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The Lighter Side of Urban Legends
The Lighter Side of Urban Legends
Gather around the campfire boys and girls. It's time for some chilling tales of gruesome terror, tragic coincidence, and murderous outcomes brought on by... wait. You in the back, yeah you what was that again please? Really? My bad! This time around we are going to let the hookman take a break, silence that nasty backseat driver with an axe, and let the man upstairs keep the kids, their mom and dad just didn't pay enough anyways. That's right. Today's journey into the world of urban legends will be one filled with humor, fun and some mishaps that would embarrass Stevie Wonder naked in a room full of mutes.
No blood, no guts, and no gore. I know not your typical exploits for an urban legend article but stick around and I assure you a laugh or two will have you not missing the horror at all, well maybe a little bit. This train will bypass the grim and stride right into the wild and crazy, it will overlook the morbid and stop right dead in the center of no way! So let's board the train and see just where this trip takes us.
Are You Serious
Urban legends by nature are what most folk scholars refer to as FOAF transmitted tales. This means friend of a friend. You never hear of an urban legend actually happening to the person who is telling it. Usually that is because most urban legends present cases of murder and death. In the event of the cases you are about to embark on that reasoning is completely different. These urban legends are tales of embarrassment and irony that replace that fear and terror with humor and cheer, at least for those hearing or reading them. Let's take the bedbug letter for instance.
Harold Morrison was a businessman. He had boarded a new train for a long trip to Phoenix. He had already endured a long hard day and to say he was tired was an understatement. He knew he needed to get some rest as later that day he would be presenting his research to a panel of potential buyers. Harold unrolled the nice linen sheets and lay his head on the pillow ready to get a few hours of sleep before he reached his destination.
Once Harold awoke he felt both refreshed but very itchy and this alarmed him but he recalled that he sometimes got hives when he became nervous. Harold went to his presentation and sadly could not stop scratching. His buyers were appalled and left very disappointed. Harold had now become very concerned about this itch and decided to see a doctor about the issue. Dr. Scott informed Harold that he had been bitten numerous times by bed bugs. Harold wasted no time penning a very angry complaint letter and mailed it to the train company's head office. Days went by and then he received a response.
The letter was filled with apologies and at the very end it proclaimed that the men who failed to keep the bed car clean had been fired. Harold felt a victory and as he placed the envelope on his night stand a small post it note fell out. On this tiny note read "send this sorry son of a bitch the bedbug letter".
While this seems legit with all of the details it is most likely another tale weaved from the imagination of some would be traveler. Remember almost all urban legends root so deep in reality that it is hard to see the fiction in some of them. It is that attention to detail that really drives a good urban legend and keeps it reappearing after years and years.
Billy knows tonight is the night he has been waiting for with Sally. He rushes to the pharmacy and nervously approaches the counter. "I need that deluxe box of condoms over there and a pack of gum, please", Billy says with just a hint of confidence now brewing. "I got a hot date tonight and I am planning to rock that little girl's world." The pharmacist chuckles and sells the box of condoms and the pack of gum without ever really thinking to much on it.
Later that night Billy, still red in the face from the act of passion he had just completed with his sweetheart Sally, drops her off at her house. As the two love birds stand there talking the door swings open to reveal Sally's father headed to the car to get his reading glasses. Billy stands with a look of terror as he realizes the man he is looking at was the pharmacist who sold him the condoms!
While very funny this one is also severely outdated. Condoms are no longer sold behind the counter and it is not so taboo for a younger person to buy them. What we have here is the typical warning against pre-maritial or underage sex. You may be shocked to find that most urban legends revolve around that warning.
A Quick Poll
What is your favorite urban legend?
Tear a Tear From A Tier
Sometimes words we hear have the same sound but can contain different meanings. Like tear for instance. It could mean to rip something or it could mean to cry. These words can make for a bit of confusion and even better than that they make for funny urban legends. Take the word blind for example, Jill did.
JIll had just stripped out of her clothes and was preparing to take a nice long bath when the door bell rang. Who is it she said, exhausted from a long day at the diner. Blind man came a gruff voice from the front door. Another one she thought. You see blind folks would often go door to door selling stickers or crafts to take up donations. Jill had always been generous with these individuals. She walked to the door and then realized she was nude. She giigled when she thought this guy is blind he can't see me anyways. As she opened the door with a cup of change to donate she was floored when she saw Mr. Smith, the handyman standing with a set of window blinds her husband had ordered from the hardware store.
I have heard this one a few times and the idea of the look that would have been on the face of the blind man always gets me laughing. The details here still fail to tell us why she would open the door nude in the community. Sure a blind man may not have seen her but the rest of the neighborhood would have. Remember while details are the backbone of a great urban legend there is usually always an indicator that it is fiction. Sometimes you just have to look a little harder than others.
The Price Check From Hell
This is one of those cases where you really are thankful it was not you involved. June had stopped at a local store to pick up some essentials. She hurried along and gathered what she needed and advanced to the checkout. As the clerk checked her items he came across a box of tampons that just would not scan. He leaned over and spoke through the loudspeaker. "Price check on a box of tampax super heavy tampons" This cause June to blush and she was very uncomfortable.
To make matters even worse the voice that came back across asked "do you need the kind you push in with your fingers or the ones you have to hammer in with a hammer?" June was so embarrassed she fled the store in tears. Within minutes a short store manager made his way up front to the clerk. "Do you still need that price check on thumbtacks?" Talk about the need for a hearing aid! I have actually heard that this one happened at a local Kmart but never confirmed it.
Colleges have always been a fertile breeding ground for urban legends. Most are filled with terror and death. Despite these deadly stories colleges are also known to produce some of the funniest urban legends out there. Take the young freshman who sent a very awkward letter home to her mom and dad after a tough first semester.
Dear Mom and Dad,
There was no fire in my dorm. I did not get pregnant. I have not been hospitalized. I never got aids. I did not streak through the courtyard. I have not contracted any STDs. I did not fracture my skull. I did however get a D in my math class and an F in science. I just wanted to let you see these grades in their proper perspective.
This letter would be a humorous addition to a college scrapbook and may have actually been used at one time.
Let us not forget the student who took to long to complete his test. The professor told him it took to long and his bluebook would not be accepted. The student walked to the front of the room and stood where the other blue books were stacked and asked in a very loud voice. "Do you even know who I am?" The professor replied not really. It was this moment when the ambitious student knocked all of the blue books to the floor including his own.
What about the student who was asked to define courage. he wrote "This is courage." and turned his paper in. The teacher was at first offended by the lack of thought but soon he found the answer to be the best one in the class and awarded the student an A.
Urban legends while often thought of as campfire tales and stories to warn us against sexual activity and trusting that stranger, do have a lighter side. That lighter side is a easier to navigate than the darker side. As a folk tale enthusiast I embrace the urban legend and see it as a story that keeps changing yet somehow remains the same over time. I hope I at least got a chuckle out of you and wish you an amazing day.