Isn’t it disconcerting when someone says something blatantly stupid, you laugh assuming that they were joking and then they are completely deadpan leaving you wondering whether they are a comedy deadpan genius, or simply, completely stupid. If the latter then you have just laughed in their face and unintentionally bullied them.
This happened to me yesterday. I went to a cafe near work. I fancied getting out of the office and eating something stodgy, warm and pretty unhealthy. Yes I had had a bad morning at work.
I entered the cafe and saw two colleagues waiting for their food. They were the only other people in there. I placed my order, sausage, mushroom and egg on freshly made crusty bread aka a “mes on crusty,” or a “sme on crusty,” or an “ems on crusty.” (Some of you will probably be thinking, hey don’t forget the “sem on crusty” or “mse on crusty,” which sounds like some sort of disease of the nether regions or even the “esm on crusty.” To those people I would say don’t be so pedantic!) Anyway, as I was unaware of the greasy spoon annotated ordering system, I placed my order using the full terminology with the guy behind the counter, let’s call him Quentin, who then disappeared out the back.
I joined my colleagues at the table they were at. Soon after, their food came from the kitchen. It wasn’t long before my lunchtime quality cuisine arrived.
Quentin stepped out with my sandwich on a plate and said, “Oh, he’s not here now,” looking into the distance out of the window. We all looked up and laughed. “Good one”, we were collectively thinking. I didn’t ask the others exactly what they were thinking but you just know don’t you when people laugh at a joke, that it’s generally the consensus of thought!
So we laughed. Ok, we’ve acknowledged the joke but Quentin still carried on, “The chap was here and ordered and now he’s gone.”
“I’m here,” I said no more than 2 metres away from Quentin. He looked at me blankly and said, “Oh.” The three of us laughed about it as Quentin brought over my giant sandwich and placed it on the table in front of me. Quentin did not laugh.
“I’m not sure if he was joking or not then,” said one of my colleagues. I had to agree.
Quentin could be a master of the deadpan technique. He has the strength of will and determination to crack a joke and under no circumstances crack a smile. He can maintain that unflinching composure. Quentin would be ideal for one of those tv shows that plays pranks on people. There is no way that Quentin would give the game away. The fact that he didn’t even give the game away after we laughed the first time, is testament to his deadpan skills.
That is unless, he wasn’t joking.
I’m not saying I have a very memorable face but I did kind of stand out from the other two guys in there. I’m balding, they are not. I wear glasses, they do not. They were wearing the standard issue navy blue company fleece; I was wearing that but happened to be wearing a large, thick, green coat over the top. The third customer they had in that cafe was a balding, bespectacled man in a large green coat. Yet when Quentin brought out the sandwich, that guy had disappeared. There were only two guys in navy blue fleeces eating their food and some random balding bespectacled guy in a large green coat!
If Quentin had genuinely forgotten, then he must have felt like we were three cruel, heartless bastards laughing at the misfortune. Afterwards, when he still didn’t acknowledge what we thought was a joke, when I told him it was me and again we chortled as he brought the plate over, it only reinforced that theory as we laughed at his genuine forgetfulness.
Perhaps somewhere, in a dark room right now as I’m typing this, there is an action man figure having his head shaved. His chiselled good looks remain unaltered apart from some glasses being drawn on. His muscular body, covered by a nice green army style coat. He is placed next to a couple of other dolls, not quite as good looking but wearing blue fleeces. The three of them sit on a home made alter, lit only by flickering candle light as Quentin wearing a black hooded robe prepares to read out the Latin transcript of the dark arts. To curse the sneering trio. They will regret their cruelty!
If only he could remember where he put the book.