I have this image inside my head that is indelibly etched onto my brain. It’s a picture of a very old mystic yogi living in a cave somewhere in the mountains of northern India. He perches in lotus position on his bed of three-inch metal spikes as he beams beatifically from behind his pointed, grizzled beard and wildly unkempt shock of white hair.
What is most striking about this image, however, are the impossibly long fingernails and toenails curving, twisting and spiralling off in every which direction away from his body. The poor man looks like he has fallen into a tangle of blackberries, except that the long vines keeping him captive are his own nails.
The aforementioned photo comes from a copy of The Guinness Book of World Records published at some time in the middle of the last century. At the time, the yogi, whose name has long ago escaped from my leaky memory vault, held the world record for longest combined nails growing from both fingers and toes. Granted, he would have had a heck of a time playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on a Hohner piano accordion, but I’m sure that setting a Guinness world record for long nails far outweighed any feat he could have achieved in the musical field.
As they say, of course, records are made to be broken. Even our cave-dwelling yogi’s twisted nails have long since been surpassed. There are now even subcategories for world records involving nails. They include length of nails on one hand, on one foot, both hands and feet, and for all we know, both hands and one foot as well as both feet and one hand. The records are now divided into both male and female classes. For instance, the all-time fingernails record for females was held by Lee Redmond who started to grow them in 1979 and reached a length of 28 feet before she broke them when ejected from her vehicle in a four-car pile-up in Utah in 2009. Luckily she didn’t lose her life.
A more recent record holder, Ayanna Williamson of Houston, became the female presently with the longest fingernails when, after 30 years of growth, she reached a total length of over 24.5 feet. Apparently, it took her three to four bottles of nail polish and over 20 hours to manicure her hands, which is probably why she has recently cut her nails and vowed to not let them grow any longer than six inches.
The Guinness Book of World Records is chock-full of weird and revolting stuff like these last ones mentioned. For instance, the current record holder for the fastest typing using only the nose goes to Davinder Singh of India, who in 2017 and using solely his proboscis, was able to strike a prescribed 103 character text on a keyboard in only 40.19 seconds. No doubt Davinder could easily have been trying to simultaneously break the record for biggest headache combined with worst sinus infection.
The human face was again put to the test when, in 2009, Simon Elmore of the U.K. managed to stuff 400 straws into his mouth and hold them there for 10 seconds without the aid of his hands. The recent abolition of single-use plastic straws may make Simon’s record unbreakable.
Perhaps you somehow missed the Guinness record set by Josef Todtling of Austria. He managed to get himself dragged 500 metres by a horse while completely on fire. Him, not the horse. Simon was a human torch and he made sure that fuel was poured on him while being pulled so that the record would not be questioned.
Sylvio Sabba of Italy is in the record book for the most clothes pegs clipped to the face in one minute. In 2012, Sylvio managed to attach 51 of the wooden pegs to just about every square inch of his face. Do you have any idea how painful that must have felt? If I were Sylvio, I would have demanded to be set on fire and dragged behind a horse just to distract me from feeling the hurt caused by those clothes pegs pinching my face.
There must be, it seems to me, a certain niche in the Guinness universe for world records that are specific to living on this weird and wonderful rock called Salt Spring. An obvious record that would probably be broken weekly would be most consecutive ferry sailings missed due to overloads or sailing cancellations. Another related one could be the distance the lineup stretches up the road from the ferry compound.
Sticking with the vehicle theme, there’s probably room in Guinness Salt Spring for the most laps around the Mouat’s/Thrifty’s parking lot as you wait for a parking stall to become available. For those shopping at the Country Grocer, there’s a record waiting to be broken for the most hugs you can receive from friends, neighbours and complete strangers while wheeling your buggy down aisle 7b on 10 per cent off Tuesdays.
Salt Spring is also the ideal location to set a new record for combined number of tattoos, piercings and flesh brandings. A special asterisk will go next to the name of the record holder if the marked body also possesses at least five didgeridoos.
Another possible category that “Salt Springs” to mind would be the longest time you can nurse a cup of coffee at a local café or restaurant while checking your email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok accounts while downloading one thousand Netflix movies on the establishment’s WiFi. Lastly, although the list is undoubtedly endless, could be the record for the earliest you can arrive at a garage sale that has plastered “NO EARLY BIRDS” signs up and down the island’s notice boards and hydro poles.
Nobody asked me, but I sure wouldn’t mind getting my name in the Guinness record book myself. Imagine leaving a lasting impression on future generations like that nail freak yogi in India has done for me. One thing is for sure, though. As a third generation nail biter and chewer, there is zero chance I will ever get a sniff of the world record for longest fingernails and toenails.
Hmmm. I wonder what the record is for the world’s shortest nails?