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  • Vermilion Voice

Prairie Wool

A laugh a minute

The ability to laugh at ourselves or the problems we encounter is fundamental to enjoying a good life. It develops your mental and physical health, improves your quality of life, and helps you to remain cheerful, even when there’s nothing to be cheerful about. You can get by without it, but life’s a heck of a lot easier if you can see the funny side.

Sometimes you meet people that appear to have zero sense of humour. The last time I stayed in a hotel, I spoke to one. She slumped on a wheelie desk chair behind the counter, staring blankly at her phone. Lank hair covered her face as she methodically peeled the cellophane off a Twinkie and gummed it down. I know this because I stood there waiting while she did it. This girl was entirely devoid of fun (apart from the Twinkie ‘cause they’re kind of cool).

Granted, her job as a front desk clerk in a low-budget hotel wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs, but hey, you can improve any situation with a smile. To quote a fellow called Lloyd, one of the men I worked with hauling cow manure (also a job not known to provide a honkin’ good time), “If you can’t have a laugh at work, it ain’t worth goin’.”

But I digress. After what seemed like an age, this pretty young woman pedaled forward on her rolling chair and looked at me with disinterested, expressionless eyes.

“Yeah, whaddya want?” she mumbled, specks of imitation cake tumbling to her lap.

“Well, I was hoping to check in.” I patted my suitcase, feeling a little surprised that this fact wasn’t perfectly obvious.

With a groan of annoyance, she rose to her feet and leaned over the desk, eyeing me up and down. “All right if I put ya on the third floor?” she asked finally.

“Sure,” I said with a laugh. “Why? Do I look like someone who might have trouble climbing the stairs?”

Her eyes narrowed, and she brushed a lingering crumb to the floor with a grim look of distaste. “Maybe. Elevator’s around the corner.” Sliding a plastic room key across the weathered counter, she turned away and flopped back into her chair.

Must be a fun girl at parties, I thought, hurrying away.

As an additional piece of this tale, my husband Tom has a zany sense of humour. When I reached the third-floor room, he was already watching TV. (Tom took the elevator with the suitcases, and I ran up and down the stairs, twice, just to prove I could.) Take that, crabby front desk lady.

As you may recall, this was a low-budget hotel. It was the only one available late at night, near the airport. There weren’t any tiny shampoos, no complimentary breakfast, and only one thin blanket. Heck, there was barely a bathroom. Once inside the facilities, patrons were forced to press themselves against the opposite wall and use a foot to shut the door.

Anyway, I awoke the following day to find Tom on hands and knees with his portable coffeemaker plugged into the only electric socket in the room. He’d found it under a large wooden table nailed to the floor.

As Tom crawled across the carpet with his steaming mug of java he looked up at me and grinned. “Isn’t this great? All the comforts of home.”

To reach Helen, or learn more about her books go to

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