Tuesday, April 26, 2005


I had to go to a training session this morning to learn how to use the new student records system. It's odd that in a bastion of political correctness like the university, the women outnumbered the men by almost seven to one. Maybe it's that most men don't like to be told how to master a new system, preferring to work it out for themselves (hence our scorn of instruction manuals and asking for directions). I was only there because my boss had specifically asked me to go.

Whatever the reason, this gender imbalance made me notice a couple of things.

1) Old women, like young men, are noisy. A group of them came in late, and we could all hear them about thirty seconds before they arrived, coming up the corridor gobbling to each other like a flock of menopausal turkeys. As they arrived and realized that the session had already started, they noisily cooed at each other to be quiet. Nobody actually tittered and said, "Gosh, aren't we naughty!", but it was evident they were all thinking precisely that.

2) Some people will laugh at anything. Note the following exchange between the session leaders:

Male leader: Now I'll hand you over to Janice. This'll be fun.

Female leader: Very funny. Be off with you.

Audience : Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

The leaders had obviously worked a long time together and they had an easy, playful banter between them. I couldn't help but smile at this exchange. But the old women in the audience laughed long and uproariously, as if the pair had suddenly morphed into Lucille Ball and Ricky Ricardo and started hurling pies at each other.

Were all these women recent escapees from some grim fundamentalist cult that didn't allow humour, making up for lost time? Had they all been taking hits from the bong in the tea room beforehand? Was this a hormonal thing brought on by The Change? Whatever the reason, it was sort of creepy.

The woman next to me was especially bizarre. Firstly, she didn't look more than thirty. Secondly, her laugh sounded like something a computer would make if challenged to respond to a witticism in a Turing test. You could almost see the Microsoft Sans Serif font scrolling across her frontal lobes:

Input received.
Scanning for Amusement Indicators.
Analysis: levity ('banter' subcategory).
AutoResponse: Laughter.
Emit now.
HA. HA. HA. HA. HA. End laughter.

I looked around at the handful of men in the lecture theatre. They were either staring blankly ahead with a disengaged smile or reading something in the materials. Not one of them was laughing.

I guess this must be one of those Mars/Venus things. Older women in groups laugh to express solidarity and diffuse tension. Men in groups just laugh if something is funny.

Like farts. Hee hee hee.


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