NewsQuirks 581

Curses, Foiled Again

Jimmy C. Halos, 40, was charged with stealing a 1977 pickup truck from an automotive repair shop in North Platte, Neb. According to the Lincoln County sheriff's deputy who found Halos sleeping in the truck, which had been taken to the shop to have its transmission fixed, the suspect managed to drive it just four miles before the transmission gave out.

Detectives recovered a stolen Buick Regal that was parked across the street from police headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., and arrested the man inside, who had stopped by the station to discuss a recent burglary. "It's a whole lot easier," police Sgt. David Smith told the Birmingham News, "when they bring the cars to you."

Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

After twice having to wait more than three hours at the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, Linda M. Dillon, 45, complained to the governor's office and sent Registrar Daniel Grabauskas some suggestions about how to make things better. Grabauskas responded by hiring Dillon to improve customer service at the Registry.

No. 1 Medium

ABC-TV began promoting its show "Norm" using special audio devices mounted above urinals in restrooms in New York and Los Angeles. When the motion-sensitive devices are triggered, the voice of the show's star, comedian Norm MacDonald, touts the sitcom and makes wisecracks such as "Hey, watch your shoes!"

The Swedish furniture chain Ikea launched a campaign to recruit copywriters and project managers using handwritten job advertisements on restroom walls in Malmo's trendy restaurants. "In the toilet, people are more relaxed and receptive to our message," Ikea spokesperson Jimmy Ostholm told the Kvallposten newspaper, noting the ads cost one-tenth the amount newspapers charge and produce better results. "After only four days, we have received 60 applications. That's four or five times more than we would get from a normal newspaper ad."

Second-Amendment Follies

Kim Barnes, 39, was entertaining Susan MacDonald, 38, at his home in Englewood, Colo., when he decided to demonstrate how teen-agers often accidentally shoot themselves. He brought out his 9-mm pistol and showed her how a bullet can remain in the chamber even after a clip has been detached, causing inexperienced teens to think the gun is unarmed and pull the trigger. When Barnes tried to eject the bullet from the chamber, the mechanism failed. As he tried to engage the safety, the gun fired a hollow-point round through his leg.

While planning an out-of-town trip, Robert Korzick told his wife Suzanne that he didn't like the idea of leaving her home alone in Port Richey, Fla., so he decided to teach her how to fire his .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun. Robert told the St. Petersburg Times he cleared the chamber, then Suzanne pulled the trigger several times to get the feel of the gun. After he replaced the magazine, the couple talked awhile, then she asked to hold the gun again. Robert said he forgot the gun was loaded when he handed it to Suzanne. As she held it, the gun fired, sending a bullet through Robert's neck. "It was sheer stupidity on my part," he told the newspaper. "It almost cost me my life."

Suspect As Victim

Accused of robbing a bank in Hempfield, Pa., Blaine Gamble, 60, claimed "cultural insanity" as a defense, explaining that 44 years of oppression by whites had driven him insane and "ruptured his psychic core." During jury selection, U.S. District Judge William L. Standish informed Gamble that if he intended using an insanity defense he would have to admit he robbed the bank. Gamble balked and denied having robbed the bank. A jury convicted him, and he was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Suicide Hotline

Authorities in San Bruno, Calif., spent more than six hours trying to talk a 32-year-old man out of jumping from an interstate highway overpass. They finally lured him away from the edge by ordering a hot pizza. California Highway Patrol Officer Paul McCarthy said that when the man stepped away from the guard rail to reach for a slice, police took him into custody.

Depressed by marital problems, Hulya Kirklar stood atop a cliff near the Turkish resort town of Antalya and threatened to jump to her death. After three hours in the 111-degree heat, however, she fainted and collapsed near the edge of the precipice. The Hurriyet newspaper reported that when she came to, she asked, "Aren't I dead?"

Image Makeover

The California Prune Board has approved changing the name of prunes to dried plums. "We're trying to escape negative images and stereotypes," said Peggy Castaldi, the board's director of marketing, noting the name change is aimed at attracting women ages 35 to 50.

Independence-Day Blues

Karen McDonald, 36, was charged with stabbing her boyfriend to death on the Fourth of July in Bucks County, Pa. She told police she stabbed Scott Reed, 43, because he wouldn't stop talking.

Keith Setmour, 34, of Bay Shore, N.Y., was killed at a neighborhood Fourth of July party when he peered into a fireworks launching tube. As he did, an aerial bomb exploded, tearing off part of his head.

Seeing Is Believing

When Kendal Dullen moved to Trafalgar, Ind., he said he was 15 years old and preparing to enroll in Indian Creek High School in the fall. After watching him play basketball games, Indian Creek athletic officials became excited at the prospect of the 6-foot, 170-pound freshman joining the school team. When he explained his mother had to remain in Florida awhile, several families let him stay with them, including one that refused to press charges after he ran their Chevrolet Blazer into a ditch. After four weeks, town marshal Gary Hall began to suspect Dullen might be a runaway and decided to check out the boy's story. He discovered Dullen was actually Gerald T. Piper, a 20-year-old fugitive from Indianapolis.

Solutions Bring Problems

After virtually disappearing between the 1950s and the 1980s, mayflies have returned as pests along the shores of Lake Erie. Officials, who blamed the decline of the flying insects on pollution levels that reduced oxygen levels in the lake, said their return, while annoying, signals a healthier lake.

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