I wonder whether laughter is more common among those who restore, rebuild and heal whatever seems in disrepair or disheveled around them than it is among society at large. From working on a “gandydancer” railroad repair crew one summer, that is my guess.
We would be called in on a short notice whenever a train accident had torn up the tracks, twisting steel rails, cracking wooden ties, and mangling iron spikes.
We worked under pressure, but used humor to relieve the pressure. I remember one day we were called to work overtime on the second train wreck in one day, but when we arrived at the scene, there were no new rails or ties available for getting the job done.
Just when our exhausted crew of eight seemed to be getting fidgety and irritable, a guy from Guadalajara launched his spike mall up straight up into the air above us, and everyone had to scramble to get out of the way from being hit by it. He let out a spine-tingling grito, and then exclaimed, “Let me show all you black and white boys how to do the Mexican hat dance!” He then tossed his blue-and-white-striped engineer’s cap on top of the spike mall, and danced around it, singing Mexican standards at the top of his lungs.
All the irritability vanished from the crew, and by the time the new supplies arrived for us to carry on the track repair, we all pitched in as if we had taken naps and were completely refreshed. A similar instance occurred one time when I was planting trees on a seasoned crew comprised of a number of old friends, when a new supervisor commanded us to make sure we planted the saplings in a way that allowed air to circulate around the roots.
Simultaneously, all of us pretended that we were about to plant the leafy branches in the ground, with the roots of the sapling up in the air. When the new supervisor glanced over at us and saw what were about to do, he smirked, then began to laugh, suddenly aware that he could have more confidence in our skills than he had previously assumed. Humor is a salve that can help us heal, and help us heal the world.
Brother Coyote, OEF