The question, “can you find humor in anything?” seems to keep resurfacing throughout the semester. With Sedaris this question was posed as we discussed how humor can be used as a coping device. Sedaris found humor in all the shortcoming and problems in his life no matter how tragic they appeared. But for Bill Bryson this question means something completely different. Instead of asking if humor can be found in anything even tragedy, we should ask can humor be found in anything, even a tube of toothpaste? Or in other words, can you find humor in the minutia of everyday life? Bill Bryson seems to say yes.
Bryson’s attention to detail is allows him to point out the small absurdities in our life that we normally gloss over. For instance, in his column “Rule Number One: Follow all Rules” Bryson points out how extreme American devotion to rules is. He begins the chapter by saying “I did a foolish thing the other afternoon” then proceeds to tell a story of how he sat himself at a restaurant without permission and how irritated it made the waitress. To someone who does not live or has never lived in the United States, it would sound utterly absurd that Americans are such intense rule followers that a restaurant will shun you if you disobey a sign that says “please wait to be seated.” But to Americans these rules and the unspoken consequences are well known, but we don’t contemplate how strange these small things are until they are blown up. I mostly found myself laughing when I noticed how stupid the little things we do are, but obviously, someone who is British (who these columns were written for) would not laugh for the same reasons I do because they don’t share the same little things that I do. In other words, I may not understand the little absurdities that surround them, but that’s okay because we define ourselves by what we encounter and what we do each day. It's little things in I'm a stranger to my self that show us how much the things we find funny are reflections of ourselves and our surrounding.