Some people say I have a “dry” sense of humor. Others say it is “sick.” I like to think of it as analytical. The reason is that if you put my in a group of people I might be laughing the whole time, sometimes laughing so hard I can hardly talk. I find humor in places other people aren’t even looking… not even thinking about looking at. It used to drive my wife crazy when she’d be having a serious conversation with me and I’d be fighting to hold back a smile, a giggle, or an outright laugh. Of course I’d try to explain what I was laughing at and she’d get even more upset because, after all, this was a serious conversation.
The first time I realized my sense of humor could get me in trouble was in second grade. I was a Catholic school, the kind with nuns who, as far as we were concerned, seemed to spend their free time thinking of better ways to torture us. Of course, we didn’t think that in second grade, but we were learning.
I’m sitting in the front row, not because the teacher needed to keep an eye on me, but because she put the shortest kids in the front and the tallest kids in the back. She was telling us the story of Saint Peter, at the time the most important person on earth after Jesus, as far as the church was concerned.
“The Romans decided to crucify Jesus, but Peter thought he wasn’t important enough to be crucified the same way Jesus was, so Peter told the Romans to nail him to the cross upside down.”
I pictured that for a moment and started laughing. All the other children were hushed. I was laughing too hard to notice the look on the nuns face. How could I possibly think the martyrdom of Saint Peter was funny? She wasn’t in my mind though. She couldn’t see me analysing it. I knew that men at that time wore long robes, often just one piece from shoulders to feet. From having watched my sisters doing somersaults I knew that when someone in a dress (which is what a robe was) often had the thing fall in such a way when they were upside down that their underwear would be showing. To a seven or eight year old, that was mighty funny stuff. I pictured Saint Peter hanging upside down on the cross, with his robe having slipped down to his neck so that it covered his face and his underwear was there in the open for everybody to see. In my mind that was probably worse the worst thing about being crucified. If I’d seen something like Caravaggio’s painting of St. Peter’s crucifixion, maybe I wouldn’t have thought it was so funny.
I didn’t get a chance to explain myself though. Since it was just about lunch time she told me to get my lunch. Then she took me to a small room in the church, and told me to eat my lunch there. When I was finished I was to spend the rest of the lunch hour on my knees asking Saint Peter to forgive me for the terrible think I’d done.
After eating my lunch I went out into the church, kneeled down and tried very hard to ask Saint Peter to forgive me. The only trouble was, I couldn’t stop giggling.