In September, following complaints of diners, the health department in Springfield, Mo., notified restaurants that Debby Rose's "assistance monkey" could not be permitted to dine with her (in a high chair), even though Rose said she suffers from a disabling social phobia that she can accommodate only if "Richard" (a bonnet macaque monkey) is with her. Monkeys are generally permitted under the Americans with Disabilities Act if they perform certain tasks, as capuchin monkeys have been trained to fetch groceries from shelves for wheelchair-using patrons. However, animals that provide only emotional support fall into a gray area, according to a U.S. Justice Department spokesperson quoted by the Springfield News-Leader.
-- Fire crews arriving at a burning house on 99th Street in Portland, Ore., on July 26 must have suspected that something was up because nervous residents of the home were ferrying buckets of water to the fire themselves, having already implored neighbors not to call firefighters. Police later found marijuana plants growing in the basement and took three people into custody.
-- In an August segment on WWLP-TV (Springfield, Mass.), police chief Anthony Scott of Holyoke, Mass., described the extent of a recent domestic fight in which Ms. Yesenia Ortiz retaliated against alleged aggressor Victor Cruz: "She grabbed another knife and stabbed him in the winky...." (Cruz was arrested and taken to a hospital for treatment of his winky.)
-- Artists Gone Too Far: (1) An August Los Angeles exhibition by photographer Jill Greenberg featured 27 2- and 3-year-old kids crying, scenes that Greenberg provoked by offering each one a lollipop and then snatching it away. She admitted that the photos were "upsetting" but denied critics' accusations of child abuse. (2) In August, police in Mumbai, India, decided to get a professional opinion from the local JJ School of Art as to whether a downtown video and photographic exhibition was obscene and should be closed down. (The school's opinion of the show, "Tits, Clits and Elephant Dick," has not been reported.)
-- Performance artist Kira O'Reilly's August show in Penzance, England, "Inthewrongplaceness," consisted of a naked woman cradling a dead pig for four hours at a time. O'Reilly explained, on her Web site: "The work left me with an undercurrent of pigginess (and) unexpected fantasies of mergence and interspecies metamorphoses began to flicker into my consciousness." People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called the performance merely "sick."
-- One Hindu family sued another in Springfield, Mass., in July over an arranged marriage after the bride-to-be presented herself to the groom's family for the first time and was judged too ugly. Vijai V. Pandey and his wife claimed they were "extremely shocked" at the woman's "protruded bad teeth" and bad complexion, among other deficiencies. A spokesman for an American Hindu organization tried to downplay skepticism over arranged marriages, telling the Springfield Republican newspaper that he had seen "very handsome men who are happy with somewhat homely women."
-- Linda Mason filed a lawsuit in Chicago in July against a Borders bookstore, citing a defective toilet in the ladies' room that allegedly triggered near-catastrophic medical injuries. Because the broken seat "shifted to the side" when she sat down, she not only lost her balance and fell to the floor but somehow suffered "multiple spine injuries," requiring "multiple neurosurgical" operations, resulting in permanent disfigurement.
Pennsylvania inmate Donta Thomas was re-arrested in August and charged with operating a drug ring on the outside, carried out via the Fayette County prison's pay phones. According to police, Thomas routinely gave explicit instructions to his accomplices over the phone despite an automated message on each call that the conversation was being recorded. According to a spokesman for the state attorney general, Thomas, speaking, would pause so as not to have to talk over the recording, but then afterward resume planning his deals.
(1) Adam Sutton's elaborate plan to propose to Erika Brussee in July on a small chartered plane near Rome, Ga., didn't work out, as the engine stalled and the plane crashed (causing minor injuries) near their friends on the ground who were holding up signs with the actual proposal question for Brussee. (2) Mark Papkey's elaborate plan to propose to Holly Barnes in June on a hot air balloon near Boston didn't work out, as the balloon drifted into wilderness, fuel ran out, and they and the pilot were forced to spend the night in the woods before being rescued. (Both Brussee and Barnes said yes.) (And in Wichita, Kan., in September, Kandi Blakney went to the courthouse for her wedding, but when a clerk pulled up her marriage license, two outstanding arrest warrants also came up, and she was jailed, in her wedding dress.)
Executive chef George Llorens, 60, was arrested in Bridgeport, Conn., in July, accused of punching a colleague in the face because the appetizers she made were cold. And police in Decatur, Ala., arrested four people in August after intermittent, daylong fighting (that sent three of them to the hospital) that begin when one flicked a cigarette butt near another's property. And Jeffrey Cullen, 58, was arrested in August for firing several gunshots at Kingman, Ariz., firefighters (but missing) when they told him that they weren't permitted to rescue his cat from a tree.
While stories of dogs stepping on rifles' triggers and accidentally shooting their owners have occurred so often as to be No Longer Weird, the dog that accidentally kicks the gearshift of an idling vehicle is rarer. Nonetheless, in July in Republic, Pa., and Ogden, Utah, dogs sent trucks off on wild spins after bumping gearshifts. The Pennsylvania dog hit a pole, a fence and a house and ruptured a gas line; the Utah "driver" (a police K-9) hit a woman, seriously injuring her. (And near Elliott Lake, Ontario, in July, a bear climbed into Marty Descoteaux's idling boat and bumped the throttle, as Descoteaux bailed out. The boat spun around and hit a rock, knocking the bear back into the water.)
In Jhalabordi village in India in August, a pigeon fell into a well, and five villagers went in, in succession, to rescue first the pigeon, and then the succeeding Samaritans, but all five died. And in Surkhondaryo province in Uzbekistan in August, a father and son were digging an overflow pit for an outdoor toilet when the walls collapsed, and five neighbors in succession were lowered into the pit to attempt a rescue, but all seven people wound up dead.
Eighty such themes have occurred so frequently that they have been "retired from circulation" since News of the Weird began publishing in 1988, and many of them involve the ineptitude of criminals:
Burglars leave footprints in the snow or mud, or they suffer a leakage of loot from their heist, thus leaving trails often leading right up to perps' doorsteps. With videocams so widely used, more and more criminals are chronicling their crimes as they go, eventually making prosecutors' work easy. Even so, some robbers haven't mastered video camera technology, and when they intend to disable a surveillance camera, they smash only the lens, leaving the recording unit intact. Cop wannabes, some with uniforms, badges and flashing lights on their dashboards, get thrills by stopping and scolding drivers, until they mistakenly stop a real (off-duty) cop. All these used to be weird, but nowadays are just too common.
(Visit Chuck Shepherd daily at http://NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com or www.NewsoftheWeird.com. Send your Weird News to WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)