Lost in Midlife column: Speak softly and carry a big laugh

Tracy Beckerman
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Redwood Falls Gazette

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

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My husband listened quietly to his work associates on a Zoom call, and then suddenly, he burst out laughing.

“HAHAHAHA!!” he bellowed across our living room. I looked over at the windows to make sure they hadn’t been shattered by the sonic boom of his laughter.

“What’s so funny?” I asked him when he got off the call.

“Oh, nothing,” he said. I gave him the side eye. My husband and I had been working from home together for about nine months, and yes, we were still married … barely. There was definitely a strain on our relationship and it wasn’t all the togetherness that was to blame. It was the laughter. Well, his laughter … when he was on a Zoom call.

When he’s alone with me, he has a normal laugh. But when he’s on a Zoom call, his laugh suddenly gets thunderously loud, like he’s trying to make sure that the people on the Zoom call who live a thousand miles away can hear him guffaw, even if they have the sound on their computer turned off. Imagine if a jackhammer and a fog horn had a child. That would be his Zoom laugh.

The problem isn’t merely that it’s loud. It’s also really sudden. It can be emitted so abruptly that it not only scares me, it scares the dog. When I hear it, I jump out of my chair. When the dog hears it, he tucks his tail between his legs and runs into another room, convinced an elephant stampede is about to come through our living room. It’s somewhat disconcerting to know that if, in fact, an elephant stampede were to come through our living room, the dog would not stay to protect me. Apparently when it comes to loud laughter or elephant stampedes, it’s every man, woman and dog for themself.

My husband used to be a loud phone laugher, but that would happen infrequently since he wasn’t much of a phone guy. But now that he was spending nearly eight hours a day on video calls, the issue had escalated. There was an average of a dozen loud laughs a day and I thought it was just a matter of time before the neighbors reported us for violating the local noise ordinance and we would have a Noise Control Officer show up at our door and cite us for breaking the sound barrier. When he arrived, he might also wonder if the cause of the noise was an elephant stampede going through our living room, and then he would cite us for not having a variance to house large wild African animals, as well.

Wanting to save myself and the dog, and also, not wanting to worry about going to jail, although it would probably be quieter there, I thought it was time to take some action.

“Honey,” I said sitting him down. “I need to talk to you about your laugh.”

“What about my laugh?” he said.

“When you are on a Zoom call, you laugh really, really loudly and it scares the dog.”

“It scares the dog?”

“Yes. Do you think you can tone it down a bit?” I said.

“You want me to laugh softer?” he said scowling.

“Yes. Just on the Zoom calls.”

He thought for a minute.

“Okay,” he said finally. “I can do that. But now let’s talk about your snoring.”

You can follow Tracy on Twitter @TracyBeckerman and become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/LostinSuburbiaFanPage.