Go ahead, laugh out loud
One of my co-volunteers at a soup kitchen is an elderly man who used to be a banker.
A few days ago he was using a hose in the kitchen to clean a very dirty pot. The hose he was using had a trigger action that, when depressed, released great bolts of water at high pressure.
While the banker-turned-pot-scrubber was hard at work, an unfortunate accident occurred.
In a moment of vigorous dirt attack, he accidently dislodged the catch on the hose. The mechanism locked. You could pull the hose trigger all you wanted, no water would come out.
A puzzled look engulfed his face. No self-respecting pot-scrubber enjoys being interrupted in mid-flow. It upsets concentration and undermines performance.
He pulled the trigger a few times. No water. From free-flow to no flow in one tragic second.
Now we all know that bankers aren't the best at soup kitchen plumbing common sense.
He started pulling the trigger with aggrieved regularity. Then he used both hands to pull the trigger. If it doesn't work, apply more force — with two hands.
But no amount of force would coax the catch to release the flow.
The puzzled look grew to utter disbelief. Had they not paid the water bill? Had the city cut the water? Bankers always think the problem is a monetary one.
He traced the hose pipe with his eyes, searching for a kink in the pipe. Perhaps some overweight, clumsy person was standing on the pipe? But that was not the problem.
Having exhausted his problem-solving skills, he shouted for the only person who could help: Siti, the diminutive helper who alone knows how everything works in the soup kitchen.
Siti was far across the rowdy kitchen. He hollered for her — so loudly that everyone stopped speaking. A foreboding hush fell. All eyes were suddenly on the banker.
"No war-tar...no war-tar." He was shouting loudly and deliberately, as if no one else could speak English.
"No war... tar... no war... tar..." he continued. And then, to give a visual demonstration, he aimed the hose at his face and violently pulled the trigger with an exaggerated arm action.
You see where this is going.
It was at this moment that he inadvertently dislodged the catch back to its original position.
The catch, now released, unleashed a violent shot of water at high pressure.
When I say the water hit his face, I ought to mention that it knocked his glasses off. It drowned his elaborate fringe into a sodden mess and soaked his shirt. Big drops started dripping off his nose and eyelashes.
The kitchen fell deathly silent. How would he react?
To my amazement, he did one of the most incredible things I have ever seen: he laughed. He didn't just laugh, he doubled over and gave a deep-throated yelp of side-splitting, good-hearted laughter.
He had learnt the art of laughing at himself.
And when he laughed, so did everyone else.
Seeing his friends laughing with him made him laugh even louder. And then everyone laughed even more at the fact that he was laughing louder. And we all stood there, re-infecting each other with laughter, laughing till our bellies hurt and our eyes teared.
He had laughed at himself and earned everyone's immediate respect. He went from the village idiot to the loveable hero in one split second.
He could have grown angry and died the death of humiliation. But he chose otherwise. He responded with cheerfulness and turned the situation into a positive.
So the next time you publicly shoot yourself in the face with a high pressure water hose, remember the retired banker. Don't take yourself too seriously. You only lose as much face as you concede.
It is a universal truth. Sooner or later you're going to have water, egg or pie on your face. If you don't pause and enjoy your life, mishaps and all, no one else will.
Learn to laugh at yourself. Beat the rest of the world to it — and win their hearts as you do.