Burt Prelutsky

As a rule, if I think about places where I’m most likely to encounter truly eccentric characters, I think first about English mystery novels, the floor of the U.S. Senate or my family reunions. But even the likes of Miss Jane Marple, Hercule Poirot, Robert Byrd, Ted Kennedy and my uncle Jake, all pale by comparison to the folks whose exploits are chronicled in the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records.

What makes the book such a marvel is that the records are simply listed without commentary or explanation. Nobody, for instance, bothered asking Jackie Bibby why one day he decided to share his bath with 75 rattlesnakes. Was it simply because the previous record holder had shared his bath with 74 rattlesnakes or did the number 75 hold special meaning for him? Was it perhaps his IQ?

According to Reuters, which somehow got its hands on the new edition before the rest of us, there is hardly a nation on earth that isn’t represented in this odd catalogue of human achievements.

For instance, Germany’s Thomas Vogel, using only one hand, mind you, managed to unfasten 56 bras in just 60 seconds, while on the other side of the world 3,541 women in the Philippines got together in order to simultaneously breast-feed their babies.

In India, Yoga instructor G.P. Vijayakumar snorted eight fish from his mouth through his nostrils in a minute. I can’t help wondering how a guy first comes to realize he has this gift.

In Italy, Michele Santana decided that a good way to spend her time was by typing 57 books backwards. Again, one wonders if the old record was 56 or if, as she began typing book number 58, she belatedly came to her senses.

Australian John Allwood, whose last name probably best describes his head, took just a minute to smash 40 watermelons with his noggin.

Ms. Lee Richmond, the pride of Utah, has fingernails that are a combined 24 feet seven inches long. That translates to about two-and-a-half feet per nail. While I wouldn’t pay a plugged nickel to watch Ms. Santana type those 57 books, I’d pay good money to watch Ms. Richmond try to type a single page.

The tallest man in the world is Leonid Stadnik of the Ukraine, who stands 8’5” and the tallest woman is Indiana’s Sandy Allen, who tops out at 7’7”. So far as I know, Mr. Stadnik and Ms. Allen have never met. But it might be a nice idea if they did. They’d probably have a lot to talk about. If nothing else, it would finally give her the opportunity to ask someone else how the weather is up there.