The Saving Grace of Humour When Shit Happens

“Oh my,” she exclaimed, as she peeked through the door slightly ajar. At daybreak, the vision before her was bleary-eyed, stiff, and on her knees, croaking, “The second key was missing.” The voice had almost disappeared, after several hours of shouting over loud music at a holiday season party of documentary filmmakers. The vision was me. Arriving in the wee hours, without the second key, I did not want to disturb my friend, knowing she rises at dawn.

My friend is a bit absent-minded. But, I could write the book on being absent-minded. In the late afternoon of that same bizarre day, at a post office depot I commiserated with a fellow customer who frantically was searching for a lost bag. With a twinkle in my eye, I told the sweet young woman behind the counter, “I’m a bit absent-minded myself.”

I do not know how many seconds passed, those words barely out of my mouth, when I left behind my eyeglasses on the counter. The young woman probably thought I was a bit dotty. First I had asked her, please, for a single sticky sheet to insert a note into an envelope; then, do you have scotch tape to seal the envelope better; next, do you have scissors to cut this tape, too long and mangled (after almost breaking the tape dispenser in my attempts to rip off a piece).

Occasionally, I fantasize that I missed my true calling in life, to be a comedienne. You know, I would have been perfect as a medley of comic characters in a Canadian version of the Monty Python ensemble, able to shape-shift into any characters seamlessly.

In real life, among my talents, I pride myself on being rather good at visualizing, most of all, to find misplaced items. For I have developed this skill through lots of practice. Consequently, I was able to retrace my journey of errands back to the postal office. The young woman smiled as she handed me my eyeglasses, with a twinkle in her eye.

Trying to visualize myself on a magic carpet with a foam pad floating in space, however, was not one of my more successful visualizations, as I lay on the floor of an apartment hall. Thank goodness, the building was a typical, over-heated, Toronto apartment.

I had spread out my parka, using three, earlier purchased, books about psychology tucked under my parka hood as a head rest. Since childhood, I always have wondered what makes people tick, and that quest motivated me to do a doctorate – that included training – grounded in spiritual psychology.

In fact, one of my film projects in development is the life story of a pioneering spiritual psychologist, and how his work is pertinent today. But, when I suggest the film idea, folks usually look at me as if I need my head examined. Being the independent spirit that I am, that dismissal is precisely why I believe such a story is needed.

In the wee hours spent laying on an apartment hall floor, I reflected on other unforeseen moments that had enhanced, serendipitously, the adventure of being alive. That is how I characterize, philosophically, at least some of life’s mishaps.

Believe me, I couldn’t make up the stuff that happens to me. Real life is stranger than fiction. Furthermore, I bet you dollars to donuts that the best narrative fiction is based on true life events, too imponderable (or personally embarrassing to the author) to write about biographically.

That fact, by the way, is why documentary films can be so incredibly engaging, meaningful and the most important form of storytelling in our time – in regard to global outreach – when you consider the bravery of anyone to speak uncomfortable truths, too often silenced in any country’s media-massaged, mainstream society, including Canada. My first film subject is a prime example.

For guess who came to mind, none other than my now-deceased friend, mentor, and consummate truth teller, Everett Soop. His unflinching honesty equipped Everett not only with a sense of humour as a survival tool yet, moreover, never spared any public figure from his searing political satire.

When shit happens, searching for the comic aspect as well as examining one’s own actions is wiser than bouncing off walls and having a hissy fit at someone else, often unreasonably. Everett, however, expressed his bouts of rage and scathing humour through various behaviours, all understandable when you know his full story.

The following tale, however, relates a scene from the story behind the film story in Soop on Wheels, which may provoke a few knowing chuckles – or, alternatively, wincing among fellow filmmakers – and blushing faces by some or all blog readers who recall at least one embarrassing, bizarre incident in their own lives.

Once upon a time, on a film shoot in rural Alberta, I misplaced a brown paper bag in which I had stuffed $3,000 cash. (It was for per diem payments distributed to crew, for meals and related expenses on the road where credit cards were not accepted.)

I can almost hear the chorus of groans and shrieks from fellow filmmakers. You did WHAT?! But, please comfort me, dear colleagues. Surely at least once in your lives you did something really hair-brained, maybe not related to a project-in-progress? I implore you to tell me I am not alone.

My film crew and I were at a reception at Lethbridge University following a speech given by Ovide Mercredi, a then-prominent First Nations politician, and preceded by a performance from Blackfoot traditional dancers. While my cinematographer was shooting Mercredi in conversation with Everett Soop, I sought out the dancers, their contact information essential to send them later film releases to sign, if we used the dance footage.

Trust me, as writer/director/producer, I am impeccable at business details, such as insurance and legal matters, organizing the film shoot itinerary, plus dependable in paying every single person promptly during production and post-production, etc. You can ask anyone who has worked with me.

Meanwhile, back at the site of the university reception, I madly zoomed around to find all individual dancers, notebook in hand, parking my knapsack close to the crew. A while later, I’m feeling dutifully diligent in my collection of names until I return to where my crew, and knapsack, no longer can be seen. Surely a crew member has it.

So I trundle off to reconnect with my crew, none of whom had my knapsack. After peeling myself off the ceiling – the saving grace of humour sometimes delayed – I hunted for a security guard. We searched on site and, at his suggestion, we drove to the lost and found office in another building on campus, where someone might have delivered it.

En route, a deer bounded across the road in front of the car. “Oh, a deer!” I exclaimed. “That’s a good sign. We’ll find the money.” The guard, in recovery from almost hitting the deer, gave me one of those looks, as if this woman was not functioning with a full deck of cards. I was, with aces to spare, given a life strewn with highly unusual experiences. (For a sweet tale, see my blog post about an encounter with a fawn in a marsh.)

Sure enough, the knapsack was found, with everything inside untouched, the crumpled paper bag tucked away at the bottom.

The moral of the story, regardless, is best not to carry around large sums of money in brown paper bags, even when blessed with other-worldly protection.

Despite being blessed with possibly an entire platoon of guardian angels (looking through the veil to our earthly realm, blanching, to conclude, “Good Lord, this one needs a lot of help”), I promise never to repeat this experience again – ever.

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One Response to The Saving Grace of Humour When Shit Happens

  1. Marion says:

    A deer you state? Hmmmm. I see an average of 7-12 deer every day. I wonder what insights I am missing? I have a few moose stories that will curl your hair. My husband and I are alive today because of moose. On long drive along the Hanson Road in northern Saskatchewan, having gone without sleep for 24 hours, we kept falling asleep. Every time we started to fall asleep we were jerked awake by a moose on the road! At one point, we were drifting off the road and would have run into a bridge abutment when, in our foggy state, we suddenly realized that there was a moose lying down on the road. Three times we encountered moose along that route as we struggled to get back to Thompson, Manitoba. Three times we were shocked awake and were able to carry on further.

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