- Ken Picard
- Roadside litter from Bud Light, Vermont's "cheap beer of choice"
Each year, Seven Days receives dozens of emails and messages through its website asking us to solve mysteries that have confounded our readers. But with only 26 "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" columns per year, we can't answer them all. So it may be helpful to know what factors go into determining which questions we take on and why.
In other words, WTF makes a good WTF column?
First, the question posed must be one that other readers are asking, too. That's why "Where did I leave my car keys?" rarely makes the cut.
Second, the question should have an interesting, unexpected or unusual answer. If you found your lost car keys between the couch cushions, it wouldn't be especially exciting to anyone but you.
If, however, you lost the car keys 20 years ago during a fishing trip on Lake Champlain, only to find them in the belly of a largemouth bass you caught this summer, please call or email us immediately — and include a high-resolution photo of you, the keys and the fish.
Finally, your WTF question needs to be answerable. Often that's not possible — at least, not by us.
For instance, earlier this year one reader wrote: "For over a year now, someone has been throwing books on the entire stretch of the Beltline, from the Old North End to the Colchester line. It's frustrating to see these otherwise fine books go from readable to unrecognizable lumps after each rainstorm. [Why] is this happening?"
Sorry, but we haven't a clue. However, if you're the Beltline Book Fairy, please give us a shout, and we'll unravel this mystery for our reader and help you find a more eco-friendly way of disposing of all those tomes.
Speaking of trash in the breakdown lanes, "Peebles the Guinea Pig" wrote to us a few months ago and asked, "Why do people in Burlington use the dedicated bike lanes as driving lanes in the winter?"
That question seemed related to another one we received earlier this year from a Winooski resident, who asked about drivers who modify their cars to make them intentionally backfire.
"I understand that this may be part of car culture and an interest and hobby for some," the reader wrote, essentially answering the question. "I'm just tired of being woken up in the middle of the night by this, and it is terrifying my dog."
While we can't confirm answers to either question, we suspect that they share a theme: Some drivers are inconsiderate and believe that the sun rises and sets on them and their aftermarket exhaust systems.
Among questions whose answers amount to little more than "Uh, no" is one we received a few weeks ago: "Is it possible I saw a black panther in Vermont? Had green emerald eyes also!"
Answer: If the Black Panther to which you refer was associated with the 2018 Marvel superhero movie of the same name or with '60s civil rights activists Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, then possibly.
However, if that "black panther" was actually a black-coated leopard, which is native to Africa and Asia, or a black-furred jaguar, which lives in Central and South America, it's unlikely you spotted one in the Green Mountains without the aid of virtual reality goggles or psychedelics.
Among the wild felines native to Vermont, neither the eastern bobcat nor the Canada lynx is all black. The "emerald eyes" may have been the animal's tapetum lucidum, the reflective surface behind the retinas of vertebrates, including cats, that increases its sensitivity to light and appears to glow green when illuminated.
Here's another question that, until recently, we assumed was unanswerable: "Why are the beer cans and bottles found along Vermont roads almost always Bud Lite?"
If one assumes a benevolent explanation for why said beer containers end up along Vermont roadsides — that is, the empties accidentally roll or blow out of pickup truck beds before their owners can recycle them — then the actual question is: What is the most popular brand of beer sold in Vermont?
We got an answer earlier this year, when the market research agency TOP Data released the results of a nationwide survey of Americans' beer-consumption habits since the start of the pandemic. Coming as a shock to virtually no one, the survey found that American beer consumption rose by nearly 9 percent. About the only surprise was that it wasn't higher.
According to the TOP Data survey, the most popular "cheap beer of choice" in 23 states was Budweiser. However, in Vermont and five other states, the No. 1 lowbrow brew was Bud Lite. But craft beer aficionados should be heartened to learn that, coming in at No. 2, the Alchemist cracked Vermont's top five. It's the Stowe-based brewery that makes Heady Topper and other hoppy suds.
The ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain is another heady place a reader wondered about. Last summer, a woman wrote in to sound off about one particular aspect of the science museum.
ECHO, she wrote, "is a wonderful addition to Burlington's waterfront for so many reasons: the museum exhibits, programs, and mission. One aspect that I'm not in love with — and after calling them a few weeks ago, I'm apparently not the only one — is the interactive doorbell game they have installed outside their facility. It's really loud, even for folks who are quite a distance away, and I believe it detracts from the quiet serenity of the waterfront."
Ouch! A science museum dedicated to environmental stewardship doesn't like getting dinged for noise pollution, even in the interest of keeping kids engaged and stimulated.
"We did receive a note from a person who asked us to temper the sound of the bell," explained Phelan Fretz, executive director of ECHO, in an email. "We did dampen the bell and responded to their inquiry, but have not heard back. We pride ourselves on encouraging children to find the joy and wonder of science every day and we applaud their enthusiasm."
And we applaud Seven Days readers for their WTF questions. Please keep 'em coming in 2022!