Laughing at Ourselves
Years ago, I taught eighth grade. One morning before the students arrived, I stopped in the bathroom. My mother always told me to put toilet paper on the seat of a public toilet seat before sitting on it. So, as usual, I did. After relieving myself, I pulled my pants up, and unbeknownst to me, the toilet paper came up too, hanging from my pants like a tail.
Strutting through the hallway toward my class, I noticed kids giggling when I passed them, but I didn’t pay too much attention. Word spread quickly, and by the time I made it to my classroom, everyone knew about the teacher with the toilet paper sticking out of her pants. Needless to say, my students could not focus when I told them to simmer down after the bell rang. Finally, someone raised their hand and said, “Mrs. Gurtman, you might want to go back to the bathroom!”Hearing this, I instinctively knew. Reaching behind my back, I pulled the long wad of toilet paper out as fast as I could and threw it into the trash. My face turned the color of an atomic fireball before a fit of laughter spilled out of me and my students.
Somehow, I made it through the rest of the morning. At lunch, the laughter continued when I discussed it with my teacher friends. One of my colleagues kindly told me that the incident would give me a better connection to my students because it made me seem human. Had this happened when I was an eighth-grade student, I probably wouldn’t have been able to shake it off as quickly. But it was funny, and it became a running joke throughout the year that my students and I could giggle about.
When I was writing Lost and Found in Aspen, I created a similar scene for the protagonist, Hope. Throughout the story, she experiences a few embarrassing situations. I included these humiliating scenes with the intention of adding humor to the story, as well as making her more human, attempting to conjure up empathy in the reader as they stepped inside Hope’s life—for the good and the bad––to laugh and to cry.
Another important piece of advice my mother told me when I was a little girl was to marry someone who made me laugh. And I did. My husband is hilarious. Thanks, Mom, for teaching me to protect my butt from getting strange diseases from a dirty toilet seat and emphasizing the importance of humor in my life––because laughter, after all, is medicine for the soul.