Friday, October 29, 2010

A Maine Puzzler

I’m a big fan of the radio talk show, Car Talk, but not so much Click & Clack’s weekly puzzler when it’s math-based (they are MIT alums after all). Math puzzlers just don’t hold my interest very much. So a few years back I submitted a suggested puzzler based on a true event. Hard to believe, but they never used my contribution on the air. So I recycle it here for any readers to mull over.

I was a graduate student at the University of Maine performing water quality studies with my faculty advisor one late fall day in a rural area. We completed our day's work and were just heading back to the university when we were involved in a minor traffic accident with another vehicle. (Fortunately for me, my advisor was driving the university station wagon at the time and the collegiate fathers could not later seek retribution on a lowly graduate student!).

We all drove to the town's police department to dutifully report the minor accident for insurance purposes. While waiting for the necessary paperwork to be filled out by the desk Sargent, I noticed a large wall map of the town with color-coded pins stuck into the paper map at various locations. The Sargent saw my interest and informed me that each color signified a type of accident or incident that had occurred within the town's borders. I noted that one pin was black and was located in what appeared to be the middle of a field, so I asked about it. Black, I was told, represented a fatality. Naturally curious, I asked the Sargent what had happened. He gave me a funny look and said:

"As near as we could tell from the scene, the deceased was alone, was the operator of two vehicles and was a pedestrian at the time of the accident."

How could that be??


Assistant Village Idiot said...

For openers, he must have been doing something stupid. As a tangent, I suspect beer was involved.

"Vehicles," so not necessarily cars. "Pedestrian at the time," so he was moving from one to the other, likely while they were in motion. One vehicle pushing or pulling another to jump-start it, perhaps. Or perhaps the second vehicle jump-starts accidentally and he jumps out to try and catch it/stop it.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Or maybe, someone trying to pull out a boulder and linking the tractor and pickup together and trying to get both going at the same time. Or just one vehicle pulling another out, and he did something clumsy/stupid.

Erin said...

Or is a horse considered a vehicle? I'm going with tractor involvement as well as an alcohol factor in this one.

Marty said...

One vehicle was stuck, and he was attempting alone to get it unstuck with another (4WD truck?), when, adjusting the towing chains, the idling vehicle brakes failed and it squished him between the two.

Sponge-headed ScienceMan said...

The guesses were pretty close. Here’s what the police report concluded: the deceased had gotten a farm truck stuck in the field with a dead battery. He went and got a second truck to jump start the first and pulled them nose-to-nose. He was standing between the trucks when jumped started the first truck which unfortunately was in gear and lurched forward pinning him. So the investigators recorded that he was the operator of two vehicles and a pedestrian when the accident occurred.

The police map had another black pin on it, this time in the middle of a lake. “Drowning?” I said with utmost confidence. “Nope,” the officer replied. Turns out it was winter and these fellas were snowmobiling across the frozen lake in the dead of night. The first snowmobile stalled and the second ran over the first decapitating the driver. Grim stuff happens in small towns.

Marty said...

Garrison Keillor once commented he had just returned from touring the South with his Prairie Home Companion. In uncharacteristic mood I recall he unkindly mentioned "Darwin's waiting line." He then put forth his theory was that frozen lakes in the North eliminate the stupid and the careless, but they don't have such lakes in the South. He said at Lake Wobegon the same fellow every fall would always be the first one to drive a pick-up across the lake to test the ice thickness. Since this guy had fallen through the ice at age 12, everyone agreed he should be the tester, because the likelihood of falling through ice in a truck twice in your life was very, very small.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Unkindly... Sounds like one more excuse to say something nasty about people not like him. I used to like him. He really has become a nasty bit of work.