ONCE in a while I get befogged by what is in the Guinness Book of World Records. I can understand why a lot of people might find it necessary to learn who is the world's highest pole-vaulter, but the fact that the largest bubble gum bubble blower is also listed disturbs my otherwise rational outlook on life. The record is 191/2 inches across, if there is anyone who can't stand not knowing.
There is also the record for shooting someone out of a cannon. It is 175 feet. There is also the odd bit of information along with it -- a statistical nuance, no doubt -- that a person loses three-eighths of an inch in stature when shot out at a somewhat lesser distance. The competition in the field of being shot out of a cannon is probably small, but it seems a more appropriate record than anything connected with chewing bubble gum.
All this zeal for chronicling takes me back to my college days. Setting some kind of record is evidently part of the human psyche. I recall that my roommate established an impressive record of tossing a quarter into a shoe, on the other side of the room, 77 times without a miss. It was a regulation US quarter and a Size 91/2 shoe and a 121/2-foot room. This record evidently still stands. Another record was set bouncing a tennis ball off a person's head 139 consecutive times, while the target sat on the grass reading Steinbeck.
The record I remember most vividly, however, is the one set eating pancakes in the college dining room on a Sunday morning. It happened around the time of Washington's Birthday, so it possibly had some patriotic significance. Anyway, my classmate ate 38 pancakes with syrup and butter. The runner-up ate 22. I ate only 12. Because there is a pancake-eating record in the Guinness Book of Records of 62 pancakes, it should be pointed out they were all an exact six inches in diameter, whereas the 38 pancakes of college days were considerably larger. Also, real butter and syrup were involved -- no present-day culinary substitutes, thank you -- if nourishment is any consideration.
Contests that involve eating are hard to regulate with scientific specifications. I note that in the book of records it took someone 15 days to eat his bicycle.
Perhaps something can be said for record bubble gum chewing after all.