2013.01.09 No time like the present to set a world record

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

A recent gift of a Guinness Book of World Records got me thinking about the difference between what I would call “real” and “fake” records. The Guinness Book started out as a way to settle bets among tavern customers, as well as a way to promote Guinness itself. In the ensuing years, the world record business has gotten a bit out of hand.

Two recent records illustrate what I mean. Last February, a comedy festival in Grand Rapids qualified for honors by having 607 people wear fake chicken noses for over ten minutes. This set a record in the previously non-existent animal nose-wearing at a single venue category.

Did we really need an official record for such a thing? It’s bound to cause others to try to break it. In 2011, the same festival set a record for throwing 925 rubber chickens. Guinness is just encouraging people to think of chicken-related records to set. Plus, Guinness already had a record established for most people wearing red noses at the same time, set in Portugal in 2010 by a whopping 15,956 participants. If the people in Grand Rapids round up enough folks to break that record, I’d probably be more impressed.

On the other hand, I highly approve of a record set in Poland last May. A festival honoring the late Jimi Hendrix included a mass performance of the Hendrix classic “Hey Joe”. Over 7,300 guitarists showed up to participate in the event, setting a Guinness record for Largest Guitar Orchestra.

 A two-page photo spread in Guitar Player magazine showed most of the guitarists assembled among the historic buildings of Wroclaw, Poland, holding their guitars in the air by the neck. It’s a pretty impressive photo, surely better than 600 people with fake chicken beaks.

Unfortunately, many of the newer records seem to be set by people who  might have showed up in Grand Rapids with a fake chicken beak if it were convenient. Take, for instance, Krunoslav Budiselic of Croatia.

Budiselic holds the record for most socks worn on one foot, a total of 150. He took 45 minutes to pull them on his right foot. Is there a separate category for the left foot?

It turns out that the sock record was the second Guinness mark set by Budiselic in 2010. Six months earlier, he donned 245 t-shirts, ranging in size from medium to 10XL, to set the mark for most t-shirts worn at one time. After he was finished, he had enough clothes for a yard sale.

The Guinness book still lists interesting things that happen accidentally, such as the section on items lost by space explorers while outside their spacecraft. The first of these was a glove lost by astronaut Ed White in 1965 while he was making America’s first space walk. I wonder if it waved good-bye as it floated away? 

Starting in 2006, there was a string of runaway items. Astronaut Piers Sellers lost a spatula while outside the space shuttle Discovery. Was he making pancakes in zero gravity? 

In June, 2007, Suni Williams lost a camera while working outside the International Space Station. Five months later, Scott Parazynski lost a pair of needle-nose pliers while working on a solar array.

Parazynski probably felt a lot better a year later when astronaut Heide Stefanyshyn-Piper lost an entire bag of tools, valued at $100,000, while on a space walk. Do you suppose NASA made her go to Home Depot and buy replacements?

I’ve been looking for some records it might be possible to break and the one for mattress stacking caught my eye. The record, set in Kentucky in 2009, is only a stack 12 feet, 9 inches high. That seems like it could be broken. All you’d need is a mattress warehouse and a big forklift.

Or how about the bread-buttering record? The record holder buttered 10 slices in 52.42 seconds. That sounds slow enough for me to beat.

I could try to break the tie in Mars candy bar eating. The co-record holders each ate three Mars bars in one minute. That doesn’t sound like much to me.

The record for farthest throw of a cell phone is 314 feet, 5 inches. I’ll have to wait until my present phone malfunctions to try this one.

At least I have a few possibilities to set my own world record. And best of all, I won’t need a fake chicken beak.

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