punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Case for the Mythbusters: Bag of oranges and bruises

I was having a discussion with someone over punishment, and the usual legend about Bing Crosby and his kids came up.

Can anyone help me out here? I also recall hearing that Bing Crosby used a bag of oranges to beat his kids so it wouldn’t leave bruises, but I have always considered this baloney, and always wondered if anyone has actually done this. So, of course, I looked it up in Google. I kept finding people quoting the theory, or refer to incidents from the 1991 film, “The Grifters” where a bag of oranges actually leaves bruises, but causes no real damage (kind of the opposite). But no “this is a myth” or “yeah, this works, here’s our Youtube experiment!”

I tired to think about this once, because it smelled very much like an urban legend (I checked Snopes, no mention of it). Here’s why I think it’s baloney, although to be fair, I have not actually attempted to hit anyone or anything with a bag of oranges because that’s a waste of oranges. Maybe Bing could have done this because he had all that money, but it smells fishy nonetheless.

The effectiveness of a bag of oranges as a physical weapon seems dubious, if anything, because how does one apply the force? I would assume swinging a bag overhand or horizontally at your target (as opposed to, say, pushing it at them?). A bag of oranges, which weight about 5-10 pounds on average, is an unwieldy and unbalanced object that requires a lot of inertia, so you’d have to really give yourself a lot of room, like swinging a two-handed sword or a large battle axe, to hit anyone with enough impact that would cause any sort of pain or damage. Probably you’ll also be in enclosed space, which would make it even harder to swing one of those around, unless you took your victim outside like some parents did when they whipped their child with a “switch” or stick. I’d be afraid of hitting the lamps and such, especially if I was angry.

Maybe it’s like the Olympic sport of shotput, you have to spin around a few times to get up the speed you need to do the actual impact. That seems kind of complicated, can you imagine saying, “Hold still while I spin around a few times to hit you with this sack of oranges.” It gives time for your opponent to duck or use their arms to defend themselves.

On top of that, a bag or oranges probably is not meant to take that kind of force upon impact. Most seem to be a plastic bag or a red nylon mesh of some kind. I’d give it 2-3 good hits before it breaks. The oranges themselves would quickly break down under impact as well, and I would think after about 3 hits, you would have a disintegrating sack of a pulpy mash flinging juicy bits of orange peel and flesh everywhere. That stuff is hard to get off walls, man.

The actual impact of a deftly swung bag may or may not be an effective deterrent, even upon first impact, any more than being hit by a small child. It would depend on where you were hit, how hard or soft the oranges were, and how long the oranges stayed on the impact site after the hit. That’s how boxing gloves work: it’s not the actual strike, but the combination of the strike and surface area of the glove that can knock out a guy; that’s why the arms are more important in boxing than the fists. The arm carries the glove and keeps it on the same spot. I suppose that if you got enough inertia behind a bag of oranges, or anything for that matter, you could cause pain. But I’d think at that level, you’d definitely leave marks even if you were hit by a bag of dry sponges.

The storage period of such a weapon is also a problem. Unless you always have a fresh sack of oranges in your home, you would either have to rely on when you last bought a bag, and how much has also been consumed since you bought it. It’s not like a paddle or whip you can leave hanging up on the wall or in the closet. A sack of oranges will go fuzzy and rot pretty quickly. “I am so mad... you will be so sorry... stay right there, son! I gotta go to Safeway to get something to beat you with!” Maybe beating with oranges is something you have to plan for in advance.

I am so curious about this, that I might offer myself up as a guinea pig. I’d need someone who had good accuracy, and a few sacks of oranges, who was also willing to hit me with them with earnest force like someone trying to beat me. Then I’d wait to see if they left bruises. I am pretty hardy: I got beat up a LOT as a teen, and so I know how to deal with repeated bruises. Of course, then there’s the question, what if it leaves no bruises, but breaks a kidney or another vital organ? How will I explain that to my insurance company?

Hmmm... maybe I’ll never know. What do you think?
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