Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "California's total recall," Aug. 2, 2003

Life in the fast lane

A woman trying to keep a sofa in her F-150 pickup truck dry during a July 20 rainstorm wound up causing a 24-car pileup. She wanted to wait out the shower under an Atlanta overpass, reported CNN. So the driver swerved to reach the shoulder of Interstate 20. As she did so, she cut off a number of other cars, two of which collided. The chain reaction caused eight separate accidents and shut down I-20's westbound lanes. Eleven people were injured. The woman did at least remain at the scene, and DeKalb County police charged her with improper lane change.

Garbage collectors?

Two armed robbers successfully robbed a gas station in Melbourne, Australia, on July 17, but the loot probably was not what they expected-two bags of garbage. An employee was taking out the trash just before midnight in a suburban shopping center. The crooks approached him and brandished a sawed-off shotgun, demanding he hand over the bags. He told them they were just trash, but they grabbed the bags and sped off in a van.

Barking like a dog to collar a suspect

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Hamilton County (Tenn.) Sheriff's Deputy Henry Ritter's bark is worse than his bite-and it was fierce enough last month to collar a fleeing suspect. After Mr. Ritter and fellow Deputy Richard Gough pulled over John Nicholas Hood, the driver ran out of the car and into the woods. The deputies chased Mr. Hood, who had found a place to hide, and called out to him, saying they would send their police dog after him. Then Mr. Ritter began barking. According to the officers, the suspect stood up and said, "I'm here. Call off the dog." Quipped Judge Bob Moon, who last week heard Mr. Hood's case: "I suppose as long as the officers have had their shots and don't bite, I'll allow them to continue that technique."

Unanimous consent

A popular proposal in the North Carolina legislature passed by only one vote on July 19-but only one vote counted. Speaking on the House floor, freshman Republican Rep. Michael Gorman proposed marriage to his girlfriend, Debbie Pons, who is an aide to another GOP legislator and was seated in the gallery. She nodded yes as the couple received a bipartisan round of applause. "I knew that she was something special and I was in love with her," Mr. Gorman said. "The lightning bolt struck."

Shot in the dark

Three teenagers trying to burglarize a Delaware house last week were interrupted by gunfire-their own. One of the boys accidentally shot himself in the groin, the Wilmington News Journal reported. He apparently used the revolver to bang on the door and it went off in his hand. Police found shooter Jonathan Rodriguez, 17, and two accomplices at a local emergency room.

Coffee clutch

Ever wonder what the crew of a stopped train that blocks traffic is doing? A CSX Corp. employee in June was buying coffee. The train he was working made an undisclosed stop in Kingston, N.Y., on June 9, tying up traffic. Kingston Fire Chief Richard Salzman, stuck at one of the crossings, decided to walk to a nearby donut shop, where he spotted a CSX employee carrying a tray of coffee cups to the train. CSX apologized and promised to discipline the employee, but the Federal Railroad Administration last week refused to discipline CSX.

E-chauvinism

Ever vigilant to protect its language from Yankee imperialism, the French government last week announced an internal ban on the term e-mail. The Culture Ministry said government ministries, documents, publications, and websites would use the term courriel-a fusion of the French words courrier electronique (electronic mail). Marie-Christine Levet, president of the French Internet service provider Club Internet, said her group would not use the new term: "E-mail has sunk in to our values."

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