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    EXPLANATIONS

    When my son was five years old, I showed him around my grandfather's farm, pointing out the hard work and skills it once took to farm the land. As we entered the cow barn, I gazed up at the long, handmade ladder to the loft and explained that that was where my grandfather had kept the hay to feed the cows. I was delighted at the impression this seemed to make, until my son remarked, "I bet it was hard for those cows to climb that ladder." 

    Carol Podemski, in Reader's Digest, November 1991.


    A woman's red station wagon was crushed by an elephant at a circus. The owners of the animal apologized, explaining that the animal, for some reason, simply liked to sit on red cars. In spite of the damage, the woman's car was still drivable. But on the way to the garage she was stopped short by an accident involving two other cars just ahead of her. When the ambulance arrived a few minutes later the attendants took one look at her car, then ran over to assist her. "Oh, I wasn't involved in this accident," she explained. "An elephant sat on my car." The ambulance attendants quickly bundled her off to the hospital for possible shock and head injuries, despite the lady's vehement protests. 

    Bits & Pieces, October, 1991.


    In Florida, small black flies that swarm in the spring and fall can be a nuisance to motorists. We were about to head north and were grateful for a friend's suggestion that we spread a coating of petroleum jelly on the front of the car to make it easier to flush the bugs off with water. I felt a little foolish but I did it. In a small town in Georgia, we pulled into a service station and asked the attendant to check the oil. He tried to lift the hood, but his hands kept slipping. "What ya got on your car, mister?" he called out. "Vaseline," I said. Before I could explain further, he responded, "Whatza matter? Ya got a tight garage?"  

    W.R. Krusell, in Reader's Digest.


    The beguiling ideas about science quoted here were gleaned from fifth and sixth graders' essays, exams and classroom discussions: "You can listen to thunder after lightning and tell how close you came to getting hit. If you don't hear it you got hit, so never mind." 

    "When planets go around and around in circles we say they are orbiting. When people do it we say they are crazy." 

    "A vibration is a motion that cannot make up its mind which way to go." 

    "Genetics explain why you look like your father and if you don't why you should." 

    "Vacuums are nothings. We only mention them to let them know we know they're here." 

    "We say the cause of perfume disappearing is evaporation. Evaporation gets blamed for many things people forget to put the top on." 

    "I am not sure how clouds get formed. But the clouds know how to do it and that is the important thing." 

    "Isotherms and isobars are even more important than their names sound." 

    "Question: In what ways are we dependent upon the sun? Answer: We can always depend on the sun for sunburns and tidal waves." 

    Harold Dunn in Boston Globe.


    When I was attending St. Louis University, my wife and I lived in a furnished dormitory apartment. Returning from class one day, I was dumbfounded by what I saw when I entered the apartment. Much of the living-room furniture had been rearranged, and the rug was draped over and into the kitchen sink. In fact, part of the rug was down inside the drain. I tried to get it out but finally had to admit defeat and seek help. As I was waiting for the elevator, my next-door neighbor appeared, and I told him about my strange predicament. He looked puzzled for a moment, then began laughing uproariously. He took me into his apartment, where I was confronted by three worn-out maintenance workers who were trying to unclog his sink. They had fed a plumber's electric snake down his drain to clean out the pipes, but apparently the spiraling bore had made an immediate U-turn, come out of our drain, traveled across our apartment and snagged our rug. Convinced the pipes were free of obstruction, the workers had reversed the snake, and our rug was dragged, along with our furniture, into the kitchen. The workers had been trying to pull it through all morning. 

    Donald J. Jackson, in Reader's Digest.


    A woman complained to the service manager of an appliance firm that the push-button ice maker and dispenser on the door of her new refrigerator was popping ice cubes on her kitchen floor-all by itself. A serviceman could find nothing wrong with the appliance, but the woman continued to complain that ice cubes were littering her kitchen. Finally, a supervisor arrived, determined to stand watch in the kitchen until the mystery was solved. He had been there about an hour when a German shepherd entered, stood on his hind legs and pressed the ice-maker button. Ice cubes rained on the floor, and the dog gobbled up most of them. 

    Norman Strevett, quoted by Charley Manos in Detroit News.


    Flying a helicopter by instruments is difficult unless you do it every day. One afternoon on the tower frequency I heard a pilot report matter-of-factly that he had joined the holding pattern over the outer marker beacon at 3000 feet. Immediately, another voice cut in. "You can't be there!" it said in panic. "I'm holding at 3000 feet, too!" After a pregnant pause, the first pilot's voice came back on the air. "You idiot," it said. "You're my co-pilot." 

    Frank Davis, in Reader's Digest.


    Humor

    A magician working a cruise ship had a pet parrot who was constantly ruining his act. The bird would say to the audience, "He has the card in his pocket," or "The card's up his sleeve," or "It went through a hole in his top hat." One day there was a huge explosion and the ship sank. The parrot and the magician, both dazed and bruised, found themselves together on a piece of wreckage. For four days the parrot stared at the magician. Finally, the parrot said, "Okay, I give up. What did you do with the ship?" 

    Parts Pups.