the baffling: from positive reinforcer to a giggling lunatic in one simple step

I have this one situation that makes me want to giggle inappropriately and uncontrollably, and if I did, I would be a social outcast. Trust me. When it happens I have to switch into maximum self-control mode or my reputation for being a decent human being is at risk of being forever tarnished.

In short, I sometimes have to attend practice recitals where teenagers sing a solo to a small group of people, like a test audience, and I am at times part of that audience. At most there will be twelve people in the room. The room is very small. The singer will only be accompanied by a pianist. The performer will be about a metre from us. Maybe it’s the close proximity? Maybe it’s the way they sing in such an intensely sincere manner? Maybe it’s the way they insist on closing their eyes during some notes, or mime reaching for the crowd as they stare dramatically off into the distance? I don’t know. But I find it incredibly difficult not to break into fits of giggles. They all take it very seriously and look out across the small audience, and it is this sincerity I think that makes me lose it. Last time I was with a friend and I stupidly glanced at this friend, and I swear I came so close to losing it that I had to do some coughing to cover up the laughter. I had to close my eyes and consciously take my mind somewhere else or I was going to be the person who shattered some teenager’s dream. I was a social pariah waiting to happen.

And so, on that last occasion, after what seemed like an eternity the solo vocalist finally finished and sat down. I barely had enough time to gather my composure before she was replaced with a solo violinist who was seemingly a learner. This poor girl started playing the violin and I knew I was in trouble. Off the back of nearly losing it amidst the poor vocalist’s performance, the sound of a cat being strangled rang out across the tiny room and I was physically in pain from having to suppress my laughter. You would have been impressed with my level of self control. I cannot describe to you the sheer amount of willpower that was required not to laugh at this poor girl. But it was so bad. The playing was just so bad. And the longer it went on the more comical I found it. And she was trying so hard, but something about it tickled my funny bone and I really could have giggled the sorts of giggles that lead you to laugh until you cry, hiccuping and unable to breathe. Nope. I don’t think I can live through another practice recital. No really. I know my limits and I am putting my hand up and admitting that I cannot be trusted to attend any more of these things. I know that I am meant to be encouraging and listen attentively, but after the last time, I think it is best for me to bow out before I kill someone’s dream and put a permanent smear on my own reputation.

The thing is, I am normally a very encouraging person, officer. If someone is doing any task that I need to give feedback on, I am encouragement personified. I am the the cheerleader, the positive reinforcer, your biggest supporter.  But for some reason if you put me in a small, quiet room with just a soloist and a pianist, Erika leaves my body and is replaced by a giggling lunatic. I do not have a tic where I twitch my eye. I get the giggles. It is not something I am proud of. If it was the first time that this had happened I might think it was just me in a silly mood, but alas, it happens each and every time, and I now dread having to attend these performances. My next move, if avoidance is unavoidable, may need to be hidden noise cancelling earplugs and a pair of those glasses where the eyes are painted on the glass, obscuring the world around me. That way I can sit there with a silly smile on my face oblivious to earnest singers and squealing violinists. Please elbow me when it is finished will be my only instruction.