David Bruce: The Funniest People in Neighborhoods — Practical Jokes, Problem-Solving

Practical Jokes

• Retired professor Sanford Pinsker helped play a notable practical joke on a science teacher. The teacher had set up an experiment to teach his students about electricity. In the experiment, the professor was supposed to throw a switch to complete an electrical circuit, which would result in the ringing of a bell. Unfortunately for the teacher, one of his students stationed himself by the electrical outlet and amused himself by unplugging the circuit. Of course, when the teacher threw the switch to complete the circuit and ring the bell, nothing happened. That’s when Sanford said that the bell didn’t ring because the teacher hadn’t said “abracadabra.” The teacher said, “That’s ridiculous,” but when Sanford said “abracadabra,” then threw the switch, the bell rang. (The other student had plugged in the circuit again.) This happened a few more times, with the teacher throwing the switch and the bell not ringing, and with Sanford saying “abracadabra,” throwing the switch, and ringing the bell. Finally, the teacher said, “abracadabra,” then threw the switch — and the bell rang.

• When he was a kid, Chicago Bear Walter Payton joined the Boy Scouts. On Walter’s first camping trip, Scoutmaster Jim Walker told the kids a ghost story about a man who had been decapitated but who still put in an appearance whenever a bunch of kids were around making a lot of noise. (Hearing this, the kids grew quiet.) Later that night, after Mr. Walker had supposedly gone home, a figure in a sheet showed up. Panicking, the kids started shooting their .22s into the bushes. The figure — Mr. Walker, of course — started shouting, “Stop shooting!” Fortunately, they did, and Mr. Walker was not hurt. But later, as an adult, Mr. Payton felt bad when he thought about the headline that might have appeared in the newspapers: “BLACK SCOUT LEADER SLAIN BY SCOUTS. BODY FOUND COVERED WITH WHITE POWDER AND WRAPPED IN SHEET.”

• Young children tend to believe whatever you tell them. Quaker humorist Tom Mullen once showed his children the place where he had been born. The house had long been torn down, and at the location where the house had stood was an intersection with a flashing yellow light, so Mr. Mullen told his children that the flashing yellow light had been placed there in his honor. Afterward, whenever his children saw an intersection with a flashing yellow light, they asked, “Who was born there?”

• In high school, author Beth Lisick had a truly original boyfriend. He could pass gas whenever he wanted, and for Christmas one year he gave her a toilet seat. Beth was quite original, too. After seeing a few too many catfights on the TV series Dynasty, Beth and her best friend, Amy, used to fake catfights in public places, rolling on the ground and pretending to kick each other and pull each other’s hair until somebody stopped the “fight.”

Problem-Solving

• After Fanny Kemble married an American slave-owner in the days before the Civil War, she was shocked by the conditions that the slaves were forced to endure. The “infirmary” for sick slaves was filthy because the white men running the plantation wanted to be sure that it was more “pleasant” to work in the fields than to be in the infirmary. (Ms. Kemble used her own labor to clean up the infirmary and take care of the sick slaves.) In addition, because the mothers had to work in the fields, their infants were often entrusted to the care of very small children — some of these babysitters were almost babies themselves, being only four or five years old. As you would expect, the infants and small children were often very dirty. To keep the children clean, Ms. Kemble instituted a system of wages. To each owner of a clean face, she gave a penny. And if the infant the child was caring for also had a clean face, the child would get another penny. Very quickly, whenever she was surrounded by slave children, she was surrounded by slave children with clean faces.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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