Wise men say…

February 21, 1997

There’s an old riddle that goes like this: A man is trapped in a room with only a mattress and a calendar. How does he survive? Simple: he eats dates from the calendar and drinks water from the springs in the mattress. Strangely enough, this has never been tried. There’s another old saying that goes like this: If you put a thousand monkeys in a room with a thousand typewriters, eventually they’ll produce the complete works of William Shakespeare. This has been tried, and the end result was a thousand obsolete typewriters and a thousand dead monkeys. Maybe they should have given them a bunch of calendars and mattresses, but I suspect the result then would have just been a lot more monkeys. Why am I sharing all this with you? I have no idea. Maybe it’s because of an even older saying: A little nonsense now and then Is relished by the wisest men. If that’s true, I must be practically a genius.

Actual questions asked by Actual tourists at various
U.S. national parks

Zion National Park
What is your best parking area?

Mount Rainier National Park
Where’s the road to the summit?

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Don’t you think the polluted sky makes a much prettier sunset? (Obviously someone who voted for Newt)

Grand Canyon National Park
Was this man-made?
Do you light it up at night?
I bought tickets for the elevator to the bottom — where is it?
Is the mule train air-conditioned?
So where are the faces of the presidents?
Why did the Indians only build ruins?

Everglades National Park
Are the alligators real?
Are the baby alligators for sale?
Where are all the rides?
What time does the two o’clock bus leave?

Mesa Verde National Park
Did people build this, or did Indians?
Why did they build the ruins so close to the road?
Do you know of any undiscovered ruins?
What did they worship in the kivas — their own made-up religion?
Why did the Indians decide to live in Colorado?

Carlsbad Caverns National Park
How much of the cave is underground?
So what’s in the unexplored part of the cave?
Does it ever rain in here?
How many ping-pong balls would it take to fill this up?
So what is this — just a hole in the ground?

Yosemite National Park
Where are the cages for the animals?
What time of year do you turn on Yosemite Falls?
What happened to the other half of Half Dome?
Can I get my picture taken with the carving of President Clinton?

Denali National Park
What time do you feed the bears?
What time do they let the animals out in the park?
What’s so wonderful about Wonder Lake?
Can you show me where yeti lives?
How often do you mow the tundra?
How much does Mount McKinley weigh?

Yellowstone National Park
Does Old Faithful erupt at night?
How do you turn it on?
When does the guy who turns it on get to sleep?
We had no trouble finding the park entrances, but where are the exits?

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