Everytime I see somebody or something has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records, I remember the winter of 1965 when someone made the mistake of giving my 13-year-old son that book of facts for his birthday, resulting in hours of intense boredom for his two brothers, Eleven and Fifteen, and his father and me.
We did not care that the tallest monument in the world was in Houston or the tallest statue in Afghanistan.
Did the knowledge that the face-slapping duration record was set in Russia in 1932 interest any of us? Nyet.
There is nothing more lifeless, colorless or yawn-inspiring than a cold, hard fact. But Thirteen was fascinated with this great store of knowledge and insisted on sharing it with any captive audience. Us. For months, he sat on a stool at the kitchen counter reading excerpts to us while the rest of us got dinner on the table and washed the dishes.
One evening, we were all sitting around the table in the usual manner. Eleven and Fifteen were bickering and sneaking kicks under the table and we were discussing something stimulating like the state of their report cards or how long their hair was.
Except for Thirteen. He had the book propped up by his plate and kept contributing newsy tidbits like: “The loudest ship siren in the world is on the Queen Elizabeth. The longest sausage ever made was 3,000 feet long, weighed over 840 pounds and took 103 butchers to carry it. The largest single brewing plant in the world is in St. Louis.”
This information overload prompted Eleven to interrupt with a joke — which he broke off midway with the suspicious comment, “I’d better wait till you finish eating!” We did not urge him to continue.
Then, rushing to finish the dishes so we could watch a TV show, we were bombarded with more facts.
“Look at this. Here’s the longest name now known.” It was a 65-letter Hawaiian girl’s name.
“Her family probably calls her “Hey, You,” I muttered.
Undiscouraged, Thirteen continued. “Hey, look at this one! This is neat-o. The longest name anybody ever used had 595 letters — but he shortened it to Wolfe Plus 590, senior.”
“Humph,” I said. “If you had a name that long, Fifteen and Eleven would eat up all the dinner before I could call you to the table.”
Fifteen looked hurt. “Boy, if there’s anything I can’t stand, it’s a smart aleck mother,” he chided me.
But Thirteen was not easily sidetracked. Even with responses to his announcements such as, “I don’t want to hear it,” or “Don’t tell me one more thing or I’ll put my fingers in my ears and scream!” he kept on and on, monotonously filling our heads with dull facts.
“The first nudist camps were established in Germany in 1912.”
“The stupidest creature ever existing was the stegosaurus which weighed 6½ tons and had a 2½ ounce brain.”
Giver me a rumor — a half truth — a bit of gossip — some slander and you’ll have my undivided attention. Whisper a secret two rooms away and I’m all ears.
Facts I can live without.
Mary McClure lives in Lawton and writes a weekly column for The Lawton Constitution.