Press Box

Bus Plunge Mop-up

The readers conduct their post-mortem.

I’ve never gotten such a cheerful bundle of e-mail from readers after writing a piece as I did this week in response to the publication of “The Decline of the ‘Bus Plunge’ Story.” It seems that every world traveler who has boarded an iffy bus and braved the deadly roads of the Andes, the Himalayas, and the Sierras dropped me a line to recount their adventures. Even though some of my correspondents recalled trips they’d taken in the 1960s, all were still giddy at the fact that they defied death and didn’t end up as newspaper filler.


I received dozens of notes from readers reminding me of the Bobs’ song “Bus Plunge” and of National Lampoon’s devotion to the plunge short. The magazine frequently reprinted plunge stories in its “news” section. Dozens also offered that ferry-sinkings are the new bus plunges. Sorry, guys, not enough ships go down to qualify. Bill Gifford goes even further, hypothesizing that Third World plane crashes are the new bus plunge. Gifford, who worked at Washington City Paper with me, has been a little mental about air travel since he survived a summer’s worth of Siberian flights.


Eduardo Romero, the proprietor of the Peruvia blog, let me know that during 2004 he collected stories from the English-language press about Peruvian bus plunges and posted them. (Some of the links to the original sources are dead.)


Tina Orzoco of ProQuest valiantly searched the company’s vast databases in an attempt to locate the hed for Allan M. Siegal’s favorite K-hed of all time—”Most snails are both male and female, according to the Associated Press.” Orzoco failed, Siegal writes, because timeless filler such as the snail story ran in early editions only, “and was replaced thereafter by live news. And the microfilm edition of the Times—now the basis of ProQuest—was the final edition.”

Siegal’s snail recollection inspired Tom Meason to send in his favorite filler item, which his hometown newspaper, the Daily Ardmorite of Ardmore, Okla., published during WW II. Meason writes, “At the foot of the page, which proclaimed tragic losses to the Japanese in the Pacific and the Invasion of Russia by Germany, appeared this jewel: ‘Some dinosaurs were no bigger than a chicken.’ ” Bernard Adelsberger guarantees me that the old Philadelphia Bulletin once published this K-hed:


No Blood in Ants
Ants have no blood.


Kevin Stone chuckled over the fact that the newspaper that promises “All the News That’s Fit to Print” once satisfied itself by printing all the news that fits. Blogger “Gumbyfresh” sent a BBC story from last Saturday titled “The World’s Most Dangerous Road.” It’s in Bolivia.

And Matthew Diebel argued persuasively that the New York Post best carries on the tradition of scattering lots and lots of news shorts throughout the paper. “They appear to have a ‘Perv a page’ policy—there is almost always a story about a Scout master, priest, or teacher doing something bad with a child on every page. I can imagine [Editor Col] Allan’s Australian accent barking out the ‘Perv a page’ edict!”


Stupid Headline of the Week From the Nov. 18 Washington Post:

Midterm Election Leaves Political Landscape Blurry
As Both Parties Face Unresolved Questions and Internal Disputes, the 2008 Campaign Looks to Be a Crucial One

Remind me, which recent presidential campaign wasn’t “crucial”? 


Ants have no blood and most snails are both male and female. Biology class is closed for the day. Send your bus-plunge anecdotes (and stupid headlines) to (E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)

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