Theater of the Absurd

Posted by on Mar 31, 2019 in Blog, Featured | 8 comments

Theater of the Absurd

My wife, Farn, and I were reminiscing about our early years together recently and all of a sudden remembered an incident that we hadn’t thought about for years. It’s a funny story and I’m in the mood for capturing something with some humor in it.

Farn and I were up in St. Paul, Minnesota visiting my grandparents for a week one summer when we were both in college in Wisconsin. We were preparing to head a bit north to White Bear Lake to visit some friends of my grandparents. These friends were extremely proper, so my grandparents encouraged us to dress up and to be on our best behavior before we set off for this gorgeous house, right on the lake—with expansive lawns, a gazebo overlooking the lake, and a dock and sailboat.

I remember sitting in the gazebo with Farn, attempting to have a serious conversation with Mr. Jones, the patriarch of this family. He was sitting across from us with his martini, white dinner jacket, and dapper style. We were munching on guacamole dip and crackers when all of a sudden, this glob of guacamole fell onto the lapel of his white dinner jacket.  He was in the middle of a story so we couldn’t alert him, but we watched with bated breath as the green glob slowly rolled down his jacket.

Instantly following this episode, out of the corner of our eyes, we saw his basset hound wandering up behind him as he continued talking. All of a sudden, the dog leaned over and started dry heaving, finally throwing up.  Mr. Jones was oblivious to all of this while Farn and I were struggling to keep our composure as we pretended to listen to him.

We then went inside for dinner. It was a huge, formal table with more plates and glasses than we had ever seen. Once we sat down, Mr. Jones announced that we should wait for his mother, an elderly woman, to come down the stairs. We all sat there quietly listening for 20 minutes as she slowly made her way downstairs, muttering to herself the entire way, as her cane tapped the staircase impatiently.  

All of these random incidents were beginning to build up and I desperately avoided Farn’s eyes for fear we would start laughing.  But then there was the final act. Once Mr. Jones’s mother was seated, we all started dinner. Mrs. Jones turned to us and began asking us about our life in college. Unfortunately, she had a tic. As she was talking, her head would periodically fly backwards, and her hand, holding her fork, would slam down on her plate. We were stunned. Yet she continued on, not at all self-conscious about her movements. Everyone else at the table knew about her tic and just carried on with dinner, smiling and chatting comfortably.

Over the course of our meal, we got used to her tic and she was a delightful, charming woman. It sobered us up. We knew it was wrong to laugh at her mannerisms. But oh, what a day! Upon sharing this bizarre sequence of events with my grandparents on our way back to St. Paul, even they joined us in laughing. That afternoon and evening are etched in stone for both Farn and me.  What made it so memorable was the interplay between funny, spontaneous incidents occurring in that somewhat stuffy and proper environment.


  1. Funny story, John, but I am left with the question about the ultimate destination of the blob of guacamole, and whether Mr. Jones ever noticed it.

  2. Thanks for sharing, John. Sounds like it would have been the perfect setting for the Marx Brothers–with their collective irreverence. 🙂

  3. Great story! I laughed out loud. I love this kind of humor, finding things in everyday happenings. I bet the two of you avoided eye contact as you were privately chuckling.

  4. Hilarious, John! Monty Python-esque. Beyond the knee-slapping humor, it has deeper overtones on how we can get used to an odd tic or deformity fairly quickly, and start interacting as fellow human beings. As a nursing home volunteer, I have seen various odd behaviors, including the backward head thrust. One woman with whom I was chatting was very elderly, and had been in a Nazi concentration camp, and it seemed to mirror some horror that she had experienced.

  5. sounds like the same Mr. Jones that Bob Dylan wrote about. I think he was from Minnesota too. Mutual acquaintance.

  6. What youthful restraint! May we live to create such unique memories for young people to come! 🙂

  7. Good story John. Visiting parents friends can be memorable. As a young child my mother took me to a widow friend’s home. Every room in the house had a severe slant to the floor. So severe you had to hold onto whatever to move about the house. The widow proudly mentioned her home was constructed by her late husband. It was clear he lacked any construction skills. Her husband would have been proud to hear his wife’s compliments. My mother and I shared a good laugh following our visit.

  8. I am laughing out loud at visualizing you and Farn containing your amusement. The guacamole on white would have had me bouncing up yelling time is of the essence. When the dog is mentioned dry heaving I was certain that his pet had licked his jacket cleaned. What great memories, and isn’t it wonderful we can still remember them?

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