It’s funny what you can come across on the internet when you go from link to link, allowing the cyber highway to take you where it will. It’s even funnier, apparently, what capers you can come up with when you are sitting in a hotel bar in a little town, population 8, in the back of beyond in Australia. And it just adds evidence to my theory that people will believe just about anything.
Hence, around Christmas, 1971, the Nullarbor Nymph was born. The press were told that several kangaroo hunters had seen a feral blonde woman running with the kangaroos, wearing next to nothing except some strategically placed kangaroo skins. It was a slow news week. The press ate it up.
Before they knew it, the little town of Eucla was besieged by both the international press and a swarm of tourists, all hoping to get a glimpse of this woman. Business had never been better! The glimpses were provided. Footprints. Grainy photographs. A girl running across the road just far enough away to be unidentifiable, but just close enough to be tantalizing. A potential campsite. People were entranced.
Far too soon, one of the hunters was in the bar with a tongue loosened by alcohol, and he unfortunately revealed the hoax. I say it’s unfortunate because the tourism potential for this story could have rivaled that of the Loch Ness Monster. Still, it is considered one of the best hoaxes in Australian history.
There are still postcards floating about, and statues, and in recent years, even a low budget movie. And I suspect that people still sit at the bar in Eucla and talk about the nymph. Their population has grown to 86 now. And they have to talk about something, don’t they?
I saw it again the other day, and it made me so sad. A group was collecting soda can tabs because they honestly and genuinely and truly believed that this would help someone. I don’t know if they thought it would get someone time on a kidney dialysis machine, or defray the cost of chemotherapy or provide some desperately needed medical prosthetic, but the fact is they are suffering from a delusion.
The soda can tab myth is one of the most heartbreakingly persistent urban legends out there. It preys on people’s natural instinct to want to help those in need, and it causes a great deal of effort for very little return. People are under the illusion that the aluminum in can tabs is somehow “more pure” than that of the rest of the can. Not. It’s also an alloy. And since no organization, repeat, NO ORGANIZATION will give you more than the normal recycle value for your aluminum, you’d be much better off collecting the entire can rather than just the tab. Because as this article in Snopes.com will tell you, 100 pull tabs will get you approximately 3 ½ cents. It would be even better to get people do donate a penny instead of a pull tab. That way you’d at least get a dollar.
The reason these types of collections make me so despondent is that people want to believe in them so desperately that when you try to disabuse them of this misinformation, they usually refuse to hear you. They get very emotional about it. They continue their collection, using up time and effort, and then only realize the truth when it’s too late. All that energy and good intention could have been directed elsewhere, and all they are left with is a great deal of embarrassment.
If you are hellbent on continuing with your soda can tab campaign, there’s not much I can do to stop you. So I simply ask that before you go through all the hassle, you get a confirmation, in writing, directly from the source of your expected windfall. And, uh… good luck with that.