November 24, 2009

Are You a Turtle?

Initiatic societies and fraternities come in all varieties - some of which protect esoteric knowledge or carry deep rituals and traditions. The Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles does nothing of the sort. Still, it is one of my favorite organizations out there.

The Turtles began during WW2 on January 12, 1943 in an English pub. This honorable drinking fraternity started with Air Force pilots looking for a way to lighten up the otherwise strenuous war efforts. To join, one must have the highest morals and good character and never be vulgar.

Initiation tests the candidate's ability to think without being vulgar using the "Four Sublime Questions". Each of these questions can be answered without being crude. Give it a try to see if you're worthy of Turtle membership.

1. What is it a man can do standing up, a woman sitting down, and a dog on three legs?
2. What is it that a cow has four of and woman has only two of?
3. What is a four letter word ending in 'k' that means the same as intercourse?
4. What is it on a man that is round, hard, and sticks so far out of his pajamas that you can hand a hat on it?

Once a candidate has solved these riddles and been initiated into the organization, they are given the secret passcode of Turtles. From that point onwards, whenever they are asked "Are you a Turtle?" they must reply "You bet your sweet ass I am." Failure to do so requires one to buy all Turtles within earshot a drink.

Now one might take this answer as being vulgar itself, but it is assumed by the Turtles that the candidate "owns a donkey of a sweet and kindly disposition." These double meanings are also the key to answering their four questions.

Interestingly this rather innocuous question has found itself in the spotlight a few times. Turtle Brother and President John F. Kennedy was once asked by a reporter at a press conference if he was a Turtle. He responded: "I'll buy you your drink later."

Astronaut and Turtle Brother Wally Schirra, who flew Sigma 7, was asked if he was a Turtle by Brother Deke Slayton while in space. He turned off his radio before responding to avoid being perceived as unprofessional. On a later Apollo 7 flight, to get even, he wrote "Deke Slayton, are you a Turtle?" on a large object in front of the cameras. The NASA Public Affairs Officer and Brother Slayton were forced to reply.

If you'd like to join the Turtles, but couldn't answer the Four Sublime questions, here are the answers:

1. Shake hands
2. Legs
3. Talk
4. His head