By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, November 10, 2002; Page W11
Today's first runner-up in the category of Distinguished Ultra-Male Behavior goes to Bernie Crane, 49, of
I almost erased this e-mail unread because, in my experience, most unsolicited e-mails with subject lines like "GREAT MALE ACHIEVEMENT!!!" wind up involving opportunities for personal growth, if you get my drift. But this was legit.
I read the e-mail explaining the achievement and then opened the attachment, which was a photograph of the achievement. Then I phoned Bernie.
Bernie, please tell the readers how you earned your coveted first runner-up status.
"I parallel-parked my car in a space so tight that when I was done the bumpers of my car were touching the bumpers of cars in front and behind. People who were watching applauded."
When I expressed some skepticism, observing not only that such an act seemed geometrically impossible but that such an arrangement of parked cars could be easily ginned up for a photo, Bernie:
1. Indignantly informed me that as a lawyer and officer of the court, he is incapable of lying.
2. Fired off eight more photos he took at the scene, extreme close-ups of the kissing bumpers.
3. Disclosed his secret, which involved "just the slightest bit of nudging forward and rolling back," none of which, he emphasized, was sufficiently violent as to constitute an actionable assault upon the property of others.
4. Offered to take a polygraph.
My car mechanic, Phil, confirms that the feat would be possible so long as both adjacent cars had their emergency brakes on. Their tires would remain locked in place, allowing each chassis to shift several inches on its suspension, then sproing back.
Bernie explained that it took him about six minutes--and 15 or 16 back-and-forth maneuvers--to get his minivan into the spot.
I asked if he had a sense he was doing something Very Special. "Not initially, but after the fifth or sixth back and forth, there was a kind of electricity, like I was on the verge of greatness." The sweetest part, he said, was that some guy in a little sports car had sat there smugly waiting for the spot, certain that Bernie would fail. "After a while, he just gave up and left. That was a great moment."
Bernie received many responses to his e-mail. Men expressed awe tinged with jealousy. The women's responses can be summed up by the one from Bernie's sister, Candy:
"You nut case."
First Runner-Up: Bernie the Attorney, Potentate of Parallel Parking.
The grand-prize winner for Distinguished Ultra-Male Behavior is Seth Brown, 23, of
Seth is a freelance writer, looking for work. His roommate Tom is an artist, looking for work. The two guys don't see much of their third roommate, Mandy, so they pretty much are in charge of their own upkeep, which suits them just fine, thank you. It's not like guys can't fend for themselves.
Seth has taken over the cooking chores, and for months he and Tom have eaten splendidly, without female accompaniment or advice.
What do you guys eat?
"Potatoes. Fried, sometimes baked. Salt, vinegar. We've got a dish called Smoky Cowboy Rice and Beans. And burritos. I fry burritos with beans and rice and whatever else is on hand. Beef. Baba ghanouj. You know."
The two guys were doing great, until one day something happened. Can you tell the readers what happened, Seth?
C'mon, don't be bashful.
"We got scurvy."
Yes, indeed. The guys didn't like fruits and veggies, so the guys didn't eat fruits and veggies. One day, Tom's mom 'n' dad came for dinner, noticed this dietary omission, and jokingly mentioned the peril of contracting the obscure deficiency disease most famously seen among filthy 18th-century sailors. At this point, Tom and Seth revealed to the parents--and to each other--that they'd been noticing mouth sores, swollen gums, loose teeth, etc.
So they started eating oranges provided by . . . Mandy. Cured them in a week.
(Being males, they never actually consulted a medical professional. I did. A nutritionist considered their diet, symptoms and cure, and confirmed the diagnosis.)
Seth, you win first prize. You have a choice between two books I have right here. One is Webster's New World Dictionary. The other is How to Good-Bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? Or
"The second one."
Like there was any question.