Seize the Day: 250 Anecdotes and Stories


  • Cindy Jones is a nurse who works with cancer patients. In 1996, one such patient was about to die. One of Cindy’s colleagues asked the woman, “What is important to you?” What was important to the woman was being married to her boyfriend, but the two had kept postponing the date. The staff at the hospital got busy. Because the woman and her boyfriend had little money, a fund the hospital kept to help patients was used to buy the wedding license. The hospital chaplain performed the ceremony. The hospital’s medical media department photographer took the wedding photos. A white negligee served as a wedding dress for the woman. Sheets were hung to make the atmosphere less like that of a hospital. The woman was a very happy bride, and she died approximately four hours after becoming a wife. Ms. Jones wrote, “For years I have been wearing a button on my lab coat: ‘Oncology [Cancer] Nurses Say Never Postpone a Pleasure.’ For me, it sums up a philosophy I have developed after nearly two decades in my field. I am constantly reminded to try to live each day as if it were my last and to not have any regrets about things I wished I had taken the time to enjoy.” This kind of advice is, of course, similar to the Latin carpe diem, which can be translated as “seize the day.” So how can we seize the day? Some ways include living a life of wit and intelligence, practicing an art, doing good deeds, paying attention to your soul as well as your body, staying angry at the things that should anger us, and being aware of the fabulous realities that surround us despite the presence of evil in the world. Here are some bumper-sticker condensations of ancient and modern wisdom: Resist Psychic Death, Do It Yourself, Resist Mindless Consumption, Don’t Fear the Reaper, Maintain Maximum Cool, Do Good Now, and Reality is Fabulous.[1]

CHAPTER 1: From Activism to Critics


  • Maury Maverick, Sr., was the mayor of San Antonio, but he was very outspoken for a politician. Once, politicians in San Antonio banned all outdoor eating establishments because they wanted to close down the chili queens operating in the streets. Soon after, Mayor Maverick attended a fancy outdoor garden picnic that was also attended by the politicians who had passed the ban, so he told his host, “You-all know it’s against the law to have outdoor eating places. You bastards passed the law yourself. I’m giving this party 15 minutes to get these tents down and all this food indoors, or the police will be called!”[2]
  • In 2011, the Planet Fitness chain of health clubs decided to go after the market of average Janes and Joes rather than people seeking a true weightlifting workout; therefore, Planet Fitness started using a series of television commercials depicting lunks (its word for bodybuilders and serious weightlifters) straining to do such tasks as tie their shoes. Outraged, the lunks fought back. Lunks joined together and shut down the Planet Fitness YouTube channel by continually flagging its commercials as offensive. Planet Fitness had to start a new channel under a different name.[3]
  • Benjamin Lay was an 18th-century Quaker who preached against slavery. At a Quaker meeting, Mr. Lay waved a sword over his head as he shouted that slavery was just as pleasing to God as abusing the Bible would be. He then plunged the sword through a Bible. Previously, he had inserted in the Bible a packet of red dye resembling blood. The dye splattered people sitting nearby, and Mr. Lay told them that now other people could see the stain of their sin.[4]
  • In 1899, miners went on strike in Arnot, Pennsylvania. Union organizer Mother Jones was there, and when the mining company brought in strikebreakers, Mother Jones organized an army of miners’ wives to drive away the strikebreakers by attacking them with mops and brooms. The battle tactics worked, and in February of 1900, after a 10-month strike, the Erie Company met the union’s demands and began to pay better wages.[5]


  • Some actresses act even when they are not on stage or in front of a camera. Tallulah Bankhead once complained about a young actress who had a bit role in one of her plays. Ranting and raving, Ms. Bankhead strode up and down her dressing room complaining about the actress. The play’s director, John C. Wilson, told her, “We’ve already fired that girl.” Ms. Bankhead replied, “I know that, but for heaven’s sake, let me have my scene.”[6]
  • Courtenay Thorpe was an actor who continued working in his profession with a false limb after his hand was blown off during an accident with a gun. A stage manager once told him that his hand seemed rather wooden when he gestured with it, and Mr. Thorpe replied, “That may be because it is chiefly made of wood.”[7]
  • Before Dick Van Dyke walked into an office to talk over what became The Dick Van Dyke Show with executive producer Sheldon Leonard and producer Carl Reiner, they were wondering how many people he would have in his entourage. They were pleasantly surprised when he came alone.[8]
  • During a rehearsal of The Darling of the Gods, Herbert Beerbohm Tree asked an actor to stand back a little, then a little more, then a little more. The actor complained, “If I go back any more, I shall be right off the stage.” Mr. Tree replied, “Exactly.”[9]


  • For a show at the Aquarama at Flushing Meadow Park in New York, several casting ads in Variety appeared. The first ad said: “Aqua Circus in Flushing Meadow! Beauties wanted. Must be expert dancers and swimmers.” One week later, the second ad said: “Wanted! Girls with good figures who can swim.” Two weeks later, the third and final ad said: “Wanted! Girls with good figures who can swim a little.” When the show was finally performed, the women who had been cast didn’t swim — they paddled around on surfboards.[10]

[1] Source: Jim Kane and Carmen Germaine Warner, editors, Touched by a Nurse: Special Moments That Transform Lives, p. 80.

[2] Source: Maury Maverick, Jr., Texas Iconoclast, p. 16.

[3] Source: Luke O’Neil, “Gym Rat Control.” Slate. 9 May 2011 <>.

[4] Source: Stephen R. Lilley, Fighters Against American Slavery, p. 19.

[5] Source: Judith Pinkerton Josephson, Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights, pp. 63- 68.

[6] Source: Maurice Zolotow, No People Like Show People, p. 8.

[7] Source: Gyles Brandreth, Great Theatrical Disasters, p. 55.

[8] Source: Ginny Weissman and Coyne Steven Sanders, The Dick Van Dyke Show, p. 6.

[9] Source: Gyles Brandreth, Great Theatrical Disasters, p. 89.

[10] Source: Sam Norkin, Drawings, Stories, p. 98.

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