I drove my two youngest children and a couple of their friends home from school, and after a block the four of them – ages nine to twelve – were cracking jokes in such rapid fire that I was laughing my ass off.
A few blocks later, somebody asked what you’d do with a million dollars. A riotous round of funny answers followed.
They were totally in synch, and I wanted in on the conversation. I waited for a pause, and then my chance came. I got their attention, and their banter died down, and the four of them seemed to register me for the first time since I’d opened the door to let them into the car.
Dutifully, they listened as I started to tell my story. I should have stopped right then and said, “Oh, never mind,” and returned to my task as their chauffeur because I knew my story was going to fall flat.
But I had their attention now, and so I had to go on and tell them about a favorite scene of mine from Outnumbered, a British TV series. In it, Karen and her brother Ben discuss what they’d do with a million dollars, and their conclusion was to buy their school – and close it!
After my punch line, a deathly silence followed. It was as if I’d interrupted their YouTube channel as a participant, not an observer.
It must have been a minute before one of the friends saved me from my agony of being the dad who thinks he’s funny.
“That’s stupid,” he said. “If you bought a school and closed it, then you wouldn’t have any more money to buy fidget spinners. I’d rather buy a hundred fidgets, a thousand. A hundred-thousand!”
“Or a super big spinner, a life-sized one!” his brother said.
That was their cue to launch into a round of jokes on spinners, and then more subjects.
I was soon forgotten again, and so I resumed my concentration on driving. Even so, I couldn’t help but laugh at their lively conversation. Except that now I knew better than to try to participate, and so I started looking on the car dashboard to find the button to press “Like” to their live performance.