By Camille C. Spencer, Times Staff Writer
On April 1, Otok Ben-Hvar climbed inside a 1940s-era phone booth with wheels and walked half a mile to the outdoor patio of a produce market. Otok, white-haired and jovial, was equipped with everything he’d need to live inside the red, white and blue booth until his 72nd birthday on April 29.
A college buddy fashioned a makeshift air-conditioning unit held together with electrical tape and cardboard.
A nearby table holds a computer Otok uses to record his daily food intake and log his excursions from the booth (mostly five-minute bathroom breaks).
A stream of supporters provide Otok with moral support and rides to places like KFC, where they helped him lodge his phone booth into the doorway for a meal.
Behind the Market on Main, Otok has begun his final stunt: He is seeking a Guinness world record for longest time spent in a phone booth.
The idea is a two-pronged effort — partly for coursework at Pasco-Hernando Community College, and partly to draw attention to his efforts to have America’s First National Tree planted on the White House lawn.
Accomplishing the feat of living as a homeless man for 30 days isn’t the most glamorous thing Otok has done.
There was the time he drove a lawn mower 2,801 miles from Maine to California. Or the time he crashed his plane during the Great Atlantic Air Race. Or the time he got married in an ambulance.
But this time is different. If the silver maple tree gets planted at the White House, Otok’s legacy will reach far beyond the span of his adventurous life.
“Every American can identify with that tree,” he says. “That’s why it belongs there.”
Why not just tunnel under the grounds with a shovel at night and plant the tree from underneath?