Jul 11, 2008

DIY schadenfreude

I was stopped at a light by the skate park yesterday when this little boy in roller blades skated past. He was so tiny that his helmet, knee- and elbow-pads looked about a size too big for him - the "ankles" of his blades were almost to his knees. In a word, adorable. He was trying to get going by skating down a small ramp and rolling up a big ramp. The physicists in the audience can see what's coming. He basically got enough momentum to get half-way up the big ramp before he wiped out. Every. Single. Time. He did this at least three times before the light changed. All the while, he was watching the other skaters, cruising blithely by, with ill-disguised jealousy.

I could not stop laughing.

Happily, I am not alone in deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others. I went to a interesting seminar not too long ago about what makes things 'funny.' The lecturer claimed that the key to most humor is distance (as Mel Brooks said, "Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.") He went on to say that we can be amused at our own 'tragedies' once time has given us the proper distance - the We'll Look Back On This And Laugh effect. And then he asked a good question ... why wait? Why wait for time and tide, when we can give ourselves mental distance now?

In other words, don't be the kid in the blades. Be the woman sitting in her car, laughing her fool head off. And when the light turns green and you can just drive away.

No comments: