Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The 'Thumb Trick'

Why is that the desire to laugh is directionally proportional to the inappropriateness of the situation?

Or, in less flowery language, you want to laugh harder when you’re not allowed to.

My most recent run-in with this phenomenon was my first meeting with my sister in law. She started talking about some stuff she’d seen on the news about the Ukraine. She seemed to be going into a lot of detail.

Why in the blue hell does she think this interests me? I thought.

After about 45 minutes of Ukrainian-based conversation, it dawned on me.

Ukraine, Ukraine, U Kraine, U K…UK!

Holy shit. She thinks I’m Ukrainian.

Of course, it’s considered impolite to laugh in the face of a new family member, in front of all your in-laws, so I turned my laugh into a sudden coughing fit.

To this day, she thinks I’m Ukrainian. I would correct her, but where’s the entertainment in that?

Now this phenomenon doesn’t just cover laughing, it covers making noise in particular.

Now chances are, this is just me, but when you absolutely, positively have to be quiet, such as in an exam or at church…does anyone else get the urge to suddenly start shouting?

“The time is 9.01am. You may open your test now.”



It’s a disease.

That is why I admire ‘The Nutter On The Bus’ so much. You know who I’m talking about. The guy who gets on wearing non-matching clothes beneath a translucent, yellow, plastic poncho… regardless of whether it’s raining or not.

Ah, The Nutter On The Bus. The one whose appearance spawns the Mantra:

“Ohgodohgodohgod pleasedon’tsitnexttome!!!”

It’s not that he’s mentally deficient, it’s just that he’s not bound by the code of behaviour forced on us by a normalist society. He’s real, man!

In fact, on one or two occasions, I’ve actually been The Nutter On The Bus…This usually happens when I’m riding alone and suddenly remember something funny. This causes me suddenly and spontaneously burst into laughter, usually causing the person next to me to shift uneasily in their seat, or get up and change seats.

I was thinking about this today. You see, the most common venue for SILT (Silence Induced Laughter/Tourettes is school.


It brought back some memories.

For example, I remember getting into deep trouble for cracking up, simply because the guy sitting next to me drew a massive afro on a picture of St. Edmund Arrowsmith, the Saint after which my school was named.

Of course, this drew attention from the teacher, and I was bound by the Unbreakable Rule of the Schoolyard:

‘Thou Shalt Not Tell On Friends Or Knowingly Drop Them In The Cacky”.

So, of course, I took the rap for disrupting the class and defacing a picture of the school’s Patron Saint.

This set me thinking about the worst trouble I ever got into at school. There are two times that spring to mind, and I will share one of them with you now.

I should point out that I was a bit of a goody-goody at school.

I rarely got into trouble (apart from the following). I got the usual ‘forgetting homework’, etc. trouble, but not very much that was serious…unlike some of my schoolmates, one of which managed to blow every single fuse in the school by wiring two electrical plugs in science class (which we were supposed to do), but then plugged them in and touched the wires together.


Now this incident involves three things: Beavis and Butthead, my head of year and a so-called friend, who apparently hadn’t heard of the Unbreakable Rule of the Schoolyard.

Picture the scene. A young Paulius is watching MTV’s Beavis and Butthead. They show something that intrigues and interests him. Namely, taking about 15 big deep breaths, putting your thumb in your mouth, and blowing on it as hard as possible, causing a spike in blood pressure that causes you to faint.

Young Paulius arrives at school the next day and begins a debate with other Beavis and Butthead viewers as to whether the ‘Thumb Trick’ would actually work in real life.

The debate goes on, until one reprobate flat out insists that it won’t work.

To prove his hypothesis that Beavis and Butthead are full of crap, he places his head between his legs, takes 10 fast deep breaths, places his thumb in his mouth, stands up suddenly and blows as hard as he can.

“See!” he says triumphantly. “It doesn’t worrrrr….”


He folds like a cheap card table.

A silent thrill of shock and excitement reverberates around the witnesses. Nothing of this magnitude as happened since The Day The Dog Came Into The Playground.

The reprobate comes round, slightly dirtier, with a shocked expression on his face. A slow smile forms.

News of the event spreads like wildfire. By lunchtime, people are fainting all over the school, like some crazed Scarlet O’Hara-athon.

Now, Fast forward to the last period of the day, namely Business Studies, with a teacher whose name I can’t remember. (I do remember she smelled like cat piss, earning her the imaginative nickname ‘Mrs. Cat Piss’)

(As an aside, there are a few teachers whose nicknames are all I can remember. They include: Mrs. Wombat, Mrs. Ass-on-the-grass and Mrs. Bitch. Their real names completely escape me).

The camera focuses on Young Paulius. He is sitting at the back of the class. He is also currently reading a case study about McDonalds. He is bored. He yawns.

Suddenly, a voice calls from across the room.

“Oi, Paulius!” It says. “I’m going!”

Before young Paulius can react, the student (Who happens to be the same reprobate who denied the ‘Thumb Trick’ had a snowball in hell’s chance of working that morning, who had since turned into a hyperventilating, blood pressure induced fainting junkie) places his head between his legs, and starts breathing heavily.

Unfortunately, from this position, he can’t see the Head of Year, a barely contained ball of Victorian teacher-like rage; enter the classroom at the front.

The head of year (Mrs. Moaner), talks to the teacher, and instead of heading out the same door, heads to the rear exit of the classroom, on the back wall, exactly between Young Paulius and the student currently poisoning himself with too much oxygen.

Just as she reaches the door, he leaps to his feet, and sticks his thumb in his mouth and blows as hard as he can. Even from his vantage point across the room, Young Paulius can see his eyes become bloodshot, as his oxygen enriched, high pressure blood shoots to his brain. Unfortunately, the act of him standing up brings him directly face to face with Mrs. Moaner.

“What…are…you…doing!?!?” She asks. It sounds like a grave threat.

“Uh, it’s ok Miss.” The reprobate attempts to say. “I’m jusssssst….”

He collapses. In fact, he doesn’t just collapse, he falls back onto his chair, tipping it over, smacks his head on a fire extinguisher, and starts twitching like he’s having convulsions.

Young Paulius acts concerned, and like everyone else, denies all knowledge of what happened.

Mrs. Moaner is kneeling next to him, obviously thinking she had witnessed some sort of seizure.

Now, at this point, I will remind you of the Unbreakable Rule of the Schoolyard.

“Thou Shalt Not Tell On Friends, Or Knowingly Drop Them In The Cacky.”

Now I thought I had nothing to fear. After all, I just started a conversation about a TV show I saw. He voluntarily made himself the guinea-pig, and continued to practice the ‘Thumb Trick” without any outside encouragement.

Of course, this reprobate didn’t believe in the Unbreakable Law. In fact, it appeared he had one of his own. His rule went like this:

“Thou Shalt Not Take The Blame. Thou Shalt Place Blame On Whoever Is Near Or Handy. If Thou Art Going Down, Thou Shalt Take As Many People Down With You As Possible”

Before I went home that afternoon, I was called to the headmaster’s office. The Reason?

“It wasn’t me! It was all Paulius’ idea! He made me do it!”

It was also true that a number of other students had been caught doing the ‘Thumb Trick’.

In fact, it had turned into a bit of an epidemic.

So what did the teachers do? Blame MTV? Blame Beavis and Butthead?


They blamed me.

Despite the fact my ‘crime’ was simply saying “Did you see Beavis and Butthead last night?” I was made out to be the ringleader is some strange ‘Make everybody faint’ cult. I got an hour and a half talking to. Everything from health to “What would have happened if he’d died, huh? Did you think of that?”

I got chewed out. I got detention.

Worst of all…they called my mother.

Now as I’ve said before, my Mother wasn’t a new-age kind of mother. She didn’t believe in sitting her children down and ‘talking’ to them. Let’s just say, when I was 14, and she caught me with a cigarette, she didn’t have a long talk with me, she didn’t ground me…

Put simply, she gave me a sweet little right hook that put me off my feet…in front of a crowd of people…including a girl I’d spent all night trying to chat up. Embarrassing. Especially considering she is about a foot and a half shorter than me.

Now that’s effective parenting, folks!

Luckily, my mother also has the gift of listening. You only get the black eye if your explanation doesn’t satisfy her requirements. Luckily, she heard and believed my story. I didn’t get off the hook, but I didn’t gain any new scars either.

So what happened to the reprobate?

He got off scot-free. He was just a victim. A pawn in my little game. Obviously easily swayed by peer-pressure.

However, upon leaving school, he did go to prison for racially aggravated assault. Namely, running into a Chinese takeaway, shouting “You F**king Chinks!” and throwing a firecracker into a tureen of curry.

Moral of the Story?

Karma can be a real bitch.

Disclaimer : The above is a cautionary tale. If you are a young, impressionable teenager and think this is funny, and decide to try the ‘Thumb Trick’, you do so at your own risk, without my endorsment…Any trouble you get into is your own fault…you rotten dirty sheep, no personality, ';do anything I see or hear' teenager Bastard. Seriously, if I told you to jump off a cliff, would you do that as well?


Anonymous said...

Well written, I remember that little episode......do us a favour stay away from anymore bloody cat and fishtank tales and spread the word about some of the things we did as kids....a few reminders: "Is this pencil sharpener blade sharp?"
"What happens when a dart and a radiator mate?" or that other great unanswered truth, 'How the hell can a two year old escape a house, evade a babysitter and get all the way to a main road a mile away all for the sake of being left out of an eye test??'

Miz S said...

Dear Anon.....

I would be interested to hear YOUR take on some of these incidents you want Paulius to write about.

When can we expect to see YOUR blog and a sample of your writing skills?

Why don't you give it a try?

Anonymous said...

My dear Sunny.....My writing skills are non-existent, I'll leave that to my brother, I could however post some interesting things about him that not a lot of people know about, but seriously nobody would be interested in my mindless rambling......but you never know, watch this space.............

serendipity said...

Paulius you have done it again....On a day when I didn't think I was capable of a smile much less a laugh, your post forced an involuntary giggle from me.

I never heard of that trick though - do you reckon it would get me out of work?

Paulius said...

It probably would get you out of work.

However, read the disclaimer. If you smack your head on the way down and spend the rest of your life thinking you're a penguin...it's your own fault

MC Etcher said...

Wow, you were an adventurous kid. I was always too afraid to brain damage to try that sort of thing.

Same reason I've never done any drugs at all.

Paulius said...

let me reiterate. I never actually made myself faint that day at school. That's why I thought it was so unfiar that I got blamed.

In fact, the only time I ever fainted at school was when I got hit in the balls by a 70mph tennis ball. I still have the scar on my lip where my face hit the floor