The Anecdotes Not Taken

(Photo: Moise Nicu, via Wikimedia)
(Photo: Moise Nicu, via Wikimedia)

According to their website, Reader’s Digest prints only about 250 of the 250,000 humor submissions they receive each year. Below are items I submitted that were among the 249,750 not taken.


I have a reputation for joking around. When my mother attended a ceremony at my high school, I went up to her afterwards, stuck out my hand, and introduced myself. She played along and shook my hand. Seconds later when a classmate came over, I introduced her to him: “This is my mother.” He laughed and said, “No she’s not. I just saw you introduce yourself. You can’t fool me.”


We consider humor a serious art in my family. A friend who prided himself on his own comedic talent felt unappreciated when my five-year-old stepson didn’t laugh at some of his wordplay. “Didn’t you like my joke?” he asked. “It wasn’t a joke,” my stepson replied; “it was a pun.”
“Well, did you like my pun, then?”
“I’ve heard better.”


At my stepson’s third-grade Open House, the teacher called me over to the bulletin board decorated with student-drawn Easter eggs. She gestured to all the traditional pastel-colored eggs with a smile, then pointed disapprovingly to a macabrely deviant oval—half red and half black, with horns on it. “Here’s your son’s,” she said. When I looked to my stepson, he smiled and explained, “It’s a deviled egg.”


When the subject of a possible career in law enforcement came up, I warned my 12-year-old stepson, “Police work is boring most of the time, and then every once in a while, someone takes a shot at you.” “Oh,” he said, “it’s like school.”


Students at my university who signed up for a theater-tour-of-London class received a crash course in vocabulary differences between American and British English: Bobby for police officer, bonnet for car hood, tube for subway, and loo for toilet. One student who was lost and looking for the nearest underground train station got a surprised stare when she asked a Londoner, “Can you tell me how to get on the loo?”


After being on FaceBook for two years, my friend finally noticed the place in his profile for “Relationship Status,” so he checked “Married.” Almost immediately there was a flood of inquiries from friends and a “What’s going on?” confrontation from his wife of 46 years. FaceBook had posted the update “Married Today.”


When a world-traveling friend called to tell me he was in the area and would like to get together, I asked him where he was. He said, “Eur-AW-phus.” Since I could think of no nearby town that sounded anything like this, I stalled with smalltalk, then asked again, “Where did you say you were?” The reply was the same—”Eur-AW-phus.” So I resorted to subtle, clever probing: “What’s that near?” Finally, he gave me more context: “I’m on campus—at your office.”


At the university where I worked, the faculty sponsor of Sigma Tau Delta honor society sent an email inviting us to note the upcoming initiation date with this subject line: “STD Alert.”


In my family, birthday mishaps are legendary. For my brother’s sixteenth birthday my mother baked him a cake, covered it with homemade frosting, and then to personalize the cake with my brother’s interests, she used a store-bought tube of icing to outline a Bible and a tennis racket. When she checked the cake later, however, the drawings had disappeared. Baffled, she redecorated, but once again the icing sank down into the frosting. She then inspected the red and white tube of “icing” and realized that what she’d actually been topping the cake with was my father’s tube of Deep Heating Rub.


Electric companies aren’t usually known for their sense of humor, but on my electric bill, the total amount due appears after the words “current charges.”


When my wife’s dad needed V.A. Benefits, his memory was gone and she couldn’t find his Marine serial number. Her V.A. contact suggested she march up to her dad and say, “Soldier! Name, rank, and serial number!” It worked. Without hesitation he barked out the number she needed.


My wife, Carolyn, learned a lot on an Outward Bound hike along Washington’s Olympic coast, but a New York City debutante in her group learned even more. As Carolyn led the hike, the deb asked how she knew the direction they were going. When my wife explained how she took bearings from the ocean to the west and from the location of the sun, the deb wondered how the sun could be of any help since its position was constantly changing. Carolyn explained, “Of course, it rises in the east.”
“The sun rises in the east?” the deb asked.
“Every day?”


I heard former Mississippi governor Ronnie Musgrove tell the story of his very first class at Ole Miss’s School of Law. Nervous and full of self-doubts, he arrived ridiculously early, talked to another first-day law student already there, and decided, “I’ll do fine. I’m a lot more qualified to be here than this guy.”
That other guy, who filled Musgrove with such a sense of superiority and confidence, turned out to be John Grisham.

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5 thoughts on “The Anecdotes Not Taken”

  1. I had to come back Bill. I’m not happy with Reader’s Digest at all, at all and if there’s any justice in this world, Police School will end up on telly.

  2. Police School should be on the telly. When I eventually buy Reader’s Digest, you’re in Bill and in you’re in before anyone else.

    1. If you’re not already a multi-billionaire—and you SHOULD be—I hope you become one soon.

  3. Really?? None were taken?? It’s an outrage. I think my favorite is Thanks For The Memory. And Not A Joke. And Police School. Aw, hell, I like ’em all.

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