Dispatches > Quick Takes
Krieg Barrie/WORLD

Quick Takes

Oddball occurrences

Issue: "Shattered dreams," April 5, 2008

Diamond flight

A London-area man had his marriage proposal plans flutter away when he lost hold of a helium balloon that contained his would-be fiancée's diamond engagement ring and could only watch as his $12,000 purchase vanished into thin air. After trying to chase the balloon in his car for two hours, Lefkos Hajji confessed to his girlfriend. "I thought I would give [her] a pin so I could literally pop the question," he said. "But I had to tell her the story-she went absolutely mad."

Seat's taken

How far will a community activist go to purge the homeless out of an upscale shopping district? Not far. And that's the point. Esther Viti, who arranges for donated park benches in La Jolla, Calif., emailed other activists in early March seeking volunteers for a plan to prevent homeless people from sleeping on area benches. Her plan: If her troop of would-be seat-savers could occupy all the benches-in three-hour shifts-the transients would have no option but to seek a sleeping spot elsewhere. A week later, Viti still didn't have a volunteer.

Home almost alone

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A 54-year-old Turkish man plans to retreat to the modern caveman aesthetic for his impending retirement. Speaking to a Turkish news agency, Mehmet Tilki explained why he returned to the cave where he was born and why he intends to live out the rest of his natural life there after working 27 years in the city of Adana. "I freed four female partridges just the other day. I also have 10 domesticated partridges in my cave. They are like my children. Waking up to their sound is like a dream," he said. But it's not just the birds. Tilki has electricity and satellite television wired into his cave dwelling.

Wrong place, right time

A quick-thinking 15-year-old Seaside, Calif., girl may have saved lives, but she will face discipline after school officials say she failed to follow procedure when she became ill and left school early. Marina High School student Amanda Rouse caught a ride with a school bus carrying elementary school students after the driver promised she would run her home after making all her stops. But during the March 12 trip, the driver slid out of her seat during a turn and knocked her head as the bus full of children veered out of control. As the bus began striking parked cars, Rouse bolted for the driver's seat and hit the brakes, stopping the bus safely. Her truancy uncovered by the accident, Rouse was given Saturday detention. She says she understands the need for punishment: "I know I did something wrong."

Missing persons

The next time a certain Melbourne couple decides to take a spur-of-the-moment trip, they'll be sure to let their daughter in on the plans before they leave. William and Heather Ostell returned from an impromptu four-day getaway March 10 to find their daughter about to hold a press conference with police imploring the public to be on the lookout for the "missing" couple. The daughter became worried when she found the front door unlocked, her parents missing, and the dog all alone. "I'll blame my husband for [the front door]. We're pretty security conscious," Heather Ostell, 58, said. "We just wanted to get out on the road and to get out of here."

Tibet unlimited

Free Tibet? Not at this price. Chinese tourists hoping to catch a train from Beijing to Lhasa, Tibet, will be able to ride in style provided they have roughly $5,000 to fork over. A spokesman for Qinghai-Tibet Railway Corporation boasted that passage on the train to the Himalayas will rival even the most extravagant hotels: "The interior of the train will be decorated according to the standards of a five-star hotel, making it the most luxurious train in the world." Each train will have nearly 50 100-square-foot quarters complete with a double bed, a private bathroom, and living room.

Hard time

If one New York City lawsuit goes to trial, at least we'll find out how exactly a school security guard managed to fit handcuffs on a pair of 4-year-olds in late 2006. Parents of two Bronx preschoolers filed a lawsuit recently against the city alleging that the school had their children handcuffed when the two boys didn't lie down for naptime. Once he separated them from their classmates and restrained them, parents allege the security guard threatened the 4-year-olds. In an interview with the New York Post, one of the boys recalled, "He said, 'You know what happens when you don't go to sleep in there? When you go to jail, you're not going to have no fun, no TV, no toys.'"

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