Longest Joke in the World – Lost in the Desert
Eventually, Jack started writing. Perhaps because of the wisdom, or perhaps because of his new perspective, he wrote well. People liked what he wrote, and he became well known for it. After a time, Jack bought an RV and started traveling around the country for book signings and readings.
But, he still remembered to drop by and visit Nate occasionally.
On one of the visits Nate seemed quieter than usual. Not that Nate had been a fountain of joy lately. Jack’s best guess was that Nate was still missing Samuel, and though Jack had tried, he still hadn’t been able to replace Samuel in Nate’s eyes. Nate had been getting quieter each visit. But on this visit Nate didn’t even speak when Jack walked up to the lever. He nodded at Jack, and then went back to staring into the desert. Jack, respecting Nate’s silence, sat down and waited.
After a few minutes, Nate spoke. “Jack, I have someone to introduce you to.”
Jack looked surprised. “Someone to introduce me to?” Jack looked around, and then looked carefully back at Nate. “This something to do with the Big Guy?
“No, no,” replied Nate. “This is more personal. I want you to meet my son.” Nate looked over at the nearest sand dune. “Sammy!”
Jack watched as a four foot long desert rattlesnake crawled from behind the dune and up to the stone base of the lever.
“Yo, Jack,” said the new, much smaller snake.
“Yo, Sammy” replied Jack. Jack looked at Nate. “Named after Samuel, I assume?”
Nate nodded. “Jack, I’ve got a favor to ask you. Could you show Sammy around for me?” Nate unwrapped himself from the lever and slithered over to the edge of the stone and looked across the sands. “When Samuel first told me about the world, and brought me books and pictures, I wished that I could go see it. I wanted to see the great forests, the canyons, the cities, even the other deserts, to see if they felt and smelled the same. I want my son to have that chance – to see the world. Before he becomes bound here like I have been.
“He’s seen it in pictures, over the computer that you brought me. But I hear that it’s not the same. That being there is different. I want him to have that. Think you can do that for me, Jack?”
Jack nodded. This was obviously very important to Nate, so Jack didn’t even joke about taking a talking rattlesnake out to see the world. “Yeah, I can do that for you, Nate. Is that all you need?” Jack could sense that was something more.
Nate looked at Sammy. Sammy looked back at Nate for a second and then said, “Oh, yeah. Ummm, I’ve gotta go pack. Back in a little bit Jack. Nice to meet ya!” Sammy slithered back over the dune and out of sight.
Nate watched Sammy disappear and then looked back at Jack. “Jack, this is my first son. My first offspring through all the years. You don’t even want to know what it took for me to find a mate.” Nate grinned to himself. “But anyway, I had a son for a reason. I’m tired. I’m ready for it to be over. I needed a replacement.”
Jack considered this for a minute. “So, you’re ready to come see the world, and you wanted him to watch the lever while you were gone?”
Nate shook his head. “No, Jack – you’re a better guesser than that. You’ve already figured out – I’m bound here – there’s only one way for me to leave here. And I’m ready. It’s my time to die.”
Jack looked more closely at Nate. He could tell Nate had thought about this – probably for quite a while. Jack had trouble imagining what it would be like to be as old as Nate, but Jack could already tell that in another hundred or two hundred years, he might be getting tired of life himself. Jack could understand Samuel’s decision, and now Nate’s. So, all Jack said was, “What do you want me to do?”
Nate nodded. “Thanks, Jack. I only want two things. One – show Sammy around the world – let him get his fill of it, until he’s ready to come back here and take over. Two – give me the fourth request.
“I can’t just decide to die, not any more than you can. I won’t even die of old age like you eventually will, even though it’ll be a long time from now. I need to be killed. Once Sammy is back here, ready to take over, I’ll be able to die. And I need you to kill me.
“I’ve even thought about how. Poisons and other drugs won’t work on me. And I’ve seen pictures of snakes that were shot – some of them live for days, so that’s out too. So, I want you to bring back a sword.
Nate turned away to look back to the dune that Sammy had gone behind. “I’d say an axe, but that’s somewhat undignified – putting my head on the ground or a chopping block like that. No, I like a sword. A time-honored way of going out. A dignified way to die. And, most importantly, it should work, even on me.
“You willing to do that for me, Jack?” Nate turned back to look at Jack.
“Yeah, Nate,” replied Jack solemnly, “I think I can handle that.”
Nate nodded. “Good!” He turned back toward the dune and shouted, “Sammy! Jack’s about ready to leave!” Then quietly, “Thanks, Jack.”
Jack didn’t have anything to say to that, so he waited for Sammy to make it back to the lever, nodded to him, nodded a final time to Nate, and then headed into the desert with Sammy following. Over the next several years Sammy and Jack kept in touch with Nate through e-mail as they went about their adventures. They made a goal of visiting every country in the world, and did a respectable job of it. Sammy had a natural gift for languages, as Jack expected he would, and even ended up acting as a translator for Jack in a few of the countries. Jack managed to keep the talking rattlesnake hidden, even so, and by the time they were nearing the end of their tour of countries, Sammy had only been spotted a few times. While there were several people that had seen enough to startle them greatly, nobody had enough evidence to prove anything, and while a few wild rumors and storied followed Jack and Sammy around, nothing ever hit the newspapers or the public in general.
When they finished the tour of countries, Jack suggested that they try some undersea diving. They did. And spelunking. They did that too. Sammy finally drew the line at visiting Antarctica. He’d come to realize that Jack was stalling. After talking to his Dad about it over e-mail, he figured out that Jack probably didn’t want to have to kill Nate. Nate told Sammy that humans could be squeamish about killing friends and acquaintances.
So, Sammy eventually put his tail down (as he didn’t have a foot) and told Jack that it was time – he was ready to go back and take up his duties from his dad. Jack, delayed it a little more by insisting that they go back to Japan and buy an appropriate sword. He even stretched it a little more by getting lessons in how to use the sword. But, eventually, he’d learned as much as he was likely to without dedicating his life to it, and was definitely competent enough to take the head off of a snake. It was time to head back and see Nate.
When they got back to the US, Jack got the old RV out of storage where he and Sammy had left it after their tour of the fifty states, he loaded up Sammy and the sword, and they headed for the desert.
When they got to the small town that Jack had been trying to find those years ago when he’d met Nate, Jack was in a funk. He didn’t really feel like walking all of the way out there. Not only that, but he’d forgotten to figure the travel time correctly, and it was late afternoon. They’d either have to spend the night in town and walk out tomorrow, or walk in the dark.
As Jack was afraid that if he waited one more night he might lose his resolve, he decided that he’d go ahead and drive the RV out there. It was only going to be this once, and Jack would go back and cover the tracks afterward. They ought to be able to make it out there by nightfall if they drove, and then they could get it over tonight.
Jack told Sammy to e-mail Nate that they were coming as he drove out of sight of the town on the road. They then pulled off the road and headed out into the desert.
Everything went well, until they got to the sand dunes. Jack had been nursing the RV along the whole time, over the rocks, through the creek beds, revving the engine the few times they almost got stuck. When they came to the dunes, Jack didn’t really think about it, he just downshifted and headed up the first one. By the third dune, Jack started to regret that he’d decided to try driving on the sand. The RV was fishtailling and losing traction. Jack was having to work it up each dune slowly and was trying to keep from losing control each time they came over the top and slid down the other side. Sammy had come up to sit in the passenger seat, coiled up and laughing at Jack’s driving.
As they came over the top of the fourth dune, the biggest one yet, Jack saw that this was the final dune – the stone, the lever, and somewhere Nate, waited below. Jack put on the brakes, but he’d gone a little too far. The RV started slipping down the other side.
Jack tried turning the wheel, but he didn’t have enough traction. He pumped the brakes – no response. They started sliding down the hill, faster and faster.
Jack felt a shock go through him as he suddenly realized that they were heading for the lever. He looked down – the RV was directly on course for it. If Jack didn’t do something, the RV would hit it. He was about to end humanity.
Jack steered more frantically, trying to get traction. It still wasn’t working. The dune was too steep, and the sand too loose. In a split second, Jack realized that his only chance would be once he hit the stone around the lever – he should have traction on the stone for just a second before he hit the lever – he wouldn’t have time to stop, but he should be able to steer away.
Jack took a better grip on the steering wheel and tried to turn the RV a little bit – every little bit would help. He’d have to time his turn just right.
The RV got to the bottom of the dune, sliding at an amazing speed in the sand. Just before they reached the stone Jack looked across it to check that they were still heading for the lever. They were. But Jack noticed something else that he hadn’t seen from the top of the dune. Nate wasn’t wrapped around the lever. He was off to the side of the lever, but still on the stone, waiting for them. The problem was, he was waiting on the same side of the lever that Jack had picked to steer towards to avoid the lever. The RV was already starting to drift that way a little in its mad rush across the sand and there was no way that Jack was going to be able to go around the lever to the other side.
Jack had an instant of realization. He was either going to have to hit the lever, or run over Nate. He glanced over at Sammy and saw that Sammy realized the same thing.
Jack took a firmer grip on the steering wheel as the RV ran up on the stone. Shouting to Sammy as he pulled the steering wheel, “BETTER NATE THAN LEVER,” he ran over the snake.
This joke was also a personality profile test…
It was the subject of a recent Educational Psychology Master’s Thesis, soon to be published, which investigated the way that someone responds to a webpage such as this correlates to certain personality tendencies.
The research confirmed a statistically significant correlation which strongly suggests a dependably predictive positive relationship between how a person responds to this page and certain aspects of his or her psychological profile. Thus, it is called the Personality Profile Assessment Test Hypothesis.
While the actual results looked at several complex factors, and depended heavily on questionnaires filled out by volunteers upon completion of their experience, I will simplify the results by discussing three main groups and their profiles. While these profiles may not be exactly fitting of each person within each group, they do strongly suggest a statistically significant likelihood of profile similarity.
11% of those who see this page take their time, enjoying the joke as they read it, enjoying the build up to the punch line, and even if the punch line itself wasn’t particularly humorous, they tended to enjoy the process.
56% begin scroll down to the punch line either before starting to read the joke or within a short period of time- usually 20 seconds or less. The vast majority of this group choose not to read the joke.
33% read at least 1/3 of the joke, with the intention of reading it all, but then begin to question their decision and the investment of time they are making. They go back and forth between deciding to continuing or to skip to the end (this vacillating may be unconscious at the time, and happen in a matter of moments). The vast majority in this group give up before finishing ½ of the joke, and scroll to the end.
People in the first group, who read the entire joke, tend to enjoy the journey of life, and take their time as they move towards a goal. When traveling, they tend to thoroughly enjoy the process, and are not uptight or stressed about single-mindedly getting to their destination. They also tend to be very attentive, patient and long lasting lovers, and enjoy intimacy and physical connectivity whether or not it is carried to completion.
Those in the second group, who scroll to the end before reading more than a few sentences of the joke, tend to avoid surprises and the unknown. They prefer to have a regular schedule and not to step out of their routine. They tend to be efficient, but are often lacking in enjoyment, spontaneity and passion. They tend to be less patient and more interested in the destination than the journey. When on a trip, they tend to focus on getting where they are going, rather than enjoying the process. During intimacy, they tend to not be able to enjoy it unless they are certain it will be taken to completion. The idea of just “playing around” a while, engaging in physical intimacy without the promise of full completion is, rather than simply enjoyable and connective, considered to be “cruel” and a “teasing” and is met with resentment. This group’s ability to enjoy depends largely on their need to know what is going to happen. They tend to be more self-focused lovers, and tend not to last very long in satisfying the other partner if their own satisfaction has happened or is within easy reach.
The third group, who decided not to read the entire joke after reading a third or more of it, tend to be commitment-phobic and lack the ability to move forward to completion when things become challenging. They are often procrastinators and frequently give up on tasks when they become more difficult. They tend to prefer to have big dreams than act on them in the real, challenging world. A significantly higher percentage of this group had Cesarean birth, and may not have had the benefit of that early experience of struggle and effort being rewarded with accomplishment. This group tends to not take big vacations which would take more effort to plan and implement, and tends to stay close to home or even stay home during time off. Promotions and career moves which are within reach but still require some effort and focus are frequently not fully tried for, although the perception will be they were passed up. In intimate relationships, this group tends to start out romantic and passionate, but it quickly fades and is replaced by lackadaisicalness and indifference, characterized in part by a sense of feeling it is not worth the effort to continue having a passionate, energized and complete experience during intimacy. There is a tendency to “peter out” both in intimacy and in other aspects of life, and to take the easier road, even if it leads to a less fulfilling life.
* * * *
Disclaimer: This summary of the thesis results is not intended in any way to offer advice or therapy, nor is it intended to infer anything about whether anyone reading this page does or does not fit the personality profiles described.