"If the atmosphere filled up with nitrogen, mankind would not survive," she continued, as we inspected an extinct species of bird. "That does not mean that mankind deserved to die. It means that circumstances changed."
"So freelance humorists are exactly like the vanished species of oxen we just passed?" I asked. "And this story is a warning to other wiseacres to mutate in another direction?"
She pondered that one for a minute, no doubt mystified as to how a father as misinformed as hers could have possibly spawned a scientist.
"I think we might need to make another trip to the museum," she said, diplomatically. "This could take a while."
Joe Queenan, the author of nine books, writes regularly for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Guardian.