The Perverse Pleasure of Breaking Records

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Credit first to Gary Mason of the Globe and Mail, who in a Vancouver weather story on Jan. 10, 2006 offered this “old joke.”

A newcomer to Vancouver arrives and it’s raining. He gets up the next day and it’s still raining. It rains the day after that and the day after that. He goes for lunch five days later and it’s still pouring. He sees a young boy walking down the street, and he says, “Does it every stop raining here?”

And the kid says, “How do I know. I’m only six.”

This is “funny” in Vancouver these days because it has rained here for each of the past 25 days.

In three more days, we’ll break the record for the most consecutive rainy days, and while the town is not quite abuzz with anticipation, there is a sense, as one CBC radio commentator said this morning, that “we’ve gone this far, we might as well have the record.”

What is it that makes people hanker for their little entry in Mr. Guinness’s Great Big Book? Whatever it is, it seems vaguely cavalier – at a time when the climate is setting new records every year and in every category – to be shouting: “Bring it on.”

The study of history (and science) is intended to help us avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. Somebody should tell ExxonMobile (and G.W. Bush) that it’s time we stopped taking joy in making the same old mistakes – only bigger.

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