Humor almost disappeared from American culture in the period immediately following the tragedies of
Yet laughter is necessary to the healing process and to the process whereby we begin to come to terms with events of great magnitude, both personal and global. The loss of a family member becomes a joking matter, not because that person wasn’t loved and treasured or isn’t grievously missed, but because he was and is. Likewise, horrific large-scale events become fodder for the joke-makers, and through their product we begin to deal with the sorrow that would otherwise overwhelm us. Laughter reminds us that the world goes on, and that we must go on with it.
During the third week following the attack, humor began to make its reappearance, but not in its previous brazen, anything-goes manner. Akin to a rabbit poking its head from its hole, tentatively sniffing the air, alert to all nuances of potential danger and ready to dash back to safety at the first hint of anything going wrong, the jokes were uncertain and the laughter nervous. The events of
The fourth week brought a further loosening as the rabbit came a bit more out of its hole. There was yet a little more expansion into areas of humor that each of us had quietly declared off limits in the aftermath of the tragedy.
One story was an example of this fourth stage. It’s an apocryphal tale as told: no names are given, and there is no pretense of this “true story” being anything but an inventive offering. But it does employ the massive destruction of the World Trade Center towers as the backdrop for its tale of marital infidelity uncovered:
Sept. 11 this bum, who worked at the World Trade Center, had a breakfast meeting. What he was having, however, wasn’t eggs. He was with his mistress. I guess you might call him an early riser. His wife tried to reach him. He finally answered his cell way after
10 inthe morning. Panicked, she screamed: “Where are you!” Responding to the angst in her voice he replied testily: “Well, where do you think I am? In the office.”
The following version began making its Internet rounds in May 2002. Notice how the story has been fleshed out with additional detail:
The first divorce directly related to the
September 11thterrorist attacks has been filed in a NY court.
It appears a guy with an office on the
103rd floorof the World Trade Center left home for work on Sept 11.When he got to Manhattan, he decided to spend the morning at his girlfriend’s apartment in the Village. When he got to her place, he turned off the phones, TV and radio and spent the entire morning in bed with her. At about 11:00 am,while still at her place, he turned his cell phone back on to retrieve his messages.
A second later it rang. His wife was on the phone crying and screaming at him, “I’ve been trying to call you for over two hours!! I’ve been worried sick about you! Are you OK?!?” He answered calmly that he was fine.
The wife then asked, “Where are you?”
The guy said, “Where do you think I am? I’m in my office!”
In June 2002, this joke began to circulate in the form of an image of a purported newspaper clipping:
A similar legend of a man trapped into having to reveal his adulterous activities began to circulate several weeks after Malaysia Arlines Flight 370 from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing disappeared on 8 March 2014:
A man from Kuala Lumpur tells his wife that he has a business appointment in Beijing for the weekend. He informs her that he will fly on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Now he’s been stuck for 5 weeks in his girl friend’s house and doesn’t have the faintest idea how to go home …