Our scene is set at the side entrance of Thomas Jefferson High School, Pennsylvania Avenue, Brooklyn, in November of 1952. It looks like it is going to start raining. We are standing at the side steps with the intention of entering school; there was no rush because we were 20 minutes early. Along comes a schoolmate of note, Selwin Arbesfeld, attired in the stereotypical manner of a Brownsville, Brooklyn savant, corduroy pants and flannel shirt, oversized belt, and, mandatorily, a sharpened pencil with a worn eraser, assertively, resting behind his right ear. We knew there was going to be trouble; especially, since he had his sidekick, with him, “Little Geenzie” Edelman. We attempted to avoid confrontation by suggesting we go inside before it starts raining. Selwin, in his customary, brusque manner, ignored our suggestion since he had something important to assert.
“Do you remember last week when you said that you are a pro at solving riddles?” he said. We, grudgingly, and fearfully, had to admit the truth of the latter statement, anticipating a premeditated and deliberate challenge, from Selwin (especially, since he had that sharpened, yellow, Eberhart-Faber pencil, with a worn eraser, behind his ear and, tellingly, had brought Little Geenzie, no doubt, as an official witness.). To be truthful we previously did furnish the answers to two easy riddles, proposed by Selwin, and were therefore foolishly encouraged, to make the referenced boast.
We were anxiously, about to suggest going inside the school to avoid the threat of rain, when Selwin, challengingly and arrogantly stated, while smiling shrewdly and knowingly, at Geenzie: ” I have a riddle, that even you, (mockingly) the “big expert”, cannot solve.” In the interest of hiding our fear and stalling, in the hope and expectation that we would be rescued by the promising rain, we stated, in manly fashion, “You will have to make it worth my effort and time”. Selwin, confidently responded, “If you can solve it, I will give you a Chunky Bar. Hoping that we could discourage the challenge, we responded assertively, with a bold counteroffer: “Two Chunky Bars.” Selwin miraculously accepted, supremely confident of success.
It may be enlightening, at this point, to reveal the nature and value of the prizes offered. Chunky Bars were two-inch chocolate square candies, containing raisins and nuts, attractively wrapped in silver foil with red printed letters. Unlike the mundane chocolate bar, the bite of a Chunky was deep and well-rewarded by the blended taste of the chocolate and the scrumptious filling. In our estimation, it was the Mercedes or Maserati of chocolate candies, each candy costing a full twenty-five cents. Selwin’s challenged response, agreeing to the counteroffer, was, at the time, rather high stakes. We might well observe that the young residents of Brownsville, Brooklyn, were entirely unfamiliar with the nature and value of the trove of gold bars, stored by the Federal Government, at Fort Knox, but were certainly familiar with the valuable status of the Chunky Bar. Little Geenzie trembled in awe and excitement, at the contemplation of the contest, and especially, the munificence of the agreed winning prize.
All right, Selwin confidently and joyfully announced, this is the riddle: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Little Geenzie confidently smiled at the presumed impossibility of any solution.
We had been studying evolution, that week in class, so we immediately responded, “The egg.”
Selwin and Little Geenzie chuckled, and both, exuberantly, demanded to know the origin of the egg.
“It was laid by the bird, or animal, that, in evolution, was the immediate predecessor of the chicken; the egg, in question, would hatch into the first chicken,” we correctly responded.
I soon discovered that Chunky Bars, (2) taste even better, eaten in the rain.
** The classic conundrum was actually, solved by the author, in his second year of High School, for which he continues to privately take credit, but wonders why the expression, “Chicken and Egg Problem” is still used in the parlance to describe seemingly unanswerable questions.