by Phil Temples
Cravitz, a respectable geneticist, was quite
beside himself. How could he have been so
careless? All he could think about was the
ridicule he would now endure from his colleagueseven
strangerswhen they would learn of this. Yesthis
was, unfortunately, the stuff that urban legends
were made of. Cravitz would not be surprised if,
long after he departed from this earth, young
scientists would still recount the incredible
faux pas that occurred at the Association of
American Geneticists conference years earlier.
Theyd probably call it the Leo
Cravitz Incident. God, he felt so
started out normal enough. An unmarried, somewhat
eccentric scientist, Cravitz's keynote address to
the assembled scientists on his groundbreaking
techniques would be one of the highlights of his
career. To say that Cravitz was anxious about the
conference was an understatement. He had
practically chewed through two pencils the day
Cravitz hopping an American Airlines flight from
Baltimore-Washington to Atlanta, Cravitz checked
-- even double-checked his list in preparation
for the trip and convention. Extra suit. Check.
Stationery. Check. Extra copies of his CV. Check.
Sun tan lotion. Check. On and on the list went.
Cravitz started to triple-check; then, he caught
himself and stopped in mid-list.
is quite anal of me. Everything will be fine._
was not to be fine, as Cravitz would find out the
have heeded an early indication that something
was amiss. Jeff Langley from Princeton spotted
him in the lobby. Dr. Langley had a reputation
for being rather uncouth and a boor. Langleys
snickering when the two made eye contact annoyed
Cravitz. Cravitz moved away without commentas
far as he was concerned, there were more
prominent attendees worthy of his social
intercourse. Langley was an ass.
The hour that
preceded the conference was uneventful. Cravitz
spent a few minutes exchanging pleasantries with
Fred Farmington from Yale, and Howard Straubing
of MIT, both considered giants in the field of
reason, Cravitz couldnt shake the feeling
that something was slightly amiss in his
interactions. Fred and Howard were civil to be
sure, but they acted somewhat peculiarly. Cravitz
even looked down at one point to make sure that
his fly wasnt open. He was
about to ask Dr. Straubing if something was amiss,
but it was almost time for his keynote address.
deep breath, old boy. Relax, Cravitz said,
to himself. It was show time!
Welcome and Procedural Remarks dispatched, it was
now time for the moderator to introduce Cravitz
who was waiting behind the curtain in the mammoth
auditorium. The adrenalin was fully flowing now.
Cravitz quickly checked his papers and notes, and
slicked back his thinning hair.
. . .
without further ado, I welcome our distinguished
colleague, Dr. Leroy Cravitz, Chair of the Center
for Genomic Development at the Johns Hopkins
Medical Center. Dr. Cravitz?
out on stage. The resounding applause tapered off
to a mere trickle, as the assembled eyed him and
stoppedpractically one by onein mid-clap.
Indeed, the older scientists in the room were
shocked and astounded at the bizarre sight. The
younger ones were on the verge of hysterical
out over the assembly. Without exception every
single person was sporting a stuffed platypus
atop their heads. It was only then that Cravitz
realized the enormity of his social gaffe: he had
forgotten to wear his platypus. He was the only
person in the room not wearing a platypus!
Editors note: my sincere apologies to