A Colum-bus

As an obnoxious middle school student, I once made it my mission to craft the worst joke ever. I wanted a punny riddle so painfully dumb that it would inspire despair in all other joke tellers. This is what I created:

Q: What kind of bus sails across the ocean?

A: A Colum-bus.

A useless riddle to begin, followed by the thud of an obtuse punch line. Perfect.

In this new century, able to take the paranoid step in search of the joke, I see that others have independently replicated my creation. But my own use of it has had unintended consequences.

On Monday, Columbus’s own holiday, my sister honored the explorer by jadedly reciting the joke. A perfect retelling. But this prompted my mother to note that she uses Colum-Bus with her elementary school students. Every Columbus Day (no holiday for her), she writes on the blackboard, “What kind of bus sails across the ocean?” The children shout out sincere, futile answers (“The Magic School Bus!”), then my mother reveals the awful pun and discusses the holiday.

I’m a little concerned; my mother’s students are taking Colum-Bus seriously. They may be learning their federal holidays, but if it damages their senses of humor I want no part of it.

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