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News Quirks 09.06.06 

Published September 6, 2006 at 4:00 p.m.

Curses, Foiled Again Maria Bergan, who is 23 and legally old enough to drink in Ohio, used a stolen driver's license to prove her age at a bar in Westlake. The waitress she presented it to, Kathryn Mooney, 22, recognized it as hers. She reported it stolen three weeks earlier. Bergan grew suspicious when Mooney left to call police and fled, but her companion stayed behind and told officers where Bergan lived.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs Following Welsh law that all signs have to be written in English and the local language, officials needed to translate the command "cyclists dismount" into Welsh for a road sign between Penarth and Cardiff. After the sign was posted, officials learned that the Welsh phrase, "Llid y bledren dymchwelyd," roughly translates as "bladder inflammation overturn." "The root of the problem," an official told the South Wales Echo newspaper, " was seeking an online translation, and that's where it went wrong."

* Hoping to stop tailgating, Washington transportation officials had road crews paint dots 80 feet apart on a 2-mile stretch of Interstate 5 in Thurston County and post signs telling drivers to stay at least two dots from the vehicle ahead. The distance was based on the traffic-safety principle of being at least two seconds behind another vehicle when going 60 mph. The day after the Two Dots to Safety program began, however, traffic was snarled by drivers who slowed down for heavy traffic but continued to leave two dots between vehicles, even though that much distance wasn't necessary at slower speeds.

Support Network Japanese officials arrested a 44-year-old Japanese man who made 37,760 silent calls to directory assistance so he could hear the "kind" voices of the female operators. "When I made a complaint call once, the operator dealt with it very kindly," the man told Hiroshima police, "so I wanted to hear these women's voices." The newspaper Mainichi Shimbun reported the calls, made between March and July this year, caused psychological distress to more than 100 operators at Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.

What's a Mother For? Police charged Janine C. Lewis, 36, with driving her 13-year-old son around Stoughton, Wis., to help him look for someone to rob. The boy gave her up after he pulled a gun on a man at a car wash, but the man recognized it was only a BB gun, knocked it from the boy's hand and held him for police. According to the police complaint, Lewis said she told her son that robbing people was something they could do together.

Gender Misidentification Indian eunuchs have started issuing their own photo-identity cards to prevent "fake" transsexuals from horning in on their begging operations. Agence France-Presse news agency reported that eunuchs regularly barge in uninvited as "auspicious" visitors to Indian weddings and to bless the births of children, and they leave only after collecting money to spare further embarrassment of their hosts. Lured by the moneymaking prospects, many men are dressing up as women and are involved in small-time crime and use more aggressive tactics to collect cash. The newcomers demand up to 2000 rupees for an occasion and refuse to be deterred by lesser amounts, said Sanju Masi, a eunuch operating in Ahmedabad in western Gujarat state.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do Sheriff's officials in Mahoning County, Ohio, cited Youngstown resident George Finnerty III, 58, for littering and backed up the charges with photos of cardboard boxes, broken furniture, tires and other trash piled around his house. For the past 11 years, Finnerty has been Youngstown's litter control coordinator.

No Laughing Matter Women who were exposed to brief entertainment by clowns were successful at in-vitro fertilization at almost twice the rate of women who had not been exposed to clowns, according to Israeli researchers led by fertility specialist Dr. Shevach Friedler. Friedler, who attributed the difference to greater stress reduction, is also a trained mime.

The Eyes Have It A picture of a pair of watching eyes may be sufficient to discourage thieves and freeloaders, according to researchers at Britain's University of Newcastle. Over a 10-week period, the researchers placed a sign on the door of the cupboard in the university's psychology department where an "honesty box" was kept for faculty members to pay for using tea, coffee and milk. Pictures of flowers alternated with pictures of eyes. The researchers reported that money collected on weeks when the eyes image was shown nearly tripled that during flower weeks.

Knickers Away British police warned women going out drinking to "wear nice pants" in case they fall down drunk in the street. A Suffolk police safety campaign magazine shows pictures of young women slumped on the ground next to messages urging, "If you've got it, don't flaunt it." The magazine explained, "If you fall over or pass out, remember, your skirt or dress may ride up. You could show off more than you intended - for all our sakes, please make sure you're wearing nice pants and that you've recently had a wax."

Dashed Hopes Adam Sutton, 19, a firefighter in Rome, Ga., chartered a plane for himself and his girlfriend, Erika Brussee, 18, then asked family members on the ground to hold up a sign that read, "Will you marry me?" Brussee barely saw the sign before the plane, which was flying slowly at low altitude, stalled and crashed on the tarmac. The crash knocked the pilot unconscious, and Sutton lost the ring he planned to give Brussee, but the couple wasn't seriously hurt. "I asked her, then we hit," Sutton said. "All she had time to say was, 'Oh, my God.'"

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Roland Sweet

Roland Sweet was the author of a syndicated column called "News Quirks," which appeared weekly in Seven Days.


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