October 18, 1996
Several months ago a counseling center moved in upstairs, so now I can’t help wondering if the strangers I sometimes ride the elvator with are therapists analyzing my every move. Needless to say I’m always tempted to pretend I’m talking to my dead mother or to pull out my penknife and say, "Normally I’m not allowed to have sharp objects." At the same time I wonder if any of the other people who work in this building are patients, and whether they ever share an elevator with their therapist. Can’t you just imagine the exchange?
"Hello, how are you?" asks the ever-courteous therapist.
"That will be sixty dollars."
Maybe they break it down, though–prorate it so an elevator’s ride of therapy is only sixty cents, enough for a Diet Coke. (I always imagine therapists drinking Diet Coke–it’s so non-threatening.) These poor people must get into real trouble at their next formal session, though. When they start pouring their heart out, the therapist comes back with something like, "Last time we met you said you were fine. You aren’t holding something back, are you? We’re never going to get anywhere if you don’t share." No matter what the patient says, it’s going to sound crazy–after all, why else would they be seeing a therapist?–so there’s no point in explaining that, if they "shared" their latest dream about being chased by their chainsaw-weilding grandmother, or if they "shared" how their dog doesn’t understand them anymore every time they got into an elevator, pretty soon everyone in the building would be taking the stairs.
Everyone, that is, except for the therapist who lives for that free Diet Coke every morning.
Enjoy this week’s collection of oddities:
One pail of water can produce enough fog to cover 100 square miles to a depth of fifty feet.
What was Frankenstein’s first name? Contrary to popular notion, Mary Shelley’s monster was nameless. Frankenstein was the creator-doctor. His first name was Victor.
The world’s record for running the 100-yard dash BACKWARDS was set by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, the black tap dancer who appeared in many Shirley Temple movies. He ran it in 13.5 seconds.
Dr. Sylvester Graham was a religious crusader who opposed the use of meat, tea, coffee, tobacco, corsets, and feathers. He invented Graham crackers, which attained success with the Puritans in the 1820’s because Graham claimed that they would reduce the sexual urges of young girls.
Thomas Edison was a judge at the first "Miss America" beauty contest in 1880.
Fish can get seasick if they are swirled in a pail or kept on board a rolling ship.
A clever salesman is sometimes humorously credited with the ability to sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. Actually, many Eskimos own refrigerators. They use them to keep foods from freezing.
In 1940, accountants discovered the financial records of Benjamin Franklin at the archives of Philadelphia’s Bank of America. According to their findings, Franklin — the master of thrift — was overdrawn on his account at least three times each week.
One symptom of rabies is a powerful thirst. By a cruel twist of nature, another symptom is a swollen, painful throat which may cause convulsions if the victim tries to take a drink.
At least fifteen million people are having a birthday today.
For all its romantic significance in American history, the legendary Pony Express only lasted 18 months. When it went out of business, its financial backers lost $200,000.
For most of human history, scientists believed that meteors did not exist. The idea that rocks could drop out of the sky seemed absurd. President Thomas Jefferson once denounced Yale University when one of its professors claimed to have seen a meteor fall.
Which state was the 39th to be admitted into the Union? No one knows. North and South Dakota, the 39th and 40th states, were admitted on the same day. President Benjamin Harrison never revealed which of the two proclamations he signed first.
Quarrymen in ancient Rome sometimes rubbed wax on their marble blocks to conceal cracks and flaws. The Roman Senate passed a law that all marble purchased by the government must be "since cera," which means, "without wax." From this root comes "sincere," a word we use to mean "without deception."
Fetuses can get the hiccups.
In 1906, the horse-drawn traffic in New York City moved along at an average speed of 11.5 miles per hour. In 1978, a survey showed automobile traffic in New York City averaged only 7.9 miles per hour.
"It was the only time I ever went into combat stoned," said American soldier Peter Lemon, describing how he smoked marijuana one night, then fought off two waves of Vietcong troops, dragged a wounded comrade to safety — and won the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Cadet Edgar Allen Poe was discharged from West Point in 1831 for "gross neglect of duty." As legend has it, he was reporting to the parade grounds where the prescribed uniform had been "white belts and gloves." He showed up wearing a white belt and gloves — and nothing else.
The flowers of wheat have a life-span of less than two hours.
Frogs must close their eyes to swallow.
The word "kangaroo" means "I don’t know" in the language of Australian aborigines. When Captain Cook approached natives of the Endeavor River tribe to ask what the strange animal was, he got "kangaroo" for an answer.
The Harlem Globetrotters never played in Harlem until 1968 — forty years after the team came together.
The highest and lowest points in the continental United States are less than eighty miles apart (Mount Whitney and Death Valley, California).
What kind of animal did the three wise men ride on their journey to Bethlehem? The Bible doesn’t say they rode anything. According to Scriptures, it is entirely possible that they walked.
Man and the two-toed sloth are the only land animals that typically mate face-to-face.
Felix Wankel, automotive engineer and inventor of the rotary engine, never had a driver’s license.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was written by Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond adventure novels.
The elephant is the only animal that cannot jump.
The Arlington National Cemetary cannot find an unknown soldier to occupy the fourth Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which is dedicated to the men who died in Vietnam. Military identification- –ranging from X-rays to fingerprints to dental records — has become so sophisticated that there are no unknown remains that might be eligible for the Tomb.
A cheetah can jump from a standstill to 45 miles per hour in two seconds — an acceleration rate that cannot be matched by even the fastest dragsters.
Adolf Hitler owned nine thousand acres of land in Colorado. When it was discovered in 1942 that Hitler had inherited title to the land from relatives in Germany, it was being used by ranchers as grazing land.
Harry Houdini was the first person to fly an airplane in the continent of Australia.
Before the Civil War, Lincoln offered the command of the Northern forces to Robert E. Lee.
In the 1840’s, two New Englanders named Pettygrove and Lovejoy acquired a large tract of land in Oregon on which they planned to build a city. When the first settlers began to build, they were unable to agree on a name for their city. Lovejoy wanted Boston while Pettygrove wanted Portland. Finally, they flipped a coin. Pettygrove won.
In 1818, Easter was observed on the wrong day. The formula for calculating when Easter will fall was established nearly seventeen centuries ago; it is the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox. Astronomers made a mistake in their calculationsin 1818, and the Christian world celebrated Easter on the wrong Sunday.
Corn is incapable of reproducing itself in the wild.
Wild rice is not wild. Nor is it rice.
The song "You Are My Sunshine" was written by James Davis — who also served as Louisiana’s governor for eight years.
Midway Island is so named because it is the nearest body of land to the geographic center of the Pacific.
Blackboard chalk is not made of chalk.It is made from plaster of Paris — which, incidentally, is rarely made in Paris.
The five interlocking Olympic Rings are colored black, blue, red, white, and yellow because at least one of those colors appears in every national flag in the world.
Who was conceived in the Immaculate Conception? The Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus in his mother Mary, as many think. It refers to the conception of Mary in her mother Saint Anne.
A bare-breasted woman caused a ten-car collision when she drove along the Hollywood Freeway in an open convertible. The incident was reported in a local newspaper with the following headline: "Bares 2, Rams 10."
An ear of corn will almost always contain an even number of rows — usually twelve, fourteen, or sixteen. An ear with an odd number of rows is rarer than a four-leaf clover.