Revelations that boredom can be beneficial always remind me of a piece I wrote back in 1996 about the time I dangled a pink hippo out of a 7th floor window. Looking back at that piece I realize there were so many interesting details I left out, so it’s worth revisiting.
Why was the hippo pink? It was a furry stuffed animal and supposedly the fur had been treated with cobalt chloride. The coworker who owned it said it would turn blue if rain was imminent and pink on clear days. Actually she had it backwards—dry cobalt chloride is blue and wet cobalt chloride is pink. That explains why we never could get it to turn blue, even though I put it under a running tap and also licked it. Maybe if we’d put it in the oven it would have changed color.
Still it was the belief that it would turn blue that first prompted me to dangle it out the window. Wanting to see whether my big ball of string would reach the ground from the 7th floor was secondary. It was while unrolling my big ball of string, of course, that I discovered I’d failed to tie the first three feet or so to the rest of the ball. The hippo plummeted into the bushes below.
After the hippo took a dive I switched to using a pen as a weight because I didn’t want to risk my coworker’s toy hippo. The pen was also slightly heavier, and I thought this would provide a more accurate reading. It had gone at least seven or eight feet when someone on the 6th floor reached out and grabbed it. When I pulled back they started yelling, “Hello! Hello! Who’s up there?”
I should have explained previously that the 6th floor of the building is a parking garage. It’s where people went to smoke, unless you were the mailman, and then you smoked in the 7th floor hallway next to the mailroom where only delivery people went. That way you could crush your cigarettes into the linoleum floor, but that’s another story.
I have nothing against smokers, but in retrospect I feel I was being unfairly judged by the person who grabbed the pen. I assume they assumed they had the moral high ground. They were attempting to stop someone engaged in something more foolish and unproductive than sitting in a parking garage smoking. This is because they sounded angry. What was the problem? Maybe they were one of the people who worked for the Jack Daniel’s distributor on the 10th floor. They were always kind of standoffish and snappish even though they had tons of whiskey in their office. I know this because they regularly gave free bottles of it to delivery people who in turn would pass it on to me. Before the distributor moved to another building I had enough Jack Daniel’s to last
The final element that makes this story worth revisiting is something I couldn’t provide at the time I first wrote it: illustrations. Now you can see where it all went down.