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Commentary: Turning useless knowledge into rather amusing trivia

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Dr. Lucas Boyd, Columnist

Dr. Lucas G. (Luke) Boyd is the retired principal of Battle Ground Academy. He lives in Franklin and may be contacted at

Some time back I wrote about quirky, little stories that are found in almost all newspapers. I suspect that editors have files full of them and just use them to stick in where needed to make the columns of text come out even. No matter the reason, often they are odd and amusing. 

Here are some examples and some lessons for all of us. 

Homeowner associations can be good organizations, but at times their actions cross over into the absurdity category. This past winter in East Tennessee, a woman backed her car out of her garage to let it warm up before she drove it to work.  

Her driveway is asphalt and slopes toward the street. There was about an inch of snow on the ground. During the warm-up process, the heat from the car’s exhaust melted some of the snow. When she returned home that afternoon, there was a notice on her front door that her HOA was fining her $100 for displaying an offensive image in her driveway. It seems the melted the snow formed into an obscene phallic shape. If you looked at the enclosed photo at just the right angle and used your imagination, you could see what they were talking about. 

The woman protested, saying that it was not at all intentional and that she had no knowledge of or control over what pattern her car’s exhaust might be making. Her HOA denied her appeal, saying her car was at fault and the fine would stand.   

Lesson: Some people need to find a purpose in life. 

When the airliner took off from London, the pilots thought they were headed for 

Germany. But as they got into the air, they noted that the plane’s computer system had been programmed for Scotland. Thinking they were just confused, they obeyed the computers and flew to Scotland. After landing, the pilots discovered they had been right all along. Someone had just punched in the wrong destination code. The airline got things sorted out in short order.   

Lesson: The human brain does still have some advantages. 

Two women in Virginia found a single mattress that had been put out on the curb. Since it was better than the mattress they had, they decided to take it home with them, but they realized that it would not fit into their small van. Their solution was to put it on top of the van with one of the two lying on her stomach on top of it while holding the tops of the doors on both sides. Of course, air got under the mattress as they sped along and the mattress took flight. The “rider” was killed and the driver was charge in her death.   

Lesson: Sometimes the human brain fails to think things through. 

Sometimes the filler content is just a picture with a caption. A newspaper displayed a picture that was taken at a show featuring antique farm equipment. In the background were several old tractors. In the foreground was a young boy using some type of hand machine. The caption said he was using a “corn shucker.”  

However, anyone could see that the ears of corn had no shuck and that the large box contained a lot of shelled corn. Most any farmer could have told the photographer that the device was a “corn sheller.”   

Lesson: It always helps to know what you’re writing about. 

Another picture showed a camel being rubbed down with saffron at the annual camel festival in Abu Dhabi. The caption also noted that one of the festival’s events was a camel beauty contest.  

Lesson: Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. 

Not long ago in rural Mississippi, a man’s girlfriend got upset with something his dog did. He told her if she didn’t like it, she could leave because the dog had been there first. She did leave, but before she did, she piled all his clothes up in the center of the house and set them on fire. The house caught fire and burned down. Now, the man is homeless, the woman is in jail, and the dog is at the pound.  Lesson: In some situations, there are no winners. 

A family of urban dwellers decided it would be fun to visit one of the corn mazes in our area last fall. The tall corn was more than the parents and two children had bargained for. They got lost in the maze and as darkness approached, the corn seemed to take on a sinister quality. They panicked, called 9ll, and had to be rescued.  

Lesson: When you get outside your comfort zone, it’s often good to have a back-up plan. 

A family ordered a barbecue dinner, which was delivered to them. The bill was $19.ll. They gave the delivery person $20 and told him to keep the change.  Incensed at the paltry 89-cent tip, he dipped his manly parts into the sauce before leaving. (You readers can make up your own jokes at this point.) Angry at having barbecue with no usable sauce, the customers called the restaurant and complained. The delivery man was fired.   

Lesson: No matter how justified they may seem, actions still have consequences. 

After reading over what I’ve just written, I think a quote from English philosopher Bertrand Russell is appropriate: “There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.”

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