• Sometimes, practical jokers just can’t get a break. Bored while waiting to pay the toll on the Venetian Causeway in Miami, Calvin Godfrey, a writer for the Miami New Times, looked under his seat to see what he could see. Finding a can of shaving cream that had fallen out of a grocery bag long ago, he decided to see if he could make the tollbooth worker laugh. He bearded himself with the shaving cream, drove up to the tollbooth, and paid the toll. The tollbooth worker did not react — at all — to the shaving-cream beard. Other attempts to make the tollbooth worker laugh — such as driving with a live, loose chicken beside him and eating a messy lemon meringue pie without utensils — also failed to make the tollbooth worker laugh. Mr. Godfrey then did some investigating and interviewed Delfin Molins, the Miami-Dade County Public Works Department public information officer. Mr. Molins explained that tollbooth workers undergo training in not laughing at such antics.
• The founder and publisher of The New Yorker was Raoul Fleischmann, who was very proud of a set of Chinese dishes he and his wife owned and which they used at special dinners. Their friend Arthur H. Samuels had been to many dinners at their house and had heard them talk about the dishes many times. At one Fleischmann dinner, Mr. Samuels listened as Mr. Fleischmann began to talk about his dishes, then he rose and shouted, “If I have to hear about this goddamn china once more ….” Then he picked up his plate and threw into the fireplace, breaking it. After enjoying the look at the Fleischmanns’ face, he showed them their real, unbroken plate and explained that he had thrown and broken a cheap imitation he had purchased prior to the dinner.
• As you would expect, the staff of MAD magazine could be pretty wild and crazy. One of MAD publisher William M. Gaines’s practical jokes was to fill the water cooler with white wine. In addition, before he took his staff on a trip to Africa, he gave everybody what he called malaria pills and ordered them to swallow them right away. Then he pretended to get a telephone call from a doctor who told him about a mix-up at the pharmacy: “DON’T TAKE THE PILL! THEY’RE POISON!”
• John Steinbeck was a practical joker. One day, when he was a student at Stanford University, he rigged the bells so one morning they played the drinking song “How Dry I Am.”
• Reading an ancient manuscript can be difficult. The Archimedes Codex contains a copy of the work of this ancient scientist. The handwritten copy was made in the 10th century, more than 1,000 years after the time of Archimedes. A couple of hundred years after the copy was made, a scribe named John Myronas took the pages apart, erased the text, then wrote new text — that of a prayer book — over the erased text of Archimedes. Using modern technology, the text of Archimedes can be read. The modern technology allows both sets of text — Archimedes’ work and the prayer book — to appear on a computer screen. The words of the prayer book appear in one color, and the ancient Greek words of Archimedes appear in another color. Translation of the text is fascinating to scholars, who have discovered that Archimedes used the mathematical concept of infinity centuries before the concept became widely used in mathematics in the 17th century.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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