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Dinner Debacle


September 6, 2013 by Andy Lester

An account of how an extroverted comedian’s need for approval can ultimately destroy an enjoyable dinner routine.

I love dinner with my family and so look forward to the intoxicating joy and novelty of the pairing of each meal with real conversation. Occasionally I talk too loud and too long and this evening upon realizing my family was no longer listening but staring me down – I promptly stop in mid-sentence and abort my latest punch line. Looking around the table there are only daggers as the stares are now welded onto my breathing, moving face. I feel a childlike embarrassment and want to pacify the stares, ease the tension and regain approval of my family. Like a jolly Svengali I respond and call upon my ability to concentrate and enter a true mime state.

All eyes are upon me and I produce from absolutely nothing an imaginary key and “lock my mouth”. Raising the key in a dramatic gesture with the grace and flair of a Tai-chi expert, it is the center of focus above the table. Now in a sudden and incongruous act, I defy my reality and swallow the key through my own locked mouth. It’s difficult going down and worse than the biggest vitamin without water. I have to rally my machismo and use sheer will to secure its passage down my gullet. From around the table my family imparts a palpable mixture of disbelief, disdain and apathy. I’m familiar with this argument in my household “How can you swallow the key after you lock your mouth? It’s just stupid”.

But as the eyes roll and heads loll something goes wrong – my vision snaps into focus and I freeze, seeing the virtual cliff that I’m about to go over. The key is stuck and I can’t breathe. No matter how urgently I use the “universal sign for choking” – no one reacts or offers aid. I am thrashing and my gaping mouth is silently trying to stop the digestive stalemate. Each minute is agonizing for everyone and I am now merely a spectacle and even more alone. With resolve, I have no choice but to bring up the key in a pantomime of regurgitation and in an even more unfortunate turn I’m compelled to fish through a detritus pool to produce the troublesome and whimsical prize.

Victorious, I look around and although my family is stoic I feel a connection as they have gone through this ordeal with me. The sentiment is a little surprising but I am pleased: “Maybe we should just let him tell his story”. For a day I feel good and funny and the high a performer feels as the latest changes to my “key routine” went off without a hitch. I’m excited that my captive audience will perhaps again decide tonight to “let him tell his story”. However, late in the afternoon I receive a phone message: “Oh, we’re eating a little early tonight but there’ll be a plate in the fridge for you”.

Nice Shot Karma – well played…and kids? Don’t be gross at the table.


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