A tale of havoc and goofiness inspired by a voice-activated lecture recorder.

We all have those times when things just get goofy, like silly goofy. And when we try explaining it to someone else it is almost impossible to recreate the sense of hilarity which had our sides aching, our eyes watering, and our lungs gasping for breath. They just blink at us, humoring us congenially, and we end up at the resigned retreat point of ‘Guess you had to be there’.

On occasion you might even try to recreate the experience, not only to more fully explain it but also to re-enjoy and share it with others. Most times you end up even more firmly in ‘Guess you had to be there’ territory but sometimes you are able to re-achieve a degree of the excitement or hilarity. And sometimes the attempt ends up landing somewhere completely different adding a whole new chapter of goofiness to the legend.

I was part of a couple different gaming groups during my high school career. We were not necessarily the most dedicated role-playing gamers, typically spending at least half to two-thirds of our time goofing around, wondering off into non-game tangents which were either conversational or just plain silly. We enjoyed our gaming but we enjoyed each other’s company and collective playfulness far more.

One member of our larger group, Derek, was developing an interest in journalism and as part of his explorations had bought himself a voice activated palm sized tape recorder, yes this takes place back in the ancient days of recording on actual tapes. On an evening when much of our troupe had needed to leave early thus drawing the gaming to an early close Derek, Steve, and myself continued hanging out chatting about various things and planning for next week’s gaming session.

During a lull in the conversation Derek pulled the recorder out of his bag to show it off. Given it was late, and things were already leaning heavily to side of goofy, it didn’t take long for three teenage boys to start using the palm sized little machine to start recording increasingly silly and pointless things. Cracking knuckles, the sounds of one’s Adam’s apple while swallowing, an expected amount of belching, we were even lucky enough to catch the actual rumbling of one of our tummies. A nearly endless parade of odd noises captured and laughed over.

It was as our shared laugh euphoria started to reach truly ridiculous levels that we took full notice of the little red light on the recorder which indicated it was actively recording. Remembering the devise boasted a ‘voice activated’ feature we three rather nonsensically giddy teenage boys proceeded to see if we could be quiet enough to make the little red light go out.

Now the moment you try not to do something… Order someone not to smile and the corners of their mouth start twitching. Try not to think about the color green and that will be the first color to flash in your mind. This holds true in normal, ordinary circumstances. When you are essentially ‘laugh drunk’…

So there the three of us sat shushing one another, clamping our mouths shut, spluttering, giggling, snorting, doing pretty much everything but being quiet. The harder we tried the funnier it got, the funnier it got the harder it was not to laugh. Not sure whether I’m proud or embarrassed to say it took us almost half an hour to finally zip it up enough to achieve enough quiet for the recorder to deactivate.

The little red light blinked out and was off for about 0.0000000000003 seconds. Just enough time for our eyes, optic nerves, and brains to register the sight of it. Then we exploded into guffaws and hoots reactivating the recorder prompting the return of the little red light which then pretty much sent us over the edge.

And listening to it back was just as nonsensically debilitating. Thirty minutes of gradually tapering off shushes, snorts, and whispers followed by an explosion of delirious hysterity. It was late. We were tired. We had already been laughing way too much.

The weeks passed. Most of our friends heard the legendary tale of the voice-activated recorder. A choice few were even been blessed with a chance to hear the actual recording, a privileged experience which almost universally elicited the expected eye-rolling and looks speaking of deep concern for our questionable sanity.

Then, during one of those ever dangerous lulls on a gaming night a couple months later, Derek plopped the little recorder onto the table with a villainous smirk provoking rather different reactions from the five of us present that night. Steve, Derek, and I immediately began snickering and spluttering instantly almost half way back to the prior level of ridiculousness. My good friend Kip dropped his head into his hands with a long suffering sigh. But it was Jess’s reaction which set things off into a new direction.

She had heard the tales of our night of nonsense. Curious by nature she was instantly intrigued, all the more so given our immediately electrified response to the sight of it. Fascinated and determined to explore the experience she scooped up the recorder and, pulling her knees up under her chin as she sat in her chair at the dining room table, she cupped the recorder in her hands staring intently at the little red light.

The sight was so appropriately absurd our snickers and splutters became howls, chuckles, chortles, and hoots. Realizing she was hoping to share in the apparently life altering experience of seeing the little red light go out we promptly tried out best to once again go silent enough for the recorder to deactivate. And our efforts proved about as effective as before.

After ten straight minutes of struggling we resorted to escape. Derek retreated to a nearby bathroom, Steve wound up crawling on hands and knees spluttering his way into the living room, Kip was still shaking his head but having to keep his jaw clamped shut to keep from laughing at us, and I put one arm across my mouth and attempted to take calming deep breaths.

After a couple of seconds the red light went out. Jess sat there continuing to stare at it for almost two full minutes before looking up and saying –

“That’s it?”

Derek’s muffled howls of laughter could be heard from the bathroom down the hall, conjuring mental images of him uncontrollably hosing down his surroundings (which thankfully didn’t actually occur). Steve collapsed to the floor, rolling over onto his back his feet and arms spasming up into view behind the coffee table. Kip gave in and joined me in tumbling out of our chairs clutching our ribs with laughter.

And Jess continued to sit there, with the recorder still cupped in her hands which were perched upon her tucked up knees, blinking around at all of us in compounded bewilderment.

Image for post
Image for post
The holy object itself — photo provided by Derek (who still has it)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store