Originally created 02/08/02

Monkey see, monkey do isn't limited to the zoo

Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

- Andy Rooney

Here is a modern fable about how life works, shared by a reader who appears to speak from experience.

Start with a cage containing five monkeys, he says.

Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it.

Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb toward the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water.

After a while, another monkey will make an attempt with the same result - all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when a monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs.

To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one.

The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm!

Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever approaches the stairs to try for the banana.

Why not?

Because as far as they know that's the way it's always been done.

And that, my friends, is how company policy begins.

* * *

MAILBAG: Ellie Hessek of Waynesboro writes: "Enjoy word games (but) you goofed. 'A man, a plan, a cat, a canal, Panama' is not only not a palindrome, it makes no sense. You know better than that!"

(My story is I put the cat in to see if anyone noticed.)

And Kris in Martinez writes: "You omitted Napoleon's favorite palindrome: 'Able was I ere I saw Elba.'

Kris Gimmy in Aiken is on another topic - Tuesday's column on poor customer service.

"What a shame that you didn't name the stores ... Perhaps someone in management would have seen it and done something to improve service."

(I might have, Kris, but they were in Charleston and Columbia, where I was spending the weekend.)

* * *

TODAY'S JOKE: While making rounds, a doctor points out an X-ray to a group of medical students.

"As you can see," she said, "the patient limps because his left fibula and tibia are radically arched. Michael, what would you do in a case like this?"

"Well," said the student studying the image, "I suppose I'd limp too."

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bkirby@augustachronicle.com.


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