A few days back – sprinting across town in evening traffic, running on vapours, hauling car loads, stopping for dinner – my trip punctuated by a gas-up pit-stop.
Nothing new, really, but my observation was entirely new …
I pulled in. Double-tanker splayed across that gas-bar parking area.
Getting gassed-up while that was getting gassed-up – I thought that was funny. I laughed.
Inside, I observed something odd, watching someone laugh made me laugh.
Odd to me at least. I’ve been oblivious to this all my life because I don’t remember hearing it talked about. I’ve never read about it before.
After I pumped my gas, I sprinted inside to pay. The fellow behind the counter was in mid-conversation. It sounded serious – loud sounds, harsh, no lightness to it at all. He excused himself to process my transaction, then resumed his conversation. Then he laughed. Resumed at the same feverish and serious sounding pitch – then laughed again.
He was a middle-aged guy, possibly a little older than me. His language, I’m pretty sure, was Chinese. His laughter was not. His laughter was laughter like I’ve heard a million times before. At that moment it occurred to me that laughter is a universal language. It lacks accent or grammar, does not rely on rules or syntax.
We laugh when we laugh. It doesn’t have language but it is never ambiguous. Short snorts or chuckles through to belly laughs – always obvious, in terms of genuine or faked, full-bellied full-throttled or half-measure.
Store clerk could have as easily been speaking Russian or Swahili or Korean speaking, could have been man, woman, young or old.
This realization struck me dumb – not at its simple obvious truth, but as a universality I’ve never consciously noticed before.
Think about it – go ahead, guffaw in any language. No need for Berlitz or a tutor – you can howl or snicker, split your sides and chortle till convulsed, there is no language or accent, no cultural or racial barrier to it.
Sometimes people do the weirdest things, stupid things, illogical things. Often they deserve a rant or rebuke.
Sometimes they just make you laugh.
Hey, there’s another thing we do, again without language or diction – just tears and fears or joy or pain.
We have universal languages, it would seem. Too bad peace, currency and geo-politics aren’t filled with more laughter, more tears – and fewer words.
column written/ published from Calgary
morning walk: -1C / 31F, snow may melt today if temperature rises and it rains as it was earlier but now it is snowing again. Chilling prospect that makes gardeners happy. Gusta got soaked – all that snow can best be described as barely-standing slush. But it makes clean up easier …