Public Transportation is for the Birds (and Dogs and Goats)

We've all heard of snakes on a plane, but what about cats on a bus? Or dogs on a subway? Here are the stories of some crafty members of the animal kingdom who have found that public transportation is the only way to travel.

New Kid On the Bus

Just like Mary, who had a little lamb that followed her to school each day, Jordan Lamp of Ohio had her own four-legged tag-along, Nanny, a goat that repeatedly jumped on the school bus with her in 2008. The new "kid" in school was always quickly dismissed, despite protests from the rest of the students on the bus, but she became quite famous nonetheless. Thankfully, the school took the minor disruption in stride, offering to sign Nanny up during the Spring open enrollment period. However, as Superintendent Chuck Swindler pointed out, the arrangement probably wouldn't work in the long run: "The big problem he has is he tends to eat his homework..."

Where Everybody Knows Ratty's Name

As the Cheers theme song put it, sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. And for Ratty the Jack Russel Terrier, that place was the Black Bull Pub in Dunnington, UK. At least twice a week, Ratty would hop on the No. 10 bus across the street from his house and take it five miles to the pub, where he had his own water bowl and was fed his favorite sausages. However, like so many barflies, Ratty could never seem to find his way back home. A friendly barmaid would usually give him a ride at the end of the night, or the pub's owner would simply call Ratty's owner to come get him. This went on for years, until 2006 when the Black Bull was sold and the new owners banned the dog from the pub.

But it wasn't long before the terrier found another pub to call home—the nearby Rose and Crown, where the owner said he was always welcome. Sadly, this April, 10 year old Ratty was struck down and killed while crossing the street to board the No. 10 bus for his regular trip to the pub.

A Different Kind of Passenger Pigeon

We all know the old joke, "I just flew in and, boy, are my arms tired." The pigeon comedians of London can't really use that joke, though, since many of them use the Underground subway system to save themselves some flapping. The birds, especially on the Northern and Piccadilly lines, will walk into the car at one station, ride it to the next, and then get off. The birds will even stand and wait patiently for the doors, indicating they know which side of the car will open for their stop.

But the Brit birds aren't the only ones who ride the rails. In New York City, pigeons have been seen on the A line for years. The train car stops for cleaning at the Far Rockaway station and the birds take the opportunity to get on board and scrounge for crumbs. As the train returns to service, it takes the birds with it, and the pigeons have simply learned to get off when the doors open again at the next station. Some employees say the birds will fly back to the Far Rockaway station so they can get back on when the train returns.

There's no question the YouTube sensation known as Henry, a pigeon on the Toronto Transit Commission subway, commutes like an old pro. As he waits for his stop, he patiently stays near the center pole. But he begins to pace around once the overhead voice indicates the train is arriving at Runnymede Station. And, as if he's done it a thousand times before, he simply walks right through the doors just before they close behind him. Obviously he's a native.

Percy Peruses the Penguins

If you were a cat, where would you take the train? To the aquarium, of course. That's exactly what Percy, a cat in Scarborough, UK, does when he hops the North Bay Railway and travels from his home to the nearby Sea Life Centre. There, Percy sits in front of the large tanks, watching the colorful fish swim by. And once he's done with the fish, he'll go watch the penguins until his presence makes them nervous and an employee has to shoo him away. After Percy's had his fill of marine life, he somehow knows when his train is coming, and heads back to the station to catch a ride home. The park and railway employees say he's one of the best-behaved visitors they have. [Image credit: Purr-n-Fur.]

Casper the Commuter Cat

Susan Finden was boarding the No. 3 bus across the street from her house in Plymouth, UK, when her cat Casper followed her on. She tried to shoo him off, but the driver informed her that Casper was a regular rider. According to the driver, Casper would consistently "queue up in line good as gold "“ it'd be 'person, person, person, cat, person'" for the normal 10:55am departure. Once on board, the cat took his favorite seat in the back, curled up, and slept through the 11-mile, hour-long journey. After the bus returned, Casper would simply get off, or, if he was still asleep, the driver would nudge him awake to remind him it was his stop. This wasn't a fluke thing, either "“ Casper had ridden the bus every day for going on four years, traveling an estimated 20,000 miles. Unfortunately, Casper's bus-riding days were numbered. In January 2010, Casper was hit by a vehicle while crossing the street for his daily commute.

Moscow's Metro Mutts

There are approximately 35,000 stray dogs living in and around Moscow today; about 500 of them live in subway stations where there's plenty of food and no dangerous vehicular traffic like on the street above. Of these 500, a few have developed a very special skill "“ riding the subway. The dogs generally take the train from the suburbs to the city center, where the best food can be scrounged and begged for. According to Andrei Neuronov, an animal behaviorist, the dogs have figured out how to ride the subway by using their keen instincts. They have memorized the different smells of the stations and can recognize the station names as they're called out over the loudspeaker. They even use their own internal clocks to know approximately when the train they want is coming, as well as when to get off when they return home that night.

While other cities might find the dogs a nuisance, many Muscovites show great admiration for their subway strays. For example, after the brutal stabbing of a well-liked subway dog nicknamed Malchik in 2001, money donated by Muscovites helped erect a bronze statue of the dog inside the station he once called home. Even today, it's not unusual to see flowers left there for the beloved canine.

Hachikō of Shibuya Station

Hachikō, a rare breed of Akita, never got on the train at Shibuya Station in Japan, but his owner, Hidesaburō Ueno, boarded to go to the University of Tokyo where he was a professor. Every day, the dog walked with his master to the station and would be there again when Ueno got off the train that evening. This went on for a little over a year before a cerebral hemorrhage killed Ueno while he was at work. Although Ueno never came home again, Hachikō waited for him. Even after Hachikō had been taken in by new owners, the dog still came to the station every day for the next nine years to wait for his beloved master's return. As employees and commuters began to take note of Hachikō's vigil, his story spread and he became something of a role model to the people of Japan, admired for his loyalty.

On March 8, 1935, Hachikō was found dead in the streets of Shibuya. As an honor, his body was mounted and put on display at the National Science Museum of Japan in Tokyo. Additionally, a large, bronze statue was erected at Shibuya Station, where an annual ceremony is held on April 8 to commemorate this incredibly faithful dog. In 2009, his story was the subject of a Richard Gere movie, Hachi: A Dog's Tale.

So, a Monkey and a Bulldog Walk Onto a Train...

Still not impressed by these mass transit animals? Check out Pan-Kun, a chimpanzee, and his buddy, a bulldog named James, as they not only ride a train in Japan, but even figure out how to buy the ticket, with very little human assistance. It's all part of a TV show where Pan-Kun and James are given human tasks to accomplish and, more often than not, pass these tests with flying colors.

* * * * * *
Ever ridden the bus with a goat? Or the subway with a pigeon? How about an airplane next to one of those yappy-type dogs? Tell us all about your wildest animal travel experiences in the comments below.




Michael Campanella/Getty Images
10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
Michael Campanella/Getty Images
Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.


"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.


"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles


"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole


"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles



"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole


"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles


"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit


Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at:

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."


A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.


If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).


Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.


Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother


When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."


A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:


In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:


Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.


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