Example: [Brunvand, 1988]
Terrified by the snake, which was creeping rapidly up her leg, the woman pulled the car over, leaped out and began to kick in an effort to dislodge the snake. She failed and the snake crept still farther up her pant leg, she dropped to the ground and rolled around, hoping the snake would slither out.
A man driving by saw her contortions. "Oh, my God!" the man thought, "That poor woman is having a seizure!" So he stopped his car and ran over to help her.
Another man driving by saw the first man bent over the kicking, screaming woman. "Oh, my God!" this man thought. "That guy's attacking her!"
He stopped his car, ran over and punched the first man in the face.
- Sometimes the hilarity is caused by a snake that pops up out of nowhere, startling the driver, but sometimes the trigger is gerbil or hamster the woman was knowingly transporting to the vet that escapes its cage.
- The hapless driver is always female, and her pair of rescuers are always male.
Origins: We've traced this tale of escalating calamities back to at least 1967:
Some of the greatest embarassing moments are like avalanches. They start with just the smallest trickle of discomfiture, and then there's a crack in the façade of human dignity, and finally the entire personality collapses in dust and ruin. These are the funniest of all, because they are cumulative. One of them I heard about happened quite recently near
Though in the example above, the tale is presented as an account of something that "happened quite recently" near San Francisco, that doesn't help much to date it because urban legends are always told as true, local, and recent occurrences (meaning the "happened quite recently" statement should be taken with a large grain of salt). One postulation for the story's origin lays responsibility at the door of an unnamed law professor who might have concocted this tale of mayhem as an exam question designed to test students' abilities to sort out the various issues arising from a complicated incident. If so, that origin echos that of the famed Ronald Opus tale, a legend also coined as an exercise in logic.
Legend or not, sometimes elements of a tale do come true in real life. In April 2001, a woman in Columbia, SC, was startled to discover a
Barbara "ungartered snake" Mikkelson
Last updated: 13 March 2010
Larter, Paul. "Snakes Make Three-Course Meal of Family's Pets." The [London] Times. 28 February 2008 (p. 47). Squires, Nick. "Father Fears for Family After Snake Devours Pets." The Daily Telegraph. 28 February 2008 (p. 16). The New Zealand Herald. "Giant Python Stalks and Swallows Family Dog." 27 February 2008.