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Setting the record straight

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Okay, I’ll admit it. I was wrong. There, you didn’t have to read the entire column to get to the ending; I put it right up front. But after talking to my dad, seems I was right all along.

Confused? Well, Dear Reader, to be unconfused, you’ll have to keep reading — all the way to the end.
Though it took five years, I finally graduated from thehallowed halls of Briarwood High School, Home of the Mighty Buccaneers. I wasn’t a stellar student, but that’s beside the point.

That’s not why it took five years — back then that’s how long you attended high school.
Still, I almost didn’t make it through, and it was all due to a foreign language I was required to take. That foreign language was, of course, English.

Mrs. Newsome was the hardest teacher of the Queen’s English at Briarwood. Guess who got her as his tenth-grade teacher? Lucky me. She had a bunch of English rules we had to follow. One of them was checking one’s sources when writing term papers. Seems she actually wanted the sources to be real and all the facts to be correct. See? I told ya. She was really hard.

Now, a lifetime later, Mrs. Newsome’s voice is once again echoing through my mind, but this time, I’m not trying to block her out. Those rules have come back home to roost. But before I cite my little boo-boo, let’s take a look at a few others. Seems there’re some out there who weren’t as lucky as I was to have such a strict English teacher. Here are just three examples

The Wife and I have discovered over the years about this weekly column.

Roundabouts: I wrote this story about two years ago, in a tongue in cheek sort of way, describing the first roundabout nearing completion in our fair county.
In the story I illustrated how roundabouts would have a devastating effect on the manufacturers of stop signs and traffic lights because their use would be eliminated. City coffers would shrink due to lack of funds from fines. Traffic would come to a screeching halt, and accidents would increase as confused commuters tried to navigate around the circle. I backed the entire story up with my own evidence — which, of course, I simply made up.

Fact: The story reached all the way across the great pond to England where the humor of the story somehow was lost. A producer from a well-known radio show asked yours truly for an interview. Seems them folks were a might irritated at my lack of understanding of just how their beloved traffic-saving roundabouts work.
Next up: Clowning around. When the Tour de Georgia came rolling through our town, yours truly was a member of a medical standby team supplied by the local fire department. Clowns were in the crowd entertaining the children, and my coworker mistook my interest in the merriment as fear. He thought I was clownaphobic. Later it made for one extremely humorous story.

Fact: Not now nor have I ever been clownaphobic, but that hasn’t stopped some from making it a published fact that I am.
Imagine our surprise when, six years later, The Wife comes out of the office laughing so hard she’s crying. Turns out, I’ve been cited as a test case in a college level physiology textbook. I’m in chapter six. It’s the one about phobias. Nope — not clowning around.
Last but by no means least: The Five-Second Rule. This column written way back in 2002 has become somewhat of an urban legion. The column is a satirical look at the origins of the

Five-Second Rule and how it has helped to shape world history.
The great Genghis Khan first invented, and then ordered the 12-hour rule to be used at his generals’ banquets. He commanded dropped food could stay on the ground so long and still be good. If you believed, ate the dropped food, and then died the other warriors would say you had just been Khanned.

While Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, it was known as the 25-minute rule. It took that long to climb down all that scaffolding to scoop up any dropped food. All that extra climbing was why it took him four years to complete the ceiling. Around the 1700s in Boston, it was known as the minute rule. Thus the famed minute men.
The Five-Second Rule column has been cited in a children’s encyclopedia, newspaper articles, and in several college papers. A professor even contacted me about one of his student’s papers. Seems she based her entire argument on the hypothesis that the origin of the rule was indeed the Great Genghis Khan. Never did find out what grade was issued to the student.

Finally: To my boo-boo. In last week’s column I stated that the famed Slip-N-Slide we had used as kids on Flamingo Street had been banned. Further research showed that there was a recall back in 1993.

Seems being recalled is different from being banned. Many versions of the “next best thing to a pool for kids to cool off during the hot summers” are still available in local stores.
Guess Mrs. Newsome was right after all — words, and fact checking, are really important.

Somewhat dejected, I called Dad and told him the story. His reply was, “I remember you kids kept sliding on it the wrong way and getting hurt. After two months and a bunch of doctor bills, I was the one who banned everyone from playing with it.”
So it was Dad who did the banning. Thanks, Dad, for setting the record straight.
[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, served as a firefighter for more than two decades and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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