## The F Gambit

Take approximately 10 to 15 seconds to read the illustrated paragraph. As you do, please count the number of"F's" in it. Remember that number. Don't cheat. Do it. NOW!

How many "F's" did you find?

I remember when one of my daughters e-mailed me the "F" paragraph. The instructions were to count the number of "F's" in the paragraph and to phone her immediately. When I did so, she asked how many "F's" did I find. I answered, "three!" She responded that three indicates that I'm normal. Then she gradually unloaded the blockbuster. Had I found four "F's" it would indicate that I was outstanding. And if I found five, it would indicate that I'm a very exceptional individual. However, if I found six, then without a doubt, I am a genius!

I immediately showed the paragraph to my wife, April. She found three. I took it to my mother-in-law. She too, found three. I was beginning to get the feeling that we were a very normal family, but far from being genius material. There are, in fact, six "F's!" Of course, once it's pointed out to you, it appears that three of the "F's" were literally invisible, in full view. The ones that are found in the words "of." The reason, I believe, is our minds lead us to search the longer, more important words. The "f's" in the short two letter words are not processed during our search. Regardless, I printed the paragraph on 3" x 5" file cards and took one to lunch with friends. She is a former school teacher. He is an engineer. I handed each of them the file card and asked that they count the number of "F's" in the paragraph. Both responded, "three." I knew that I had something.

When I begin my act, I state that I would like to begin by attempting something with a number of people in the audience. A little experiment to explore the premise that sometimes things are not always what they seem to be. I then distribute five 3" x 5" file cards, one each to five spectators, instructing them to place the card, blank side up, on their lap. I also hand each spectator a short golf pencil. Returning center stage, I instruct the five as follows: "I'm going to spell my name aloud, one letter at a time. As I do, I want each of you to turn the card over and read the short printed paragraph. As they do so, they are to count the number of "F's" in the paragraph. Then they are to turn the card over and

MY FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OFSCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS

boldly print the number on the blank side of the card." I then slowly spell my name. When I'm finished, I quickly inquire if everyone has written a number on the blank side of their card. I ask the five to stand in place. "How many of you wrote the number "3", or less, on your card, please raise your hand? At this point, I usually get four to five of the spectators raising their hand. Regardless, you will find that most will have counted only three. State that if they found three "F's" they are quite normal. If there are some whose hand is not raised, inquire if anyone found four? At this point, you should have accounted for all five spectators. However, if one or more spectators still have not raised their hands, inquire how many "F's" each found. If they indicate five or six, inform them that they are quite observant, because things are not always what they seem to be. It's at this point that you inform the audience at large that there are, in fact, six "F's" in the paragraph. This usually creates quite a stir. You immediately call for a big round of applause for the participants. Tell the spectators that they may keep the cards and pencils as souvenirs and show the paragraph to their friends and relations after the show.

Of course, the golf pencils are imprinted with my name and phone number. They are available from any advertising specialty distributor. Their names are listed under that classification in the yellow pages. I then proceed with my next item which is a couple of psychological forces involving the entire audience and segues into my "Magic Square" opener.

I have included the artwork for the paragraph. Xerox a supply, then cut and trim them to fit on 3" x 5" white file cards. If you have a inkjet or laser printer, you can print directly to card stock which you can cut into separate 3" x 5" cards. If not, spray the back of the artwork with spray cement and carefully affix them to the file cards. Place five of the cards in your right hand jacket pocket along with five golf pencils. You're all set. I leave the number of participants up to you. Five seems right to me, however, you can use any number of people that you wish. The line "because things are not always what they seem to be"is intriguing. It intimates that what's happening is mysterious, yet explainable as you offer your take on how the phenomena occurs. Finally, it involves several members of the audience, packs flat and plays well. I have found that by providing a rationale explanation of what appears to be a mystifying phenomena carries over to help legitimize the rest of my program, which of course, defies explanation.