Charlie Newman, San Jose, California: Most of the coroners I know, including myself, tie a corpse’s identification tag on the thumb. So why is it known as a “toe tag” instead of a “thumb tag”?

A: Charlie, I talked to the L.A. County coroner’s office. They use the toe. In fact, they use two toe tags. One is printed on white linen. The other is like a plastic credit card that can also be used to print a label for anything else belonging to the dead person, like a jar holding a sample. I never knew you got neat stuff like that when you died. I can’t wait.

Anyways, Charlie, they are called toe tags because they belong on the toe. However, if you and your offbeat coroner friends must fly in the face of tradition, you may call them anything you want.

Kelly Riley, Kansas City, Kansas: Why did McDonald’s stop putting those little packets of cookies in Happy Meals?

A: I went to the library and got McDonald’s Behind the Arches by John F. Love, intending only to research the history of the Happy Meal. But the book was so full of interesting information, I couldn’t put it down. For example:

  • Willard Scott was the first Ronald McDonald. (No real surprise there.)
  • It took a team of men, who claimed to be trying hard, five months to come up with Chicken McNuggets.
  • The first McDonald’s in Japan was built in 36 hours.
  • Barry Manilow did not, as rumored, perform a jingle in a McDonald’s commercial early in his career. In fact, when the song came out, he was already a big deal. Although he was not in the commercial himself, he liked the song so much he performed it in concert.

As for the Happy Meal, it was conceived with the help of a Kansas City advertising agency. They put a hamburger, french fries, and a soft drink in boxes designed as circus trains. They sold like hot cakes. Later they added the little toy.

But cookies were never in the Happy Meal, Kelly. Apparently you were so miserable as a child that your parents had to get you a Happy Meal and a box of cookies to make you happy. As an adult, you’ve blocked or altered these early memories to such a degree that you believe the cookies were part of the Happy Meal itself.

If you don’t believe me, you can read the book or go to one of those hypno-remember-everything-again therapists and risk discovering that your mother never really liked you that much.

John Dyer, e-mail: I drink Coors beer, but I feel guilty. What should I do?

A: John, before I can go into that I need more information. Why do you feel guilty for drinking Coors beer? Is it because:

  • The Coors family helped fund a conservative attack on gay rights?
  • Coors (ironically) has extended full domestic partner benefits to its gay and lesbian employees?
  • You don’t recycle your bottles?
  • You’re like me and you just feel guilty about everything and couldn’t even go to a “people who feel guilty” support group for fear you’d be taking someone else’s chair?

Write Paula c/o Mother Jones, 731 Market Street, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94103. Fax her at (415) 665-6696, or send e-mail to


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