The year was 1943. Readers were sending in their hysterical true stories in droves, and the editors here had a revelation: "Great! Cheap labor!" And thus was born Life in These United States, the first of our humor departments, which was soon followed by All in a Day's Work and Humor in Uniform. One of the early stories: A wealthy New Yorker, "dressed in the Abercrombie & Fitch version of What a Man Should Wear in the Wilderness," walks up to a laconic Maine lobsterman. "I see you are using fish bait for lobsters. You think it's good, do you?" he asks. The lobsterman shakes his head. "No, I don't. But the lobsters do."
Since then, readers have sent us over 20 million true stories and jokes, about 100,000 of which we've published. And now we're bringing you the best of the best.
Edited by Jill Krasny
1. We were really confused. While transcribing medical audiotapes, a colleague came upon the following garbled diagnosis: "This man has pholenfrometry."
Knowing nothing about that particular condition, she double-checked with the doctor. After listening to the tape, he shook his head.
"This man," he said, translating for her, "has fallen from a tree."
2. Hospital regulations require a wheelchair for patients being discharged. However, while working as a student nurse, I found an elderly gentleman already dressed and sitting on the bed with a suitcase at his feet-who insisted he didn't need my help to leave the hospital.
After a chat about rules being rules, he reluctantly let me wheel him to the elevator. On the way down, I asked if his wife was meeting him.
"I don't know," he said. "She's still upstairs in the bathroom changing out of her hospital gown."
--Patsy R. Dancey
3. One crazy day in our pediatric clinic saw me hand a young patient a urine sample container and tell him to fill it up in the bathroom. A few minutes later, he returned to my nurse's station with an empty cup.
"I didn't need this after all," he said. "There was a toilet in there."
4. I was already a nervous wreck about my upcoming surgery. It didn't help matters when the admitting nurse asked me, "Have you had a hysterectomy before?"
Do the Right Thing
5. Watching a movie recently, I couldn't hear the dialogue over the chatter of the two women in front of me. Unable to bear it any longer, I tapped one of them on the shoulder. "Excuse me," I said. "I can't hear."
"I should hope not," she answered. "This is a private conversation."
6. My husband decided to install a light switch in our master bedroom. Cutting into the wall, he discovered a stash of bottles and boxes.
"Honey!" he called excitedly. "Come see what I found!"
I ran in and quickly realized that his next task would be to fix the hole he had made in the back of our medicine cabinet.
7. The minute I walked into the post office, the postmaster noticed the new earrings my husband had given me.
"Those must be real diamonds," she said.
"Yes," I said. "How could you tell?"
"Because," she said, "no one buys fake diamonds that small."
8. When a woman in my office recently became engaged, a colleague offered her some advice. "The first ten years are the hardest," she said.
"How long have you been married?" I asked.
"Ten years," she replied.
9. "What is that sound?" a woman visiting our nature center asked.
"It's the frogs trilling for a mate," Patti, the naturalist, explained. "We have a pair in the science room. But they've been together for so long, they no longer sing to each other."
The woman nodded sympathetically. "The trill is gone."