Geliophobia- The fear of laughter
I just came across this one today and it cracked me up for some reason. WTF, I thought, and then realised that I actually know a fair few geliophobes.
Take Pat for example. Pat is a forty something year old, married man who lives in a leafy suburb in Dublin and earns a lot of euros per year. He’s a chartered accountant who has worked his way to a respectable CFO position in a large plc. Pat used to play soccer in university but he gave up all sports when he got his first job as an accountant – he maintained that sport ran the risk of him getting injured which led to the risk of him missing work which carried the risk of him missing out on promotional opportunities. He now goes to a charity golf outing once a year, held by one of the Big Four. “I don’t have time for sport”, he says, “I’m too busy.” His waistline is active too – in a constant state of expansion: a direct correlation with his intimate passion for buttered fruit scones. Each one of his five a day laden with a serving more butter than the last one. Debit bakery, credit Pat’s muffin top.
Just earlier today, Pat came into my office. He was looking for a copy of last year’s annual report – to be more specific, he wanted to prove a point to someone about a piece of information contained in the report. It absolutely couldn’t be possible that his PA was correct on a point of information to do with Chairman’s address in the report, could it? What a preposterous idea! I mean, how could a pen-pusher outsmart perfect Pat?
“What the fuck would a PA know?” he said quietly but not quietly enough, as he asked me, another lowly pen-pushing PA, to unearth a copy from my cabinet.
I was reading an article in the Irish Times as he came in – it reported that a woman had just found her lost engagement ring in a pile of cow shit on her farm. Apparently, she’d lost it while feeding the cattle and one of them had managed to ingest it. Thankfully bovine enzymes haven’t yet evolved to digesting diamonds, so her solitaire had been passed through unharmed.
“Now that’s a sacred cow if ever I heard of one” I nodded towards the article, smiling.
“Ridiculous to loose a valuable like that. What a stupid, careless woman,” Pat grunted. You’d think he’d coughed up for the ring himself.
It was at that point, that Manus Smith, the Company Secretary, walked in. They were all coming out of the woodwork today – my office under siege from the elite of emotionally constipated colleagues.
They nodded like donkeys in each other’s direction.
“Anne. Month end report. It’s late. Why?” Manus was verbally frugal as ever.
“There was a problem with Account’s IT system this morning, they’ll be issuing the report this afternoon.”
“Ridiculous,” he snorted, as though I’d broken the fucking system myself.
“Lazy bastards,” added Pat, though it was impossible to decipher whether he was referring to the accountants working on the reports or the poor sods in IT who slave to fix the daily problems with the jurassic financial software. I suspected he meant the latter but didn’t seek clarification. Fat Pat was Mr. Excel personified but by no means Steve Jobsey in a technical sense. He could run a macro sooner than you’d blink your eye but ask him to convert a word doc to a pdf and he’d break out in a sweat.
Manus threw a crumpled piece of paper he’d been holding, in the direction of the bin but missed the target by about a metre. He made no apologies, nor did he attempt to pick up the piece of rubbish, turning on his brown Marks & Spencer’s heels and leaving the office. Pat grabbed the report from my hand and headed back to his CFO cave to play with his Bloomberg or stroke the GL or have another buttered scone while drooling all over today’s handsome share price.
And it struck me then, when have you heard a CFO laugh, now I mean really laugh, in work? (Christmas parties or when they finally and inevitably get promoted to a CEO role excluded). When has a CFO had a good, deep bellied, tears well up in the eyes, shoulders shake with the spasms laugh? Feck it, let’s lob HR Directors in there too, while we’re at it. Has your HR Director ever broken their heart laughing at something in work? Not the fake tickle of a “ha, ha, oh you’re hilarious” type excuse for a laugh that HR merchants bandy about. The “oh aren’t you so funny?” line they leave you with right before they click their heels down the hall at the speed of light to write a note on your file that your ‘fit’ is in question and you may be ‘too disruptive an influence for the culture’, ‘one to watch’ perhaps.
The answer is, they don’t laugh. Laughing with intent and real gusto is seen by some as about as professional as rocking up to a board meeting with your boobs hanging out. It’s not going to get you promoted. Robots don’t laugh so why should corporate drones? Unless, of course, the CEO cracks a joke, in which case the CFO and HR Director will enact a synchronised orgy of faking it. “Ha, ha, oh that’s hilarious”, she’ll say, waiting for the cue as to when she can stop pretending to laugh. He’ll emit a deep groan, like a cow in labour and package it off as a laugh by roaring “very good” over and over in his Dart accent. He may even slap whatever file he has close to hand off his thigh once or twice – just for effect. No tears will well in their eyes. Nobody will remember the ‘joke’.
There’s nothing as terrifying to the powers that be in Finance and HR as the sound of genuine laughter. It signals reality and actual people. Fuck that, much safer to trade in buzzwords and spreadsheets. That’s where the promotion lies guys.