The Mars Look

Apparently I am out of sync with much of the world when it comes to humor. I often find find things funny when no one else does. Sometimes this is understandable, as when my martial arts group went to a Jackie Chan movie. The rest of the audience laughed at the funny lines and we laughed at the martial arts.

I also had the opposite experience when I went to the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. The rest of the audience laughed at what to me were inexplicable times. My theory was that they all had been in the Peace Corps and this was the Jackie Chan thing in reverse.

Sometimes people laugh when I say things that to me seem simple and obvious. Once I wanted to leave a business meeting gracefully and said, “I think we’ve reached that point at which I cease to be helpful.” Hilarity ensued.

But those instances aren’t really examples of The Mars Look. That’s the one when, after I make a statement, silence descends and everyone looks at me as though I’m a two-headed Martian in a sequined Elvis jumpsuit. Crickets chirp. A tumbleweed rolls by.

For example:

I wonder if there are beech trees around here?

Me: Probably. This area is known for truffles, and they only grow around certain trees, including the beech.

[chirp, chirp]

The guitar strings squeaked. I guess you can do that on purpose to annoy people.

Me: Strings squeak when they’re brand-new. After you’ve played them a while, the oil on your fingertips eliminates the squeak.

[enter tumbleweed] [exit tumbleweed]

I guess I’m not supposed to provide information unless someone asks me directly. Or something. I’m not all that good at social situations.

The best Mars Look I ever got was in church. The musicians and the choir struck up the Hallelujah Chorus. At the first note sung, I stood. I was prepared to stand there through the whole thing, even if no one else did. Even my husband gave me the Mars Look.

Behind me I heard murmurs. “I guess we’re supposed to stand.” Slowly, the people in the two or three rows behind me started to stand too. The people in the front heard the murmuring and rustling, turned and saw the people standing, and rose as well. It was like doing the wave at a ball game, only different.

At least that time, there were no crickets and tumbleweeds. Just music.

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