Now You Know Jack

October 26, 2001

The jack o’lantern is one of the most common and recognizable symbols of Halloween, but few people know its origins. Actually the origin is an apocryphal story, which is another way of saying it’s probably not true. Supposedly a drunk named Jack had an encounter with Mephistopheles on a dark and lonely road one night, and the demon threatened to take Jack’s soul.

Well, maybe it wasn’t Mephistopheles since he was off helping Dr. Faustus at the time. Maybe it was Beelzebub. After all, he had a devil put aside for Freddy Mercury, so you’d think he’d want to deal with somebody like Jack personally. Then of course there was Lilith…but I digress.

Anyway, Jack tricked the demon up a tree by saying his soul was in it, and drew a cross on the trunk so the demon couldn’t come down. Being an opportunist, Jack then said he’d release the demon on the promise that his soul would never be taken. The demon agreed. Jack eventually died but was denied admittance to Heaven. (This may not have had anything to do with his being the town drunk. Maybe he was tolerant of different religious faiths. Maybe he lived what is euphemistically called an "alternative lifestyle". Maybe he drove a buggy with one of those "Darwin" salamanders. I really don’t know. He might have been a nice guy, but there are so many things that will get you kicked out of Heaven.) Amazingly enough he found more sympathy at the gates of Hell.

They didn’t want him either, but Lucifer, who was known for lighting up peoples’ lives, kindly gave him a candle to use while wandering Limbo, and Jack put it in a turnip he was carrying. Of course this doesn’t explain why people, having switched to the larger, more affordable, and conveniently hollow pumpkin, put similar lights out on their doorsteps as a way of welcoming guests, but I like to think it may have something to do with the belief that Jack’s quest for a final resting place is a lonely one, and it’s a show of sympathy. Or maybe people do it to welcome all lonely wanderers, knowing they may be in the same position themselves someday. After all, there’s a little Jack in all of us.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

Quotes taken from actual Federal Employee Performance Evaluations

"Since my last report, this employee has reached rock bottom and has started to dig."

"I would not allow this employee to breed."

"This employee is not really so much of a has-been, but more of a definite won’t be."

"Works well when under constant supervision and when cornered like a rat in a trap."

"When she opens her mouth, it seems that it is only to change feet."

"He would be out of his depth in a parking lot puddle."

"This young lady has delusions of adequacy."

"He sets low personal standards and then consistently fails to achieve them."

"This employee is depriving a village, somewhere, of an idiot."

"This employee should go far, and the sooner he starts, the better."

"Got a full 6-pack, but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together."

"A gross ignoramus — 144 times worse than an ordinary ignoramus."

"He doesn’t have ulcers, but he’s a carrier."

"I would like to go hunting with him sometime."

"He’s been working with glue too much."

"He would argue with a sign post."

"He brings a lot of joy. . . whenever he leaves the room."

"When his IQ reaches 50, he should sell."

"If you see two people talking and one looks bored, he’s the other one."

"A photographic memory but with the lens cover glued on."

"A prime candidate for natural de-selection"

"Donated his brain to science before he was done using it."

"Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn’t coming."

"Has two brains: one is lost and the other is out looking for it."

"If he were any more stupid, he’d have to be watered twice a week."

"If you gave him a penny for his thought, you’d get change."

"If you stand close enough to him, you can hear the ocean."

"Takes him 2 hours to watch 60 minutes."

"The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead."

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