Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Looking at India," Dec. 9, 2006

Fired on ice

City officials in Boise, Idaho, weren't amused by a late-night fast-food run by temporary city employees. The pair, who worked at a public ice skating rink, heisted a pair of Zambonis and plowed through city streets and into a Burger King drive-thru for a meal. "They were fired immediately," said Parks Department Director Jim Hall.

Card-carrying mayor

Think Florida elections are messy? Consider the legal battle between a pair of mayoral candidates whose March 2004 election in Edgewood, N.M., was finally resolved Nov. 21. Originally, the results showed Bob Stearley had won by a single vote over Howard Calkins. But after a prolonged court battle, in which Calkins showed that one of Stearley's relatives had voted illegally, the election became a tie. Under state law the candidates, along with reporters, state police, and spectators, piled into a judge's office for a game of high-card draw to determine who would become the city's next mayor. After the deck of cards had been spread on a table, Stearley drew a 7 of diamonds while Calkins pulled a 10 of hearts from the deck. The judge swore Calkins into office a short time later.

Santa search

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'Twas the fortnight before Christmas and a placement agency in Berlin reports a major shortage of Santa Clauses. Hiring agencies scoured the city for Germans willing to don the white beard and listen to children's wishes. The director of Berlin's Heinzelmaennchen agency said he only had one-third of the 300 Santa Clauses needed to meet demand from nearly 5,000 families who order 20-minute visits from the holiday icon. "We prefer chubby men, of course, ideally with a real beard," the director told the Reuters news service, "but we're not picky and take what we get."

Class clown

Proof young children don't need cell phones? Police in an Austin, Texas, suburb spent hours tracking down a 911 prank caller who called the emergency service 49 times and hung up, usually after a high-pitched giggle. Triangulating from cell towers-and picking up clues like background chatter-police honed in on the culprit: a 7-year-old elementary-school student making prank calls during class.

People for the ethical treatment of actors

No animals were harmed in the live nativity scene at Anchorage's First Free Methodist Church primarily because no animals were used. No one bothered to tell that to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The animal-rights organization sent a scolding letter to the church for subjecting animals "to cruel treatment and danger" during the church's live manger scene. But the "animals" in question were actually members of the congregation dressed in animal costumes. "We have some puppet camel things we put out," Rev. Jason Armstrong said. "We have a cow hood thing that a person will wear that actually just looks spooky."

Give peace a chance

A southwestern Colorado homeowners association threatened a resident with fines reaching $175 a week if she didn't take down a Christmas wreath designed to look like a peace sign. Bob Kearns, president of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association in Pagosa Springs, said one neighbor even claimed it was a satanic symbol. Kearns asked the association's architectural control committee to ban the wreath. When the committee refused, Kearns fired all five members. The homeowner, Lisa Jensen, faced a $25 dollar a day fine-until the association last week backed down under public pressure.

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