W Bruce Cameron:
Medical professionals have known for a long time that exposure to harsh sounds can cause ear injury. This effect is called “conductive nerve damage.” When it happens to an entire room full of people at the same time, it is called “karaoke.”

“Karaoke” is from a Japanese word meaning “even worse than getting your lips caught in a pencil sharpener.” It is the process by which talentless individuals get up on stage and subject other people to their intoxication.

My position on karaoke is the same as my position on proctology: I don’t mind if it happens, as long as I’m not close enough to be able to hear it.

“You act like you don’t want to go,” my older daughter told me when she announced I was invited to a karaoke party.

“Oh, it’s no act,” I assured her. “I’d rather open the cheese drawer in the refrigerator and eat everything in it that has turned green.”

Her response to this was to laugh with such forced hilarity I knew something was going on – she never thinks I’m funny unless she needs something from me, like a new fender, or a car to go with it. It turned out the party was for her boss’ birthday, and he had specifically requested that I attend because if I was so funny in the paper, I must be hilarious at a karaoke bar. To me, this is as logical as saying that because Charlie Brown is such a wonderful Sunday comic character, he must be great as a shoe salesman.

More fake-sounding laughter from my daughter. “Brown shoe salesman, Dad, you just crack me up.”

“You can laugh all you want, but I’m not going.”

“Dad, you have to! I promised him, and he’s my boss.”

In my view, being a father trumps being a boss, and I told her so. I don’t care if I sound inflexible; I am at the age where if I don’t want to do something, I don’t do it.

When we got to the karaoke bar, I was disappointed to see what was there: other people. I met my daughter’s boss, a tall, intense-looking man who bellowed, “Tell me your hilarious shoe-salesman joke!” I shot a dark look at my daughter and explained the whole Charlie Brown thing. Her boss frowned. “I guess I don’t get it,” he confessed. “Isn’t he a fictional character?”

The boss turned away as I tried to explain, but he rudely ignored me. My daughter caught my arm. “He reads lips,” she advised. “He can’t understand you unless he is looking directly at you.”

“For his birthday he wanted to come to a karaoke bar and he’s deaf?” I demanded in disbelief. Then, on reflection, I realized this made a certain sense.

He turned to me a few minutes later. “You’re going to sing, right?”

I shook my head in the universally recognized sign for “I hate karaoke.” He appeared absolutely crestfallen. My daughter gave me a look that I interpreted to mean, “If Charlie Brown can sell shoes you darned well can sing for my boss!”

To participate in karaoke, one hands the master of ceremonies a slip of paper with one’s name and a song title on it. The first person to do this was so amazingly talented she created her own record label on the spot, and I found myself weeping uncontrollably. The second was a baritone so deep he could legitimately call Barry White a “pipsqueak,” and he brought the room to its feet with his rendition of Moon River.

Who, I wondered, could possibly follow those two incredible acts?

Me, that’s who. My daughter dimpled at me as it was announced I would entertain the bar with my rendition of Que Sera, Sera. “I turned in your name for you,” she informed me unnecessarily.

I took the stage and sang in a manner for which the word “warble” was invented. By the time I was done, everyone in the bar loved me, for it meant that no matter how bad they were, they couldn’t possibly be worse than the Que Sera, Sera guy.

And my daughter’s boss thought I was great.

Write to Bruce at [email protected]