News of the Weird
by Chuck Shepherd
Annals of Justice
■ A 2015 decision of the Georgia Supreme Court has created a puzzle for drunk driver enforcement. In Georgia (and other states), blood alcohol tests are “voluntary” (to bypass the issue of whether drivers can be forced, or even pressured, to endure a test that ultimately helps to convict them), but the Georgia court has ruled, against custom, that a “consenting” driver might be “too” drunk to appreciate the consent—in which case, the test results would be inadmissible in court. Equally awkwardly, prosecutors would be forced to argue that the drunk driver—too drunk to handle a motor vehicle—was still sober enough to give knowledgeable consent. Atlanta’s WSB-TV reported in October that judges statewide are grappling with the issue.
Recurring Themes (Recent Instances of Familiar Weird Behaviors)
■ Funerals and burials, in the United States and elsewhere, are no longer always so staid. Most famously, one man was, per his instructions, lowered to the ground inside his beloved Cadillac; dressing corpses in fanciful outfits (such as the Green Lantern) is not unheard of. In October, after Mr. Jomar Aguayo Collazo, 23, was killed in a shootout in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the family outfitted his body in his favorite blue tracksuit and propped him up at a table in his mother’s tavern (“playing” dominoes and holding a drink and a condom)—as friends and relatives passed by to pay their respects.
■ The list of all-time extreme body modifiers would start with the late Dennis “Stalking Cat” Avner (who incrementally cut, chipped, tattooed, pierced and implanted his body to make himself a human feline) and the similarly obsessive Erik “Lizardman” Sprague, who at one time toured with the Jim Rose Circus. Newer to the scene is Britain’s Ted Richards, 57, working to become a human parrot. With 110 colorful tattoos, 50 piercings and a split tongue, he currently seeks a surgeon to turn his nose into a beak. Even without the beak, though, Richard says becoming parrotlike “is the best thing that has happened to me.” (London’s Daily Telegraph, publishing astonishing photos of Richards, asked, rhetorically, whether we’ve reached “peak plastic surgery.”)
■ In October, a 20-year-old man in Macomb Township, Michigan, became the most recent alleged drunk driver to reveal himself in the most awkward of ways: by accidentally swerving into the midst of a sheriff’s deputies’ roadside stop—of another alleged drunk driver. (Coincidentally, both arrestees are 20 and registered matching 0.17 blood-alcohol readings.)
■ College “Inclusiveness” to the Next Level: “Service” animals (mostly guide dogs) are ones that have been specially trained to provide help for people with disabilities, but untrained “comfort” animals are also privileged for those diagnosed with panic attacks or depression. In an October report on college students hoping to keep their pets in no-animal dorms, The New York Times noted that school officials have entertained student requests for the “comfort” of (besides dogs and cats) lizards, potbellied pigs, tarantulas, ferrets, guinea pigs and “sugar gliders” (nocturnal, flying, six-ounce Australian marsupials). Informal Justice Department guidelines rule out only animals that are aggressive or destructive or that trigger other students’ allergies.
■ Raised Right—or Snitch-in-Training? In September, Audrey McColm, 25, traffic-stopped in Randolph County, Indiana, for driving “erratic(ally),” became the latest parent ratted out by her child. When Mom denied having been drinking, her daughter, 7, blurted out, “Yes, you have, Mom.” McColm registered 0.237, had nearly hit another officer’s car head-on, and was so hammered that she “urged” a different officer to “shoot her in the head.”
■ A chapter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals undertook one of its favorite consciousness-raising tactics in August, demanding that Pennsylvania officials erect a roadside grave marker near Lancaster at the spot where a tractor-trailer hauling 80 pigs overturned, killing several of them. The “terrified animals” that suffered traumatic deaths should be memorialized by the community, PETA said. The pigs, of course, would have eventually found their way to a slaughterhouse, and it is possible that the ones euthanized as a result of the accident passed more peacefully than the “survivors.”
■ In October, The Washington Post and the New York Post separately reported recent episodes of government agencies keeping high-earning employees on the payroll for more than a year, with no job assignment, because the agencies were unable to adjudicate their misconduct cases. Almost 100 shelved Homeland Security employees turned up in a Washington Post Freedom of Information Act request, and one information technology analyst warehoused by the New York City employee pension fund said she had earned $1.3 million over 10 years doing absolutely no work for the city. “I watched movies,” said Niki Murphy. “I crocheted—right in front of (supervisors).”
■ Drivers who blindly follow their vehicle’s satellite navigation with disastrous results are almost No Longer Weird, but a truck driver’s mishap in Ashton, England, in October still seemed worthy of reporting—in that he was working for a company called Dachser Intelligent Logistics when his tractor-trailer got stuck in a narrow alley (directed there by the sat-nav, in violation of all common sense). (Bonus: It was not the first time sat-nav had misdirected a vehicle into the same alley; the town had even placed a formal traffic sign at the approach to the alley: “Do Not Follow Sat Nav Next Left.”)
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