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"The Leo Cravitz Incident"
by Phil Temples

Dr. Leroy 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 colleagues—even strangers—when they would learn of this. Yes—this 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. They’d probably call it the “Leo Cravitz Incident.” God, he felt so embarrassed!

The day 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 before!

Prior to 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.

_This really is quite anal of me. Everything will be fine._

But everything was not to be fine, as Cravitz would find out the following day.

Cravitz should 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. Langley’s snickering when the two made eye contact annoyed Cravitz. Cravitz moved away without comment—as 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 genetics.

For whatever reason, Cravitz couldn’t 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” wasn’t open. He was about to ask Dr. Straubing if something was amiss, but it was almost time for his keynote address.

“Take a deep breath, old boy. Relax,” Cravitz said, to himself. It was show time!

With the 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?”

Cravitz walked out on stage. The resounding applause tapered off to a mere trickle, as the assembled eyed him and stopped—practically one by one—in 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 laughter.

Cravitz peered 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!

Editor’s note: my sincere apologies to Gary Larsen.