Sunday, April 22, 2007

When is a riddle not a riddle?

I was thinking about some stuff yesterday and, for some reason, I remembered this riddle I heard when I was 11 or 12. An uncle told it to me and it distracted me for weeks. Here's the riddle:

A father and son are driving home from dinner when they are in a bad accident. The father is killed, the son is seriously injured. The son is taken to a nearby hospital and wheeled into the operating room for emergency surgery. The surgeon walks into the room and looks at him and says, "Wait. You'll have to get another surgeon. I can't operate on my own son."

Now the riddle revolves around how the boy can be the doctor's son when the boy's father is dead? I drove my uncle crazy with questions.

"Was he adopted?"


"Um... he wasn't adopted?"


"Are you sure he wasn't adopted?"



"Yes, I'm sure he wasn't adopted."

If you have the time, go rent the DVD of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a 1961 musical that was made into a film in 1967. It's actually quite good, loads of fun, but it's also like this riddle, an artifact of another civilization.

Pre-civil rights, pre-women's movement, a snap shot of that Old Mythic America, the one Ronald Reagan rode to the Presidency on. Gasoline was .20 cents a gallon, a new house cost about ten grand, a new car maybe fifteen hundred. It never rained when there were parades.

All the executives were men, straight and white. All the janitors were black and brown. All the women were pretty and wore tight dresses and did things like sit on their bosses' laps and take memos.

Boy, oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Those were the days.

The movie and the riddle are both contained in the song that Archie and Edith Bunker sing at the start of All in the Family.

"Gee, our old LaSalle ran great."

A place for everything, and everybody knew his place.

Remembering that riddle and the fact that is really isn't a riddle anymore; the fact that it's been reduced to something just nonsensical by the changes across the past forty years, actually makes me feel pretty good about the world. And it isn't that often that I feel pretty good about the world.


Ted Barron said...

Hey Stan. I have an mp3 of "Slow Down" from the mono Atlantic 45 on the "flu" as a supplement to my Larry Williams post, and it is astoundingly great.

Stan Denski said...

I know. I imagine the 45 sounds better than the LP version. I looked at the 2 CD Rascals Anthology Rhino did and, whiule it's great, 2 of my favorite tracks are missing. "Slow Down" isn't there, nor it "Satva" from the Once Upon a Dream LP.