NewsQuirks 671

Curses, Foiled Again

When a clerk tried to detain a shoplifting suspect at a store in Irondequoit, N.Y., the woman escaped and fled in a minivan. Police had little trouble identifying the 19-year-old suspect. She left behind her purse and her 7-month-old baby.

A 39-year-old man in the Swedish city of Malmo pried open the elevator doors of a building on his way to break into a basement studio apartment but became trapped once inside because the elevator was designed to lock itself if the doors were opened by force. Desperate to get out, the man ripped out electric cables, smashed windows in the doors and tried to start a fire to set off the alarm and summon the fire department. His efforts failed, however, and he spent 11 hours trapped in the elevator until maintenance workers discovered him and notified police.

Get the Message?

AT&T Universal Card Services responded to a credit card application from Dallas Hill Jr. of Telford, Tenn., by sending him 2,986 letters of rejection. "I've never seen that many letters from one company to one individual at one time," said Bob Purgason, Telford's postmaster.

Off-Road Adventure

State police in Grand Junction, Colo., said that Lon Ungerman, 48, caused more than $60,000 in damages after he ran into three houses and through two fences while trying to back out of his driveway. Ungerman told Trooper Ron Greasley that the sequence of events began when he hit the accelerator instead of the brake and crashed through the wall of his garage. He backed up and hit a fence, then kept backing up across the street and hit a neighbor's house. He continued backing up, crashed through another fence, hit a utility box and smashed into another house. When the homeowner confronted Ungerman and told him he needed to drive forward, Ungerman said he thought he had been going forward. He then shifted into drive, retraced his route and parked in his driveway. He was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

Odd Endings

Investigators determined that Joseph Stoyer, 51, of Seaford, N.Y., died while drinking his morning coffee. According to homicide Det. Lt. Frank Guidice, Stoyer fell, breaking his ceramic coffee mug. He landed on one of the shards and bled to death.

Twin brothers, aged 71, were killed in identical bicycle accidents, each one hit by a truck hours apart along the same road in Raahe, Finland, about a mile from each other. "Although the road is a busy one, accidents don't occur every day," police officer Marja-Leena Huhtala told Reuters news agency.

Australian authorities in Camperdown, western Victoria, reported that a 25-year-old woman reached over the side of a boat to retrieve a duck she had shot and fell into the lake, still holding her gun. When her 29-year-old companion grabbed her clothes to rescue her, the gun accidentally fired, killing the man.

Ellen Cox, 83, pulled up to a bank drive-through teller in Independence, Mo., but dropped something. She opened the door to reach the object, then as she leaned back into her seat, her car sped up in reverse, went through a guardrail and crashed on top of another car. Cox was thrown from her car, which then rolled over her, killing her.

Colonel Cinders

Thirty Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant managers attending a motivational conference in Port Stephens, Australia, were injured during a voluntary fire-walking ritual aimed at building confidence. Twenty of the managers were burned badly enough to be taken to the hospital. The February incident recalled a similar event last fall, when a dozen Burger King marketing workers suffered burns while walking over white-hot coals in Key Largo, Fla.

Opportunity Knocks

Emotional immaturity and a growing desire to avoid responsibility are fueling a Japanese cottage industry of professional breaker-uppers. The "wakaresaseya" are specialists in destroying relationships, doing whatever it takes -- entrapment, betrayal or worse -- to get the job done. Tokyo's Daiko Research Office estimates that the field comprises a dozen firms, mainly in Tokyo and Osaka, which earn tens of millions of dollars a year handling hundreds of cases. Complex jobs run as high as $150,000. Wakaresaseya attribute their booming business to Japan's education system and family structure, weaker morality in modern times and new Internet and cell-phone technologies, which make it easier to get involved with strangers but no less difficult to sever ties. "While most people in foreign countries wouldn't think of hiring someone to arrange a break-up, young Japanese these days think they can pay away their problems," Yasuyuki Takase, president of Daiko Research, told the Los Angeles Times. "Relationships are treated like something they're buying from a convenience store."

Confident that it's only a matter of time until science finds a way to clone new hair from the DNA of preserved samples, San Francisco entrepreneur Mike Blaylock started Hairogenics Inc. to store the hair of people who fear they may go bald. Hairogenics will store the samples in a climate-controlled vault 14 feet below a Portland, Ore., hair salon. Blaylock said the cost is $49.95 for a kit to collect the hair and $10 a year to store it.

After hundreds of people were killed by violence between Hindus and Muslims in India's Gujarat state, police arrested 81 bookmakers for taking bets on the likelihood of religious riots breaking out in neighboring Rajasthan state. Superintendent of Police Anand Shrivastav accused two of the bookies of creating panic by spreading rumors of impending riots in Jaipur, Rajasthan's capital, to drum up business.

Oops!

When tennis players Anne Kremer and Jennifer Hopkins complained after their opening round match at the Bausch & Lomb Championships featured an unusually high 29 double faults, officials measured the court and found the service lines on both sides had been placed 3 feet too close to the net. "I screwed up," said Bert Evatt, head of court maintenance at Florida's Amelia Island Plantation, explaining that he reversed the distances between the net to the service line and the service line to the baseline. The lines were adjusted before the next match, but officials ruled the results of Kremer's and Hopkins's match would stand.

Mensa Reject of the Week Joseph Bonk, 61, of Croydon, Pa., who suffers from emphysema, was administering oxygen to himself when he lit a cigarette. The highly flammable oxygen ignited, sending Bonk to the hospital with second-degree burns to his face. He also lost some hair because of the flames.

Compiled by Roland Sweet from the nation's press. Send clippings, citing source and date, to POB 8130, Alexandria VA 22306.

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