It seems that no matter how many streets are fixed in Brookfield, potholes appear on the surfaces, like warts in reverse. And they never are all fixed. Probably even if they were all fixed at one given point in time, this state of unbumpiness wouldn’t last too long.

In an effort to learn more about this eternal tragedy, and one other, I consulted Professor Jonathan T. Sludge, director of the Illinois Department of Streets and Basements.

Professor, I have two questions to put to you today.

“Well, I didn’t think you were here just to breathe.”

Uh, no. Tell me, what do you know about potholes?

“Oh, as to that, did you know, I recently received a government grant to study the problem?”

A grant? From which government?

“Ours, of course! What, you think I got a grant from the German government?”

No, no, I meant, from the state government or the federal government.

“Oh. It came from the federal. You know, they give out money for the darnedest fool things, so I thought, ‘Why shouldn’t I get my share?'”

Yes, I see. Well, tell me, Professor, what causes potholes?



“Pots cause potholes. I mean, it stands to reason. If you whack a pot on the street long enough, pretty soon you get a hole.”

But I always thought cars and their tires caused potholes.

“No, no, no. That is only a popular belief.”

A popular belief?

“Oh, yes, very popular. Many people like it quite a lot. Even though I know better, I like it, too. It’s more popular than an RB High School homecoming queen.”

Um, getting back to the question. I have never seen anybody banging pots onto our streets.

“There’s a very good reason for that, sir.”

There is? What?

“You weren’t looking. You see, pot-holers hit the streets when nobody’s looking, then dive back into bushes and behind trees when they see anybody coming.”

What was that again?

“Yes, this is all a highly documented, verifiable fact.”

Can I see the documents?

“Um, they got burned up.”

Burned up? How?

“In the veri-fire. It’s very fiery.”

It sounds very suspicious, if you ask me.

“Well, I’m not asking you. You said you had another question?”

Yes. What causes floods in basements?

“Water. I would venture to guess, in say, oh, 99 out of 100 times, that if you have a flooded basement, then water is the culprit.”

No, I mean, how does the water get into the basement?

“Well, as to that, you see, water is very sneaky.”


“Yes. Whenever it rains a lot, the water sneaks into the ground and into the sewers, and then sneaks into basements.”

I guess that’s kind of true. So how can people stop from having flooded basements?

“Well, there are two very perfect ways of having this happen. You see, the first way if for you to have a basement sale.”

A basement sale?

“Yes. It’s just like a garage sale, where you sell your garage, only here you sell your basement.”

How can you do …

“The other way to avoid a flooded basement is to go and buy a lot of desert sand, and then dump it in your basement. That is, if you still want to have a basement, and not sell it.”

Sand? How can plain sand help?

“No, no, no, not just plain sand. Desert sand. And believe me, sandy cat litter won’t do the trick either. No, it must be desert sand.”

But how can that stop a flood from coming?

“Oh, come now. Use your head for something besides a hatrack. Have you ever seen a flooded desert?”

Well, no.

“So there you are! Once you have a desert in your basement, no floods will go near it. It operates on the same principle of ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ You see, apples are to doctors like garlic is to vampires. If you hold an apple, then no doctor will come anywhere near you.”

But that’s not what …

“And that’s how I won the Litzpuller Prize for Economy.”

How in the world did that happen?

“By convincing the U.S. government to sell to people surplus desert sand, left over from Operation Desert Storm. It’s for sale in 40 pound bags. I found out, a couple of years ago, that all this sand was just sitting there in this big warehouse, where the Ark of the Covenant is stored in a big wooden box.”

The U.S. government is selling Desert Storm sand? Professor, that is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard.

“So? What else can you expect from the government? Any other questions?”

How can you stand there with a straight face, and give me all these goofy answers?

“I can’t, so I’m sitting down.”