December 5, 2003
What a year 2003 was. Here’s my roundup of the notable, the barely notable, and the nearly unnoticed of the first six months of the year:
January, 2003 – In Volgograd, Russia, a small group of veterans who defended the town during World War II, petitioned the government to have the town’s name changed back to the name the town held from 1925 to 1953: Stalingrad. Not surprisingly Russian President Vladimir Putin, who holds the honor of not having killed nearly as many people as Stalin did, nixed the idea. Also, near the town of Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Bigfoot nearly became Roadkill when driver Linda Boydson had to swerve around what she described as a "very, very skinny, 9 foot tall, hairy man" standing in the road. Fortunately her quick reflexes prevented the untimely death of the creature which was probably holding a sign that said, "Will appear in fuzzy photographs and home movies for food".
February, 2003 – February is Super Bowl month, and Wine Council President John Gillespie suggested that this year football-watchers combine fine vintages with their bean dip-filled helmets, mountains of guacamole, and bags of salty chips. Among other suggestions: Pinot Grigio goes best with potato chips, while a strong Chardonnay is best for keeping you warm when you’re standing in the cold, cold bleachers cheering on your favorite team with nothing on but a pair of jeans and a lot of greasepaint.
March, 2003 – As a sign of how badly the economy was doing, Atlanta-based ad man John Michaels admitted to sneaking into executive bathrooms around the United States and including a stack of his business cards next to rolls of toilet paper. The cards include his company’s name and slogan: "We’ve got you covered." Michaels said the scheme helped him flush out many new clients. Meanwhile, in London, England, civil servant Matthew Thompson, who sued his employer over the dress code, won his case and is not required to wear a necktie. His employer, the Department for Work and Pensions, said it would appeal the decision, but they’re afraid to fire him because it would be too embarassing having a former employee stand in the unemployment line…without a necktie. Of course Mr. Thompson could always move to Oceania, where there’s reportedly a law against wearing neckties, but he probably wouldn’t feel any more comfortable in a sarong.
April, 2003 – Who wants to be a millionaire? Following his appearance on the British game show, contestant Charles Ingram was prosecuted for cheating after producers realized that his accomplice, Tecwen Whittock, sitting in the audience, would signal Ingram with coughs to let him know what the correct answer was. Following the conviction both Ingram and Whittock asked for an appeal, and also paid the fines and court costs with oversized novelty checks.
May, 2003 – In Sweden, an ostrich that had been running loose for six months was finally captured and killed, raising the question: How the heck does an ostrich survive for six months in Sweden? Also notable in May 2003, 2000 tons of stagnant rum were illegally dumped at a farm near Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. Although environmental officials called the dumping a "significant mess", they did add that they might never have found it had it not been for the fact that the farm’s livestock had been behaving strangely, with many cows holding spontaneous musical performances. Also in May, near London, England, a new church wasn’t unveiled…it was inflated. The inflatable church, approximately 46 feet high, 46 feet long, and a little over 26 feet wide, can be rented for weddings, engagement ceremonies, and even christenings. There is no word yet on whether church doctrine will be updated to include the "seven deadly pins."
June, 2003 – Two men in Athens, Greece were arrested after stealing an ATM from a hospital. As an explanation for their crime, the men said they’d been planning to install the ATM in their apartment so they wouldn’t have to go very far when they needed money. Also in June, Bigfoot was reportedly spotted in China’s Shennongjia Nature Reserve, and witnesses say he may have even left a urine sample as a result of his seeing a car coming right for him. There’s no word on whether the creature uttered its strange, guttural cry, which sounds like, "Hey, have you ever been to Multnomah Falls?"