It’s very difficult, of course, to write a story that captures the moment of extreme laughter in a way that is meaningful to a reader sitting, well, where you are now. I bet you’ve tried it yourself, explaining to someone who was in no way connected to the event you are recounting, the circumstances that led to ‘everyone laughing hysterically’ only to be greeted with a polite smile on reaching the punchline. This is usually followed by a slight pause and either party offering the universal ‘get out of jail free’ card of ‘you had to be there’.
Even knowing that my efforts will therefore most likely be in vain, I still feel that I have to share this moment with you. For the people involved, it is still, even all these years later, oft referred to, and invariably makes me smile just thinking about it, which is exactly what is happening right now as my fingers dance over the keyboard.
Some years ago, Clare and myself invited Jason and Laura over to dinner. Although this couple are sadly no longer together, I believe sufficient time has passed for me to mention them in person since both are happily with other partners and life appears to be good for both.
Laura was (and in fact still is) Clare’s cousin and her partner, my namesake, Jason, was an extremely popular and likable chap who had an immense sense of humour, a razor sharp observational wit and the confidence to deliver it expertly, yet effortlessly. In truth, we had a fabulous time on each of our meetings, which usually involved vast quantities of Stella Artois and dangerous quantities of red wine. Laughter was always prolific, although this was usually centered around Jason and myself, our partners very much laughing due to our totally infectious state, even sometimes more as observers to an unfolding and sometimes seemingly rehearsed double act. It was never really intended that way, but it undeniably did happen to the extent that Laura would sometimes try and separate us at dinner tables like two naughty thirty something schoolboys who just couldn’t seem to behave.
Both of us Jason’s loved to be the host and we were both pretty good at it. Jason (the other one)’s house was permanently ‘open to the public’, neighbours, friends, relatives etc would drop in constantly and consume Jason’s beers, food and wine, taking his extremely generous nature a bit too far on occasions in my view. Still, he was genuine in his sharing and it made him all the more likable for it …
This particular evening was early in 2002. The date was significant because the September 11th attacks were still fresh in everyone’s mind and the name of the alleged perpetrator, Osama Bin Laden, was as ubiquitous as that of any world wide superstar. Even that very evening, the conversation had briefly turned to cover this topic to some degree, such was the impact this much time later.
However, it was now quite late, and the evening evolved into board games, banter, cackling laughter and an impressive collection of empty wine bottles. Jason and I were still sitting at the dining table where we had been for some time, getting increasingly raucous and, to our inebriated minds, increasing amusing. Although stereotypical, I am slightly embarrassed to admit that the girls were tidying the kitchen and chatting whilst this was going on, and frankly had Jason and I had a cigar and brandy each, we would have completed the classic sexist scenario to a tee.
We became vaguely aware that there had been some sort of minor incident in the kitchen due to the change in volume and pitch of sound coming from that room, but we were frankly too pissed to feel that we should be in any way involved. Unknown to us, Clare had tried to pushed too much rubbish into the small bin that sat behind the door under the sink, you know the type – the ones that open their lids for you via the door opening mechanism like some over eager prostitute who thinks a big tip is on the cards. After first accepting Clare’s offering, it had shortly thereafter changed it’s mind and, with the door still open, broken cleanly off its plastic supports and fallen forwards spewing its guts over the tiled floor, similar, in fact, to what its owner would be doing in just a few hours time.
Clare had diligently finished cleaning it up, still chatting to Laura, echoes of loutish laughter in the background and had come back into the living room to announce what had happened.
“J” she said, several times, before Jason and I could finally look at her through alcoholic hazy eyes “the bin fell off the door and broke”
As soon as I heard those words, the line just popped into my brain out of nowhere. There was no delay, no processing, editing or trimming, just that wonderful realisation you have when you know you have the best possible one-liner EVER for a situation. That rare and beautiful moment when you know the context is right, the audience is listening, the timing is perfect and the delivery is exquisite. In short, all the factors are in place.
“Was ..” I was already starting to laugh as I’d already heard it in my head and had to fight to retain composure for a few more seconds “.. the bin laden?”
Of course, ‘laden’ was pronounced ‘layden’ as in ‘loaded’ or ‘encumbered’ rather than the more topical pronunciation of ‘larden’ as in ‘terror suspect’
The impact was immediate. For me, it was relief that the delivery had been made, signed for and opened – my work was done – and therefore I could relax in the form of howling, uncontrollable laughter. I can still see Jason’s face as if in slow motion as the full force of the comedy hit him and hit him hard. Instantaneously, he exploded into the same degree of hopelessness, screaming, struggling to breathe and, if he could, begging for mercy. Like yawning, this level of genuine hard laughter is infectious and both Clare and Laura began involuntarily shaking with mirth not only at the comment, but now with the added comedic value of seeing the two Jason’s in serious trouble from a breathing perspective.
Everything stopped. Nothing else mattered. All I could focus on was trying to take my next breath and the pain that was now developing in my stomach and jaw bones where they joined my skull. But still the laughter continued, it didn’t seem to be wearing off, and the more I looked around the room at my colleagues, I could see it was actually getting more intense, as if we were fuelling each others misery.
The room was now going quiet for seconds at a time as all four of us were gasping for breath, then howling in a staccato manner as we tried to replenish our lungs with oxygen when our bodies forced us to. Tables were being banged, the girls were no longer standing, weakened to tears and holding onto furniture, and Jason and I were utterly, utterly under the influence of the moment and completely unable to communicate in any way. For a brief moment, our moist eyes met, and the pain, sheer, acute pain intensified immediately afterwards in a way that’s only describable and understood to those of who’ve experienced this level of muscle spasm first hand.
And it went on.
Nothing was being said, but it still seemed to be getting funnier and funnier. By now, I was begging, begging for mercy. Not out loud of course, since words, even recognisable sounds, were still impossible to make and it would still be sometime hence. Such was the power of this moment and my mind’s strength of association, I am, genuinely, laughing to myself at this very moment whilst typing this.
I have no idea how long this event lasted. I can tell you in all honesty, that this was the longest period of sustained laughter I had ever experienced before or since, and given some of the other stories that are either posted here or exist only in the minds of those who were there, this is quite a statement. Certainly it was minutes, many minutes, and even hours later it would only take the briefest of mentions of anything to do with bins being laden and the laughter would start again, unstoppable, like we’d been conditioned by a side show hypnotist. Even more hours later, when the other Jason had long since passed out on the sofa leaving Laura to the luxury of the double bed in the spare room, and I myself was forced to relocate to the cool tiles of the bathroom floor, sweaty, dribbling, and generally in a terrible state, I remember with total clarity whispering to myself, through clenched lips and with closed eyes ‘The bin was laden’ and immediately, but only briefly, bringing smile and respite to my self inflicted predicament.
And you know what?
It really, actually was.