Sunday, July 09, 2006

On physics and sausage

As my wife Kara and I were driving down I-95 recently, she pointed to a billboard and said, “Ooh, look! It’s only $89 to fly to the Bahamas!”

The number 89 had an asterisk next to it, of course. An asterisk is a symbol commonly used in advertising to tell the reader: “all of the words preceding this symbol are not true.” Sure enough, as we cruised past at seventy miles an hour, I caught the small print at the bottom of the billboard that said “each way.”

So while it was true that it cost only $89 to fly to the Bahamas, it also cost $89 to fly FROM the Bahamas. That’s still not a bad deal, but unless your game plan is to fly to the Bahamas to start a new life with only one checked bag, one carry-on and one personal item to your name, the price of your ticket will be much higher than the number on the billboard, which was tall enough to win a fight with the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.

Most airline fares are advertised one-way now, often with the condition that the one-way price is only offered when purchased as part of a round-trip ticket. This makes perfect sense, especially if the airlines are so concerned about our nation’s declining math skills that they’re making us multiply everything by two to help keep us sharp. While I appreciate the gesture, I don’t have the spare mental cycles to spend practicing my times tables while I’m driving. I’m too busy wondering about things like why my head feels like it’s going to implode when only one window is cracked open.

A few years ago, I started noticing that driving around with one window cracked open exactly replicated the feeling in my ears of being twelve feet underwater. I slept and drooled through most of my college physics classes, but I’m pretty sure that the effect has something to do with momentum, air pressure and hypochondria. I’ve never heard anyone else complain about this phenomenon, but I’m still pretty sure it’s real, like Global warming and the guy whose job it is to make sure that the Wizard of Id is never funny.

So while I’m not inclined to work out the math in my head, I do agree that only advertising half the price sure does make things look cheaper. Maybe the world would sell more stuff if everyone started doing that. Here’s how it would work at the veterinarian’s office:

“That will be $120 dollars, Mr. Johnson.”

“$120? But the sign out front says that you’d neuter my cat for $60.”

“Ah, yes. Did you see the asterisk?”

Anyway, my favorite sign along I-95, besides the South of the Border billboard with the giant hot dog on it that says, “You never sausage a place! You’re always a weiner with Pedro,” is the one between Philly and Baltimore that informs you of the Decoy Museum coming up at the next exit. What exactly should one expect to find at a Decoy Museum?

I picture a big empty parking lot with a wooden museum at one end. When you walk up to the front of the building, you see that the door is not a door at all, but a painting of a door. So you walk around the side of the building, where you find that the front of the museum is just a huge painted sheet of plywood propped up by 2x4’s. That’s when the rope snaps tight around your leg and flings you upside down, hanging you by the ankle from a nearby tree and shaking all the money out of your pockets.

Or maybe it’s just a museum full of wooden ducks. Either way, I’m not going there.

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  1. That’s when the rope snaps tight around your leg and flings you upside down, hanging you by the ankle from a nearby tree and shaking all the money out of your pockets.

    now that is funny!

    Great post. I love reading billboards. They are against the law up here in Maine.

  2. Just remember any billboard you read was probably welded by my husband. The company he used to work for made the "signs" for all of north america.

    Man that was a lame comment huh???

    God my sugar smacks haven't kicked in yet. I need to go bang my head on the wall or something.

    Enjoy your decoy museum. hehehehe

  3. I don't have anything cute to say, but I did want to comment on this post: it was funny. It made me laugh. It made me smile. It made my day!

  4. Sheri -- Dang! You made italics happen. You know what's up with the internet. And, as always, you rule.

    Burfica -- Did he make the South of the Border ones? That would make him even more awesome.

    Michèle -- You made my day, dude!

  5. U R a master of truth! It's almost as bad as winning a FREE trip to Florida. They don't tell you that you have to fly only during inclement weather, stay at a motel 6, stay for the entire 6 day period AND fill out a five hour survey. Those tricky bastards.

    The cracked window thing drives me crazy, too. It's not just U. Then again, I'm mixed. I'm half hypochondriac.

  6. slept and drooled AND snored (eesshole)

  7. Guess what Mike Todd? I'm home from vacation and I realized something!!!

    life sucks on this side of jekyll island.........

    boo hoo....

    I'd take a one-way ticket there, if I could....

  8. I'm sure he did make those. He didn't make the "colored" part. He welded and cut, and punched, and built the steal frames and catwalks that they are on.

  9. Saturn -- I'm really glad to hear that, man. Glad we could mutually confirm each others' insanity.

    Withonef -- Shouldn't you be sending me Guatemala pictures? Quit F'in around and get to it. Remember that physics TA who quit because he hated teaching our class? Wonder what happened to that dude. I'll owe you a meatball shortie if you can remember his name.

    Melodyann -- Welcome back to the sucky side! We tried to keep it warm for you.

    Burfica -- I'll think of you and your husband everytime I see a billboard now. Sheri's not allowed to have any in Maine -- maybe you could trade her one for a moose.

  10. don't remember his name but i can see his face. he had strait-out-of-the-late-'8os hair. what was the teacher? dr. rowe? or sumpn'?

  11. **Offers valid at US stores only, except Seattle, Houston, West Sacramento and any place north of the Mason Dixon line. Offer requires home delivery which will be arranged within 7-10 days with a forty five minute window of our choice. Offer valid while supplies last but we have only one and we sold it last Thursday. Not valid on prior purchases, current purchases or future purchases. Some offers may not be available on line or in stores. Requires Assembly, missing pieces extra. Store has been closed due to fraud and mismanagement. See store for details.

  12. withonef -- Yeah dude, he had Bruce Jenner hair. But probably not his pole vaulting skills, like you.

    Christine -- Dang! I thought your comment was spam 'til I, you know, read it. Where was this material when I was writing the column? I must borrow some of your neurons sometime.

  13. My neurons are too frightening to let off the leash...sorry dude. :-)