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September 10, 1998: The Year in Review

Q*bert attacks Charles Hotel

CAMBRIDGE — Guests and employees were evacuated from the Charles Hotel yesterday after an unexpected Q*bert attack, the first in the Boston area since 1985. While the building appeared to escape major structural damage, much of the hotel’s facade was changed to a different color. qbert.jpg (43949 bytes)

Hotel manager Bill Kaiser expressed relief that the attack resulted in no injury or loss of life. But he also relayed his frustration that the building’s architects, Boston firm Parker & Parker, had not foreseen the danger of such an assault when the building was designed.

"It’s one of the four basic things that architects are supposed to consider," said an exasperated Kaiser. "Zoning laws, drainage paths, ductwork and Q*bert attacks. I mean, the way this building is designed, it’s a friggin’ Q*bert beacon."

Wildlife experts are unsurprised by the incident, saying that the occurrence of such an attack was only a matter of time.

"Q*bert is basically a creature of instinct," says Malcolm Foster, noted naturalist and narrator of the wildlife film When Q*bert Attacks. "He acts with a single, inborn objective: to score as many points as possible by changing the color of the cubes on a pyramid. In his natural habitat he is kept in check by a host of ‘nasty’ characters who try to stop him. Here in Cambridge, however, I’m afraid he’s free to do as he pleases."

Authorities turned for help to the Stoneham Zoo, where Coily, one of the nation’s last remaining bouncing buck-toothed purple snakes, has been in captivity since 1987. Snake trainer Michael Kravitz has been keeping Coily’s hunting instincts strong in preparation for just this eventuality.

"He’s been staying in shape by hunting other bouncing orange objects, like basketballs and orange pogo ponies," says Kravitz approvingly. "One thing’s for sure, he’s still the snake with the perilous pounce."

Indeed, five minutes after letting Coily loose on the building, the situation was defused. The visibly agitated Q*bert attempted to jump onto a flying disc but instead plummeted to the street below. "@!#%!," he said.

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