COL Frivolous feats aren't just for daredevils

Last month we ran a story about a Malaysian woman who broke a world record by spending 32 hours in an enclosure with 6,069 scorpions.

Now, that's weird. But what makes this story even weirder is that she did this in a glass box at a department store so people could gawk at her as these poisonous miniature lobsters crawled up and down her arms and legs.

This begs a question that has been asked by learned scholars who have been trying to unlock the secrets of the human mind almost since the beginning of time.


Why would anyone even think to come up with a world record for time spent in a box with a bunch of scorpions? Why, for that matter, do people pursue any of the thousands of meaningless world records out there.


I suppose it has something to do with an irresistible craving for attention. I mean, if you can't stand out in the crowd by hitting 75 home runs, or running a sub-four-minute mile or getting a perfect score on your SAT test, there's always the world record for cockroach eating or swimming in a pool stocked with alligators that haven't been fed in a month.

When you think about it, though, there's really not much that separates the average Minnesotan from one of these whacked-out daredevils who risk their lives for a one-sentence mention in the Guinness Book of Records. I mean, we all want to accomplish an amazing feat every once in a while, don't we?

One of the first newspaper stories I wrote, back in high school, was about a teenager in my hometown who breathed fire. This involved swirling a flammable liquid around in his mouth, spitting it out and then blowing into a flame. He thought he was on his way to a record for fire breathing when the wind switched and he burned a couple layers of skin off his face. He gave up his new hobby after that.

I've since interviewed a few others who tried to break records or tempt fate. Some of them no longer are with us because of it. But most normal people try to do this in ways that are a lot safer and much more private. It just helps keep life interesting

I used to challenge myself by striving to break my personal records (PRs) for the marathon or 10K in running competitions. But I got away from running races when most of them ended with PWs -- personal; worsts. So, these days, I keep myself amused on my daily runs by counting the number of dead squirrels I see in the street (the record is seven), or the number of unleashed dogs I encounter along the way (the record is four).

My three children keep themselves amused in the morning by playing an ongoing game of chicken with the school bus. No, I'm not talking about that game of chicken. This one involves trying to see how late you can haul yourself out of bed and still get to the bus stop in time. My oldest daughter has the family PR for getting dressed, brushing her teeth and hair, getting her lunch and backpack together, and running to the bus stop. It's somewhere around 3 minutes and 40 seconds.

I can't be sure, but I think I've witnessed quite a few attempts at personal records -- some of them group efforts (teamwork makes it more fun) -- in the last couple of weeks. For example:

Most campaign lawn signs in a front lawn (nine)


Most phone calls received for one person, from one person in a half-hour period (12, my 11-year-old son and his buddy.)

Ugliest house in Rochester (neon green).

Most cell phone calls made during one youth sporting event (17).

Most illegally parked cars at one youth sporting event (56).

Most drivers attempting to pass through one yellow light (five).

Most cigarette butts on the ground near one intersection stoplight (142 -- U.S. 14 and 15th Avenue Southeast).

Most visible piercings on one person (12).

See how fun the personal record game can be? In my mind, it's just as meaningful as the pursuit for silly world records. And you don't have to risk going into shock or losing your face to play.


Greg Sellnow's columns appear Tuesdays and Saturdays. He can be reached at 285-7703 or by e-mail at

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