June 6, 2004

When I was about four years old my mother told me that thunder was caused by angels bowling. Like most four-year olds I wasn’t smart enough to say, "What’s the lightning, then? Are they taking pictures too?" Then when I was about ten my father taught me to count after each flash of lightning, and that would tell me how far away the storm was. This was extremely comforting, especially the first time I did it when I barely had a chance to say, "One" before BLAMMO! right outside my window. I would have spent the rest of the night in my closet, but there were Things inside the closet, and I figured I had at least a fighting chance against the lightning. Actually every year people are struck by lightning and survive. There’s even a support group – I’m not making this up – called Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Survivors International.

A man named Roy Sullivan is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records – the authoritative source for such information, as well as things like the world’s heaviest toenail – has been hit by lightning seven times. At that point I think he’d just come inside. Since it’s lightning season I’ll share with you some of the useful advice I got from the internet – the authoritative source for patently unreliable information – on how to avoid being hit by lightning.

1. Stay indoors during a thunderstorm.

This useful bit of information was obviously written by the same guy who wrote the "How to avoid a shark attack" manual that starts, "First, get out of the water." Oddly enough the Department of People With Nothing Better To Do has determined that you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a shark. And if you live in Florida – where they have a lot of sharks and a lot of lightning – you can consider yourself lucky to be reading this.

2. The second-safest place to be during a thunderstorm is in a car.

Henry Ford was actually the first person to suggest this. Apparently as long as you’re not touching anything metal inside the car you’ll be safe, so be forewarned: during a thunderstorm is a bad time to try and hotwire a car. Actually the reason a car is the safest place to be is because you can always drive somewhere safe – for instance, into a house.

3. Stay away from church bells.

Unless you’re Quasimodo this shouldn’t be a problem for you. It’s a little-known fact, but church bells attract more lightning than Roy Sullivan. Here’s a little more useful advice from the "how to avoid a shark attack" manual: try to avoid looking like a sea lion. However, once you’ve gotten out of the water you can look like a sea lion as much as you want, especially since there’s no record of sea lions ever being struck by lightning.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

A duck walks into a pub and orders a pint of lager and a ham sandwich. The landlord looks at him and says, "But you’re a duck".

"I see your eyes are working" replies the duck.

"And you talk!" exclaims the landlord.

"I see your ears are working" says the duck, "Now can I have my beer and my sandwich please?".

"Certainly," says the landlord, "sorry about that, it’s just we don’t get many ducks in this pub. What are you doing round this way?"

"I’m working on the building site across the road" explains the duck.

So the duck drinks his beer, eats his sandwich and leaves. This continues for 2 weeks. Then one day the circus comes to town. The ringleader of the circus comes into the pub and the landlord says to him; "You’re with the circus aren’t you? I know this duck that would be just brilliant in your circus – he talks, drinks beer and everything!"

"Sounds marvellous" says the ringleader, "get him to give me a call."

So the next day, the duck comes into the pub. The landlord says, "Hey Mr. Duck. I reckon I can line you up with a top job. Paying really good money!"

"Yeah?" says the duck, "Sounds great, where is it?"

"At the circus" says the landlord.

"The circus?" the duck enquires.

That’s right" replies the landlord. "The circus? That place with the big tent? With all the animals? With the big canvas roof with the hole in the middle?" asks the duck.

"That’s right!" says the landlord.

The duck looks confused. "What do they want with a plasterer?"

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