Ladies and Gentlemen!

July 25, 2003

I was taken to the circus a few times when I was a kid, but I never felt like it was a real circus. Well, I barely remember the circuses I went to, but I do remember that everything was nice and happy, with elephants that marched around in a circle, horses that galloped around in a circle, a tightrope walker who wore a safety rope, and clowns that drove a station wagon and encouraged everyone to brush their teeth. What it wasn’t was the sort of circus I read about in Ray Bradbury short stories, a circus run by a mysterious and sinister character who obsessively stroked his long black beard while talking about his travels to the Orient and biting the heads off live salamanders. No circus I ever went to had sideshows where wolf boys ate live mice on stage or bearded ladies were put on display next to illustrated men, hunchbacks, and syphilitics. I feel deprived by never having witnessed this sort of depravity. (This raises an interesting question, though: if depravity is depraved, then if you’re deprived is that really deprivity? But I digress.)

I suppose we have our modern equivalents of these spectacles – they’re called reality television and rock concerts – but in old stories the circus, for all its ominous ambience, was something unhappy children could run away and join. I wasn’t an unhappy child, but it would have been nice knowing that, if I had been, there was a circus out there somewhere. When I really stopped and thought about it I’d get depressed for as much as half a second because I knew that even if I were a hunchbacked albino Siamese twin there wasn’t a circus out there that would take me.

There is something sort of like a circus near where I work. It’s called Church Street, and it has an interesting and constantly shifting variety of acts that I see, usually when I’m walking to work in the mornings. For instance, there’s Segway(TM) Man, able to make 90-degree turns on two wheels, then there’s the parade of Dostoevsky look-alikes. The real star, though, would have to be the guy who argues with neon signs. The other day I saw him arguing with an OPEN sign about, I think, his latest investment in the stock market. The only problem with this circus, though, is it’s not exactly the kind of thing anyone would want to run away and join.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

The following short quiz consists of 4 questions and it will tell you whether you are qualified to be a professional. The real trick is to stop laughing. Scroll down for each answer. The questions are NOT that difficult, but they will make you wonder how most of the professionals you know got to where they are.

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

The correct answer is: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe, and close the door. This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.

2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

Did you say, "Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant, and close the refrigerator?" (Wrong Answer)

Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door. This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your previous actions.

3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend?

Correct Answer: The Elephant. The elephant is in the refrigerator. You just put him in there. This tests your memory. OK, even if you did not answer the first three questions correctly, you still have one more chance to show your true abilities.

4. There is a river you must cross but it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it?

Correct Answer: You swim across. All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting. This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.

According to Anderson Consulting Worldwide, around 90% of the professionals they tested got all questions wrong. But many preschoolers got several correct answers. Anderson Consulting says this conclusively disproves the theory that most professionals have the brains of a four year old.

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