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8:21am on Wednesday, 20th July, 2011:

Found: One Anecdote


I was speaking to my friend Frank yesterday about (among other things) post-war Berlin. He'd been a US soldier in the early 1980s and had visited East Berlin by exploiting under some kind of technicality that allowed it so long as he stayed in uniform the whole time (including always keeping his hat on).

I mentioned that another friend of mine, Ted Castranova, had also visited East Berlin in the cold war era. He'd gone through a tunnel in a bar, emerged in a bar in East Berlin, had a few drinks there, then returned the same way. Frank asked what year this was and the name of the bar. I said I'd ask Ted.

I did ask Ted, and he said that it never happened to him. He had been to East Berlin, but not using secret tunnels (although still committing a crime for which the penalty was death).

Now this is awkward, because I must have repeated that story a dozen times by now, always attaching it to Ted (academics cite their sources!). However, it wasn't Ted's anecdote, it was someone else's anecdote. I have no idea whose, and it'll take me a very long time to dredge it up because of all the interference I'll get from having believed it was Ted's anecdote for five years. I was definitely told it by someone — it's not the kind of thing I would imagine — but as for which someone, er, ...

I can see its being maybe a practical joke, in which gullible tourists are told in a West German bar that there's a tunnel to East Germany, so they go into the tunnel and it connects to another West German bar but the tourist thinks it's East Germany and much hilarity ensues at their expense. That's not how it was told to me, though; it was told straight.

Fortunately, Ted thinks that having this anecdote attached to his name gives the impression that he's quiet dashing, so he won't be suing me for impugning his reputation. Now I merely have to hope that whoever the anecdote really belongs to doesn't sue me for intellectual property infringement.

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).