Hair-raising Holidays

TO WIT

May 15, 1994|By DAVE BARRY

Summer vacation is almost here: Soon it will be time for yo parents to pile the kids into the car, show them how to work the ignition key, then watch them roar off down the street, possibly in reverse, as you head back into your house for two weeks of quiet relaxation.

I am pulling your leg, of course. You have to go with them. You also are required, by federal law, to take them to at least one historical or natural site featuring an educational exhibit with a little button that you're supposed to push, except that when you do, nothing happens, because all the little light bulbs, which were supposed to light up in an educational manner and tell The Story of Moss, burned out in 1973. But this does not matter. What matters is that this is a memorable and rewarding and, above all, enjoyable vacation experience that you are providing for your children whether they like it or not.

"Kids," you might find yourself explaining to them, "if you don't take those Legos out of your little brother's nose and come look at this educational exhibit this instant, I swear I will not take you to the Oyster Kingdom Theme Park."

This situation demonstrates why you should never set out on a family summer vacation without a complete set of parental threats. You cannot simply assume that when your children have, for example, locked somebody else's child inside the motel ice machine, you'll be able to come up with a good parental threat right there on the spot. You need to prepare your threats in advance and write them on a wallet card for easy reference.

You (sternly): If you kids don't let that child out of the ice machine this instant, I'm going to . . . (referring to wallet card) . . . donate my organs.

First child: Huh?

Second child: He's reading from his driver's license again.

You (referring to another wallet card): OK, here we go: I'm going to take away your Game Boy.

First child: We don't have a Game Boy.

Yes, you need strict discipline on a family vacation. You also should have some kind of theme for your trip, and this year the theme that I am recommending is: Hairballs Across America. Your first stop is Garden City, Kan., home of the Finney County Historical Society Museum, which features, according to news reports sent in by many alert readers, the largest known hairball in captivity, not counting members of Congress. This hairball measures 37 inches in diameter and weighs 55 pounds. That is what we in professional journalism call "a big hairball."

I called up the historical society museum director, Mary Warren, who told me that the hairball was graciously donated by a local meat-packing plant, which found it inside the stomach of a cow. Cows develop interior hairballs from licking their own coats and swallowing fur, similar to the way cats do, except that cats can get rid of their hairballs by hawking them up onto your face while you sleep.

Anyway, Warren confirmed that the hairball will be on display this summer, along with other cow-related exhibits that I am sure will have your kids punching each other in the head with delight. After you tear them away, your next stop will be the nearby Midwestern state of Indiana, where you will be visiting the city of Alexandria. This is the historic site where, according to a story written by Sarah Mawhorr for the Anderson (Ind.) Herald Bulletin, it took three men to pull a giant hairball out of a manhole last year.

"We thought we had a goat," a city sewer official was quoted as saying.

This hairball was formed by people taking showers, and having their hairs wash down the drain and clump together in a giant mass that would be a wonderful symbol of the Common Bond That Unites All Humanity if it weren't basically a big disgusting wad of sewage-drenched hair.

Tragically -- and this is yet another argument for stricter federal guidelines -- the giant hairball was left outside, and it disintegrated. But it had already become famous -- it got mentioned in USA Today -- and a replica hairball appeared in Alexandria's annual Christmas parade. So even though there is, technically, nothing to see, I am recommending that you take your children to Alexandria.

"Just think, kids!" you should tell them. "Right here in this town, there was a hairball the size of a goat! Isn't that amazing? Kids? Hey! You kids come back here!"

You should never have left the keys in the car.

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