Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Some Jokes Are Funny And Some Just Aren't

A few weeks ago I wrote in this column about how I jokingly helped a woman get her gold teeth through airport security. I was relating this story to a friend over tea recently, and he responded with a tale of his own.

He was returning to Moscow on a flight from Kazakhstan. Before his departure, he had been in the desert and had captured two small turtles that he wanted to bring home as gifts for his sons. He carefully made a small box with air holes, which he carried onto the flight with him.

There was a young woman sitting next to him who turned out to be the wife of an army officer. "What is that you have there?" she asked, pointing to the box. "Just a small viper," my friend joked without thinking. He opened the lid a crack and one of the turtles obligingly stuck its nose out.

"Don’t be alarmed," he said. "Of course, a viper is a poisonous snake, but mine is domesticated and very friendly. Her name is Varka." He then tapped the turtle on the nose, said "Down, Varka!" and closed the lid. "If you sit still and make no sudden movements, everything should be OK."

"But it’s a five-hour flight! Please, cover up the hole." My friend explained that Varka gets aggressive when she is cooped up in the dark.

Then the man sitting on the other side of the woman joined the conversation. He had seen the turtle’s head and recognized it for what it was, but decided to play along with the joke. "I’d be happy to look after your snake if you like," he said cheerfully. "I’m a professional snake-catcher."

At this point, the woman was on the verge of tears, and my friend had to do something to get out of the situation. He pulled a box of matches out of his pocket and showed it to the woman. "I have a spider in here," he smiled.

Finally, the woman understood they had been joking with her. Indignantly, she stood up and rushed off to the front of the plane. A few minutes later, she returned with the co-pilot.

"Do you have permission to transport animals?" he asked sternly. "Permission?" my friend meekly replied. He explained that he didn’t have a snake, just two harmless turtles. The co-pilot was not impressed. "What do you think they are, insects? You’ll have to pay a fine when we land." He confiscated my friend’s documents and left.

My friend glared at the woman, who merely said, "How do you like my joke?"

"A good one," he said. "Now maybe you’ll lend me the money for the fine?"

In the end, the authorities let him off with a stern dressing-down (since he really didn’t have enough money on him to pay the fine). Mostly, though, what he learned is that not everyone can take a joke.

Vladislav Schnitzer is a pensioner and a freelance journalist living in Moscow.