So, there's this milquetoast average citizen, just a guy, who wound up in prison for springing the lynchpin on a series of events that he couldn't stop. And he gets thrown into a cell with a "

So, there's this milquetoast average citizen, just a guy, who wound up in prison for springing the lynchpin on a series of events that he couldn't stop. And he gets thrown into a cell with a "¦

What did he do? That's not the point. Whaddya mean, you can't invest in his story if you don't know the details? We do that every day. You never read a newspaper before?

OK, OK "¦ he ripped the "Do Not Remove" tag off the pillow in his hotel room and it ultimately led to a natural disaster. Happy now? Fine. So, he gets thrown into a cell with a more hardened miscreant named Amos.

Speaking of natural disasters, Gov. John Kitzhaber "¦ no, wait a minute. Gov. Kitzhaber, speaking of natural disasters "¦ no that's not right either.

Got it. Speaking of natural disasters, March is Earthquake and Tsunami Awareness Month in Oregon, as proclaimed by Gov. Kitzhaber.

The governor appears to have been prescient in his declaration, given that we've already had three little earthquakes off the coast in the past week, and they're going to start measuring radiation levels in the surf as the remnants of the Japanese tsunami continue to wash ashore.

And while the Cascadia Subduction Zone has been silent all these years, we've all been forewarned it can strike like a happy phantom at a moment's notice "¦ that makes being reminded this month one-twelfth of a good idea.

Of course, you can't have much warning from the strike of a rogue solar flare that, if it were to strike, could knock out electrical and computer services for months, if not years. And just when they think, speaking of disasters, they're starting to make progress with the Cover Oregon website.

So our pillow-tag ripper is in his cell with Amos at lights-out, ready for his first night as a prisoner, when he hears a voice from down the hall.

"Forty-two," comes the call, and the cellblock erupts into laughter.

A few moments later, another voice says, "One-seventy-three," in a cat-like hiss, and once again a wave of guffaws fills the dead night air.

The Ripper is perplexed. What could be going on? And so, for the first time, he speaks to Amos and asks what the deal is with the numbers.

"Well," Amos says, "we've all been in here for so long that to save time, we've listed the jokes by number and tell 'em that way."

A study conducted at Oregon State — home to the famed research that found Mrs. Potato Head to be a better role model than Barbie — has discovered that cows who had previous encounters with wolves suffer a form of PTSD that flares up when they come into close proximity with them again.

Well, duh. Anyone who's ever had in-laws could tell you that.

They didn't use real wolves for this study, just dogs with wolf-like characteristics "¦ which makes the cows involved both skittish and none too bright. The traumatized cows eat less, are sickly, become aggressive and have difficulty procreating.

In-laws, told ya.

The real danger in this can be found in the Universal Law of Unintended Consequences — like when the potential of Jackson County banning GMOs could lead to the banishment of medical marijuana-growing operations. (Imagine the conundrum at the Spotted Owl Society over that one.)

Still, if its a fait accompli that the cows can't produce enough byproduct for cheese, how is the European Union going to get angry about what we call Parmesan? The EU (prounced ewwwww) is cheese'd off about the audacity of Americas usurping its continental right to Parmesa and Gorgonzola and Muenster.

They're even grouchy about bologna. (Wanna bet their baloney doesn't have a first name?)

The Ripper decides to fit in with the gang by telling a joke of his own. "Eighty-four," he shouts. "¦ Nothing. "Eighty-four," he tries again. Still nothing.

Maybe, he says to himself, that 84 just isn't on the joke list. "I'll try a different number," he says to Amos, and blurts out "One-thirty-six."

Now, he can hear the slamming of books to the floor and the banging of metal objects across cell bars. The inmates are restless.

Any idiot can face a crisis, Pavel Chekov said, it's day to day living that wears you out. Humans can create a eyeglasses that can feed you information and provide a 360-degree view of the world "¦ yet a single airplane can vanish without a trace for more than a week.

There are now apps that sound (and smell) like frying bacon, because we don't have enough bacon in our lives — yet 20 percent of us admit to having urinated in a public swimming pool. And, if that's dehumanizing enough, some businesses now have their employees at stand-up terminals where they're walking on treadmills as they conduct business.

Might as well put a chunk of "Swiss-style" cheese on a stick just out of their reach.

And then, on the beaches near San Diego, unconfirmed reports are floating about that some rental shops are giving tourists surfboards that have been injected with human blood.

The agenda, apparently, is to have sharks home in on the tourists and leave the natives free to surf the biggest waves.

Awareness month or not, the tsunamis are waiting.

"What am I doing wrong?" The Ripper asks, but by this point all Amos is doing is staring at him and shaking his head. Desperate, The Ripper lets loose with a stream of numbers — surely one of them will hit a funny bone."

"Seventy-one "¦ three "¦ ninety-nine "¦ one-sixty-six "¦"


Defeated, he sits on his bunk and pulls his pillow (which still has its "Do Not Remove" tag attached) to his chest.

Amos rises, crosses the cell and looks down upon him."

"Kid," he says. "Some people just don't know how to tell a joke."

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at