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Kirby: Licking a bottle cap, losing a hobby

By Robert Kirby

Tribune Columnist

Published February 17, 2009 6:00 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
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"There is a fine line between hobby and mental illness."

Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry reportedly authored this quote, although it may have been Ulysses S. Grant or the prophet Isaiah.

Whoever said it knew what they were talking about. Human beings love to obsess over really trivial stuff. It doesn't take long before even loved ones start wondering about our minds.

Right now you're probably thinking "golf." However, I was actually thinking more of Lee Redmond. Until recently, the 60-something Holladay woman possessed the world's longest fingernails.

Redmond lost her Guinness World Record claws last week in a traffic accident. It closed out a 30-year run at what many believe was pure foolishness. Reader comments at the end of the story online are not generally flattering.

I can't say anything. I was once hopelessly caught up with something silly as well. In 1963, I had the largest bottle-cap collection in the entire universe.

My collection probably numbered in the billions, but the highest Leon and I ever actually counted was 418. There were more but we got bored.

The madness started innocently enough. Our Cub Scout den began collecting the caps to make back scratchers for our fathers.

For weeks we collected the caps from soda machines, garbage cans in parks, and the parking lots of bars. We picked them up on the side of the roads. Duncan went so far as to pop them off an entire unopened case of Bubble-Up in his father's garage.

We were better at the collecting than the manufacture of back scratchers. Thousands of caps were left over. It seemed a waste to just throw them out. I took them home and began a collection.

I had sacks and boxes of Nehi, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Fanta, Crush, Squirt, Zip, Hires, 7-Up, Mug. In the "adult" section were Hamm's, Black Label, Schlitz and Miller.

As the collection grew in size and sophistication, reason went right out the window. I'd go to any length to get more caps. I pitched a fit if anyone hinted that I might be nuts.

I was nuts. Before the popularity of diet drinks, the cork liners in soft drink caps were saturated with syrup. My collection attracted flies and ants and addicts.

One day during a prolonged candy shortage, the old man caught me, Duncan and Duncan's dog Petey idly licking the caps for a fix. The collection went to the dump the next day.

I tried for other pointless records -- longest hair, shortest job, lowest grade-point average, most used socks -- but I never came close to the sheer futility of the bottle cap collection. Someone always pulled me back from the brink.

Everyone goes too far with something even if it isn't a deliberate attempt at a Guinness World Record. I did have a Guinness bottle cap, though.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">rkirby@sltrib.com.



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