Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Issue: "Terrorism: Unmasked men," Oct. 16, 2004

Hourly 'husband'

Falling marriage rates may be a severe social problem in Scandinavia, but for Petteri Ikonen of Helsinki, Finland, they are also a business opportunity. The Reuters news service reports that for the past year Mr. Ikonen has operated a booming "rent-a-husband" business. He charges single women $24.60 for the first hour and $12.30 for each hour after that to do everything from change light bulbs to hang pictures. He says he does not sell sex, but "lonely women" have bought many husbandly services: "I've given driving lessons, I've sung birthday serenades, all sorts of things."

To have & to hold

Single Japanese ladies are also finding that it's not good for woman to be alone. Linen maker Kameo Corp. has sold about 1,000 "Boyfriend's Arm Pillows" - a pillow with a stuffed arm that curls around its user. Radio DJ Junko Suzuki says the $80 pillow, which comes with a shirt-sleeve pillow cover, makes her feel secure: "I like to sleep holding hands, and this pillow makes me feel relaxed because I can hold the arm and feel something warm at my side."

Lost & found

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In Mount Pleasant, Mich., one man's trash was quite a bit of treasure. On Sept. 29, trash collector Andrew Pritt looked inside a metal box that had been thrown in a trash receptacle - and found $22,000. Mr. Pritt took the money to police, who located its owner from paperwork in the box. Mr. Pritt says the find was unusual only because of its size and value: "When I worked in Detroit, I found wallets and purses. Down there, it was an everyday thing."

War crime

Tom Isaac of Aspen, Colo., had a rude and noisy guest in his house on Sept. 20, but Mr. Isaac is just grateful to be alive still. The guest was a 500-pound black bear that broke dishes and searched for food in Mr. Isaac's kitchen for two hours while Mr. Isaac, who is paralyzed, was in his bedroom 10-15 feet away. "I had four pounds of chocolate from a ski trip," said Mr. Isaac. "He ate it all. It's war."

Payment due

If PKP, Poland's state railway, were an American company, it would no doubt face a lawsuit. Instead, it is collecting damages after one of its trains hit and left paralyzed 19-year-old Pawel Banaszek. The Reuters news service reports that the railway charged Mr. Banaszek $288 for delays caused by the August 2003 accident, and Mr. Banaszek has been paying the bill in monthly installments from his disability pension. "We are the guardians of public property, not a charitable institution," said PKP spokesman Krzytof Lancucki, "and we have an obligation to seek compensation in the name of the taxpayers."

Whale of a time

San Clemente, Calif., surfer Spyros Vamvas caught more than a wave on Sept. 29. Witnesses say a whale surfaced underneath the 60-year-old as he was surfing, lifting him and his surfboard above the water before setting him back down. "All of a sudden I just felt, wow, this huge noise and bump and it lifted my board up," said Mr. Vamvas. "I'm looking down, and there's just swirling water and I see barnacles." Lifeguard Bill Humphreys, one of several on duty, said the whale swam away after setting Mr. Vamvas down: "It looked like the whale was obviously spooked." But Mr. Vamvas said the whale lifted him gently, and his only injury was a pinched finger: "I never changed position on my board."

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