us.

Sam, violin and bow in hand, pranced to the front of the room, looked up at the rest of the class (he was a good 4 inches shorter than all the other students), and slowly smiled.

It was a wicked grin, but nobody realized it just yet. Except, perhaps - me.

Simon Says started off innocently enough.

“Simon Says make SMALL FAST CIRCLES WITH YOUR BOW!” Sam shouted.

The class, and teacher, made small, fast circles with their bows.

“Simon Says TAKE OFF YOUR HUGGER FINGERS!” Sam shouted, again. (Hugger fingers are the middle two fingers on the bow, meant to help support the frog, or base of the bow.)

Once again, the class followed suit.

And then, Sam’s smile got bigger. He looked to his left. He looked to his right. The room was so silent, that we could have heard a pin drop.

We waited.

We paused…

And then, Sam the jokester, Sam the prankster, Sam who was often ill-tempered, Sam who wanted attention, did what he had obviously been waiting to do for a long time.


The class, the teacher, all paused. Suffice to say, no one stuck their bow down their pants. Except Sam – who’s bow was protruding from beneath his private school uniform. Just past his private parts.

Shocking to a room full of violin-playing kids and observant parents.

There was silence.

And then (and I have no idea how Teacher Julia managed to keep a straight face…), Julia replied, in a very cool, calm, and collect voice, “Sam, we don’t stick our bow down our pants.”

It was as simple as that: we don't stick out bow down our pants. Priceless. Wish you could have been there.

There were a few nervous chuckles from the back, mostly parents and other grown-up kids. I let out a few laughs, but upon realizing the seriousness of the situation, I tried to remain silent.

Sam, however, was having none of it.

“But Simon SAID STICK YOUR BOW DOWN YOUR PANTS! STICK YOUR BOW DOWN YOUR PANTS!” he shouted, his face turning red from the exertion. He honestly believed that everyone, students and teacher, should have already stuck their bow down their pants.

And it was at that precise moment that I could feel the laugh coming on. It started with a chuckle. Then a few small “hee hees”. And before I knew it, my shoulders were shaking; tears were forming at the corners of my eyes, and my stomach was sore from holding back. I was holding my breath, fearful of the consequences of opening my mouth to inhale – doing so would release a torrent of unstoppable laughter, for which I did not want to be responsible.

Then, I made my fatal error: I looked at my Mom. Like me, her shoulders were shaking and tears were streaming from her eyes.

And together, an explosion of laughter burst forth from our unconstrained mouths.

It was awful, it was loud, and I couldn’t stop. Lucky for her, Mom quickly regained composure. But being the mature 12-year-old that I was, I wasn’t so lucky. As hard as I tried to stop laughing, the situation became seemingly funnier. The more I tried to stop, the harder I laughed.

Eventually I had to leave the room. Naturally, once I was in the hallway, all laughter ceased to flow – the situation didn’t even seem funny. Instead, it was just stupid. I looked at the fluorescent lights, the long corridor, and the chairs stacked next to the auditorium. The air conditioner hummed overhead. Very boring, all monotonous – nothing like what I had just witnessed. The idea of someone sticking their bows down their pants seemed so childish, so immature. And unreal.

Fully composed, I pushed the heavy wooden door open.

I should have known better. But I was 12. And had a problem with containing my laugh.

Within one step of entering the room, I exploded in laughter all over again.

And once again, I found myself in the hallway. This process repeated itself over and over again, for the rest of the hour. I just couldn’t stop laughing. One look at Sam, and I burst into peals of laughter. It was awful – and my Mom was embarrassed. Honestly, I just couldn’t help it.

My laughter was not going to be denied.

Years later, I’m still the same.

If something is funny, I laugh. If something is funny and I’m not supposed to laugh, I laugh even harder.

So you can imagine my difficulty when the following events transpired earlier this evening:

Nathaniel and I were returning from a quick jaunt to the mailbox. Fun times at the Lauterbach household on a Friday night! In all seriousness, the weather was beautiful – warm enough for shorts, but cool enough for long sleeves. The setting sun painted bright colors across the sky, and we held hands on the way back.

Even though it was only a quick five minutes, we discussed the events for the upcoming holiday weekend, namely our Spring Cleaning event on Saturday (time to clean the apartment, throw away and donate old/unused stuff, and get it ready for Spring!), and my ½ marathon on Sunday. We were really excited about the prospects of a totally clean apartment and post-race sushi (our reward for working hard. Oh yeah – and keeping my birthday celebration alive as long as possible. Hurrah! Can anyone say more chocolate? And Peanut Butter?? Mmmmmm).

Sorry - the thought of a second guilt-free celebration was momentarily too much! (One for Valentine's/Birday and a second for Birthday/Race - hooray!)

As we entered the walkway to our front door, one of our neighbors – don’t know his name, but he drives a red mustang – came bounding up the staircase from the nature preserve on the other side of our building. He looked in an exceptionally good mood, and Nathaniel and I were quick to greet him.

“Hey there!” I exclaimed. “How are you? You look really great!”

Nate managed to get a few words in edgewise, but was soon silenced by Red Mustang Boy’s enthusiastic answer (sorry – don’t know his name… except the details of his car. Oh, and that he’s in the Navy.)

“Oh, I’m great!” Red Mustang Boy replied, taking a step in my direction. “I’m just recovering from surgery.”

I paused.

Nathaniel, who had already inserted the house key in the door, paused.

I looked quickly at him. Our eyes met and I could tell exactly what he was thinking (one of the perks of being best friends, soul-mates for nearly 8 years).

I turned back towards Red Mustang Boy. He looked so excited, standing in his shorts, shirt, and flip-flops in our hallway – like a little boy. And as though it was Halloween. Free candy for all! His copper colored hair and freckled expression jumped out in the evening light, and I realized that he and I were nearly the same height. He just looked so darned cute, young, and I found myself grinning in spite of his surgical announcement

I took the bait. I couldn’t help it: how often does a perfectly healthy-looking individual cheerfully admit to being “great!” post-surgery? What would YOU do??

“Oh geeze,” I stammered. “What happened? Are you okay?” I tried to seem as concerned as possible, but was unsure about where this was leading.

Nate and I really didn’t have much of a relationship with Red Mustang Boy, except that his father thought I was an airline stewardess once, after I returned from a race, bike box and luggage in tow. I was too tired to explain otherwise (the thought that airlines would let an employee carry a box that size is laughable. Also – they’re NOT stewardesses. They are Flight Attendants, thank you very much. But he was too old to correct – and I was in no mood to preach PC banter with a guy who obviously was so misinformed. I was tired. T-I-R-E-D. Humbug!)

Red Mustang Boy gave Nathaniel and me a deep, penetrating look, as though he was about to let us both in on a big secret.

“I had a hernia.”

It was so simple. It was so clear-cut. It was… It was…


Did he just say that he had a hernia?

Oh wow. Too much information buddy.


I stammered and looked immediately to Nate. He looked just as perplexed as me, and was trying to turn the key without notice. I heard the faint “click”.

“Ah – oh. Wow.” I said, not really thinking of anything else TO say.

Red Mustang Boy, however, looked completely unperturbed. As though everyone had hernia surgery on a regular basis.

Come on down! You are the NEXT CONTENSTANT for hernia surgery! Cue applause.

And then he took a step closer towards me, while reacing towards his lower abdomen, halfway between his hip and belly button. He jerked his leg upright, as though to proove that everything was a-okay and back to normal.

Ew. He just had a hernia, he just had surgery, and now he was invading my personal space. Like the close talker on Seinfeld (def: a person who stands unusually close to others when speaking ... in essence disrupting the person's personal space).

No thank you, Pony Boy, take you and your hernia away from my person!

“Yeah – I got 14 days off from work. I went to the beach. A lot!” He looked so pleased with himself, as though he had just won the lottery.

I was speechless, had no clue of what to say or how to respond. I could feel the rumble of laughter generating deep from within, and knew that at any moment I was going to blow. I was in dangerous territory, un-chartered waters. No one had ever announced (so openly, I might add) they were happily recovering from hernia surgery. And Red Mustang Boy looked so happy, so pleased with himself… I couldn’t imagine where the catch was.

My shoulders started shaking as I thought of the absurdity of the situation. Apparently Red Mustang Boy aka “Hernia Boy” didn’t have a date or any plans on Friday night, except to corner unsuspecting neighbors and share his hernia adventures.


At that moment, Nathaniel pushed open the door. “Well, good-night,” he said, pointedly entering our place.

I was still astounded at what I had just heard, trying desperately not to laugh. The last thing I wanted to do was to burst out laughing while entering our apartment.

With as much composure as I could muster, I goofily replied, “We’re spring cleaning tomorrow. And then on Sunday, I’m running the Pensacola ½ Marathon!” As though everyone Spring Cleaned and ran ½ marathons on their weekends.

Hernia Boy just looked at me. Speechless.

Maintaining as much dignity as I could, I wished him a speedy recovery and dashed inside. It was all I could do to keep from exploding of laughter on the other side of the door.

I walked, as calmly as I could, to the other end of our place, doubled over at my waist, and nearly peed my pants. The laughter exploded somewhere deep from within, and it came out in droves. I couldn’t stop – and continued until my sides ached.

Slowly I stood up, regained my composure, took a deep breath and then made the fatal error of looking at Nathaniel. We promptly burst out laughing all over again until tears streamed from our eyes.

But it felt oh-so-good.

And I was super excited that I didn’t burst at the seams outside in front of Hernia Boy. I guess part of me has grown up: I can control my laugher, if even for a few minutes. A remarkable feat, indeed – given my past behavior.

So kids, next time you see your neighbors, take the time to chat. See how they are, what they’ve been up to. You never know – they might just make your night. Be warned: make sure you’re fully composed before they relate their adventures. You never know what they’ll say or how you’ll respond. You might just have another Hernia Boy lurking in wait...


Pedergraham said...

Ha ha ha. Group violin today at 11 am...and OMG, there is TOTALLY a little "Sam" that attends Lelia's group. When I was pregnant, Andrew wanted a little girl (some sort of legacy growing up in a household of all boys), and everytime he takes Lelia to group and sees "our Sam", I think he says a little prayer of thanks. (Of course, when Lelia is 13 and either crying on our shoulders or shrieking at us at the top of her voice, I'm sure he'll be wishing for a "Sam".)

I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of sushi, but the way you describe makes me wish that I really, really liked it.

Good luck tomorrow, Stewardess Marit.

Pedergraham said...

Here is one that you would likely appreciate. I am fortunate in that Lelia's violin teacher and their accompaniest are both marathoners. (They don't think I'm strange when I show up to lessons in spandex and have a Mommy violin bag full of empty bike bottles instead of the things that I'm supposed to have--rosin, kuhns etc..)

Anyway, I just sent them this e-mail.
This one has to do with running....

I was on the treadmill yesterday, listening to my "Top 25" most played songs on my ITunes list and number 12 came along and I heard, "Set 1, Variation A".

The small sacrifices that we make for our children!

Watch out U2...David Cerone and his Twinkles have knocked you out of the Top 25!

Ryan said...

I have a scar, wanna see it?


I am usually the one making the inappropriate comments.

You better stick next to someone taller than you tomorrow to act as your lightning rod because KABOOM! It is going to be shocking.

You should be finished before the big part of the storm rolls through because you are "SUPERFAST"

I am hoping for under 3:15:00, but with a 20mph wind and me being 6'5, (read: my big ass has a lot of wind resistance) it will be a tough one.

Wonder if my aero helmet will save some watts while running?

If you see someone wearing a Giro Advantage II at the start in the morning, Howdy!

Good luck!

Kellye Mills said...

That is so funny! Having been a teacher, I can TOTALLY picture Sam!

And of course he's feeling better after having Hernia surgery!! He got rid of his Hernia!! :)

日月神教-向左使 said...