Friday, June 28, 2013

Breaking Records, Getting Famous, and Naked People on a Roller Coaster

Can you believe what this guy did?” asked my ten-year-old as he recounted another amazing feat he’d discovered in The Guiness Book of World Records. He went on to regale me with the astounding accomplishments of the individuals with the “most stuffed bears,” “largest ball of twine,” “furthest distance of squirting milk out your eye,” and wait for it – “the most naked people on a rollercoaster!” I remember my own fascination with Guiness. I believe its main audience hovers right around age 10.

I must have been seven or eight when I decided I would break the Guiness record for continuous swinging. It was a long, endless summer day ripe for adventures like becoming world famous, so I marched determinedly out to the swing set that my father had installed in the woods on the edge of the yard. I don’t remember if I told my mom of my plans. Odds are she was long gone to the tennis courts by then.

Setting my radio on the top of the slide platform, I tuned it to my favorite station – WAMS. I placed two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches wrapped tightly in foil on the ground within reach of my swing so I could scoop them up as I swung by when I got hungry. I believe I was shooting for something like 26 hours of continuous swinging to break the record. I figured I’d need a couple sandwiches to keep from starving on my quest.

After about twenty minutes, I decided this was the most boring record in the world and I had to pee anyway. I’d eaten both my sandwiches and the DJ wasn’t playing any of my favorite songs. I skipped off in search of my friend down the street, the continuous swinging record safe for now.

Periodically there are pictures in our paper of groups attempting to break the Guiness World Record as a publicity or fundraising stunt. It always brings back memories of my childhood plans to get into the book someday. At a used book sale recently I picked up the book, Getting in to Guiness. It chronicles one man’s efforts to make it into the record books. I’m looking forward to reading it with my son.

This fascination with Guiness probably explains our attraction to Reality Shows. Everybody wants to be famous. It’s the same reason we carve our names in trees, put handprints in new cement, even write on bathroom stalls. We want people to know we were here. It almost seems instinctual. When my kids’ pictures were in the paper last week for awards they won three months ago, it was still cause for comment from friends and neighbors. We studied the picture, cut it out, saved it for the scrapbooks.

It’s fairly easy to get your picture in the paper when you live in a small town. On the Eastern Shore of Maryland our town was even smaller than the one we live in now. My husband was the first one to make the paper when he cooked hot dogs at 3am in a parking lot for the third shift at the plant where he worked. My daughter made the paper in her leotard at the local dance school. My oldest found his way in while attending a bug camp at the nature center. And my moment of fame was captured while fundraising for our preschool.

The only family member who hadn’t made the paper was the dog, so I took it as a challenge to fix that. At Christmas time I entered the Santa Run, a 5K race that permitted dogs. I dressed up our hound in a cape and stocking cap and wrapped a colorful scarf around her neck. I painted “Dasher” on the side of her cape. She gave me a doggie look that said, “Really? You too? I thought I only had to tolerate this nonsense with the kids.”  Sure enough, the next day there was my dog on the front page of the paper!
Notoriety is vastly over-rated. At least I tell myself that as I slug away at my keyboard in obscurity.

 I looked up the “Most Famous Person” on the Guiness site and there is no record. But there is a record for
the most records. An American named Ashrita Furman holds 131 Guiness World Records. His records include fastest time for sack race, fastest 100m time on hippity hop ball (they refer to it as a ‘space ball’), greatest distance traveled with pool cue on his chin, and fastest mile on pogo stick whilst juggling three balls. I think he should get the record for most creative invention of a new world records. I wish I’d know it was that easy back in my youth. I might not have been able to get far on a pogo stick, but I’m all about it on the hippity hop ball.

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