David Bruce: Problem-Solving Anecdotes

A woman was walking down a street when a man working on a roof began to catcall her. She told him to stop, but he escalated the catcalling. She then knocked his ladder over and walked away, leaving him stranded on the roof. Fighting harassment is a good deed.

Archimedes was an ancient Greek inventor and natural philosopher — a forerunner of today’s scientists and engineers. He invented the Archimedian screw, which was a way of raising water. It is useful in removing bilge water from the bottoms of ships and in bringing water to crop fields for irrigation. The most famous story about him is his solution of a problem presented to him by King Hiero I of Syracuse. He had given gold to a goldsmith to make him a crown, but he worried that the goldsmith had substituted silver for some of the gold. Since the crown weighed as much as the gold he had given the goldsmith, he asked Archimedes to find a way to determine whether or not the goldsmith had cheated him. As Archimedes got into a bathtub, he noticed the water rising. He got out of the bathtub and ran to King Hiero I, shouting “Eureka!” The word means, “I have found it!” His insight was that since silver weighs less than gold, a crown made of silver and gold would be larger than a crown made of an equal weight of gold. Because it would be larger, it would displace more water. Because of this insight, Archimedes was able to prove that the goldsmith had cheated King Hiero I. A story told about Archimedes’ death was that when the Romans conquered the city of Syracuse, he was working on a problem as he looked at a diagram he had drawn on the ground. He asked the Roman soldier threatening him not to kill him until after he had solved the problem he was working on, but the Roman soldier killed him quickly despite Archimedes’ plea.

When Carl Reiner co-wrote and directed “The Comic,” he hired Mickey Rooney to co-star in the movie. However, this led to a problem: Mr. Rooney entertained the cast and crew in between takes. Because Mr. Rooney was so entertaining and because he entertained constantly, Mr. Reiner was losing time and therefore money as he tried to make the movie. Fortunately, Mr. Reiner found a solution. He knew that Mr. Rooney loved marching to band music, and so Mr. Reiner hired a three-piece band. He made a deal with Mr. Rooney, who was welcome to entertain the cast and crew up until the band began to play. When Mr. Reiner needed Mr. Rooney for a scene, he told the band to play a band tune, and Mr. Rooney would stop entertaining the cast and crew and come marching in to act.

Billy Eckstine and Earl Hines played together, and Mr. Eckstine became upset whenever the club owner provided a very bad piano for Mr. Hines to play on. Mr. Eckstine says, “Here we come to some dance with Earl, the number one piano player in the country, and half the keys on the godd*mn piano won’t work.” Mr. Eckstine did try to make things better for the next piano player who would perform at that club. After the gig, before he left he had someone stand with him at the piano as if they were talking together, and, he says, “I’d reach in and pull all the strings and mallets out. ‘The next time we come here,’ I’d say, ‘I’ll bet that son-of-a-bitch will have a piano for him to play on.’”

Marianne Brandt, an Austrian contralto, sang at the Metropolitan Opera House. She once went to the General Post Office at City Hall in New York City to receive a registered letter. The postal worker asked her for identification such as a passport, but she had none with her. The postal worker said, “I am sorry, madame, but the rules are strict.” She replied, “You will not give me the letter? I will prove to you that I am Marianne Brandt!” She then loudly sang the cadenza from an aria in the opera “Le Prophète (The Prophet)” by Giacomo Meyerbeer. The postal worker said, “Here is your letter, but for God’s sake be quiet!”

Sometimes, music concerts take place in very cold halls. This can be a problem for singers who wear gowns. Gerald Moore once accompanied soprano Dora Labette in one of these very cold halls, and he noticed that “she sang like an angel and was a vision of loveliness in a diaphanous gown.” Immediately after the concert, he asked her how she managed to stay warm in her gown. She lifted the skirt and showed him that underneath she was wearing corduroy trousers, whose legs she had pinned up so the audience could not see them.

Political cartoonist Herblock once was given a swimming lesson by a female friend. She held his legs out of the water, and he was supposed to keep his top half afloat. Unfortunately, his top half went underwater and he was in great danger of drowning. She struggled to keep his legs above the water and so did not notice the danger that Herblock was in. He finally got her attention by pulling down the bottom of her two-piece bikini. She was embarrassed; he survived.

Dwike Mitchell received some much-needed help from his piano teacher, Agi Jambor. The young Dwight had to play a classical piece in performance at the Philadelphia Musical Academy, but he suffered from stage fright and told her, “I’m not going out there.” He remembers that she told him, “You’re going.” Then she kicked him as hard as she could in the butt, propelling him on stage. He lost his stage fright and received an outstanding review.

As a teenager, Aye Jaye traveled with the sideshow in a carnival. One night, he was walking alone in a town, and he suddenly found himself surrounded by juvenile delinquents. He stayed calm and started talking into his watch, “No problem, Captain. It’s just kids.” Then he told the juvenile delinquents, “Beat it, boys. This is a stakeout.” They beat it.

© 2016, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved

David Bruce has lots of anecdote books for sale:


Free PDF book: Honey Badger Goes to Hell — and Heaven by David Bruce


Romance Books by Brenda Kennedy (Some Free)


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