Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Random News Stories

It amazes me how many stories I hear on the radio news that don't make it to television news. It's such a shame, as the stories that get missed out on television are often the ones that I think are the best. Okay, so we need updates on what the government/economy/USA is doing, as it affects our daily lives. But what about the alligator loose on the streets of a small town in Germany??? Or the arm found on the motorway here in Britain??? Or the riot in Northern Ireland that was stopped because a policeman played ice-cream van music over his police car tannoy??? These were the stories that stopped me in my tracks recently.

So I thought I'd highlight them here in my blog so that you, dear readers (all four of you), would have a chance to read them if you had been unlucky enough to have missed them previously!

There I was, happily pottering around my house, doing whatever it was I was doing, when, coming back into the room where my radio was playing, I heard the newscaster saying ".....and the police managed to capture the alligator, which was especially impressive, considering the fact that they had received no official training on how to deal with an alligator on the loose." (or words to that effect). WHAT! An alligator! On the loose!!! What was this about? (I have to admit that my mind was simultaneously working-out exactly what an official training course on such an eventually would entail - Risk Assessment = DEATH for starters, that's for sure!).

Looking up this story  via my trusty, and now SPEEDY Internet (since the engineers visit last Saturday revealed and rectified the problem of my former glitchy connection speed - yippee! Surfing at speed!!! Possibilities of my heaving a) a heart attack, or b) no hair left to pull out, through the sheer damn frustration of slow, slow, SLOW surfing, disappear over the horizon, thank goodness! Risk Assessment of using the Internet = greatly reduced odds of death! Phew!), I discovered that police in the small town of Gross-Rohrheim apparently fell about laughing when they got the first 'phonecall from a member of the public informing them that there was an alligator loose in the street. A couple more 'phonecalls from concerned citizens was enough to convince them that there really was an alligator on the loose! It transpired that the alligator in question had escaped from a small travelling circus that was booked to perform at the local school. Read the full story here.

So it was a story that brought a smile to my face when I heard the tail end of it on the radio (N.B. regular readers will have paused at this point in the story to wonder how I've managed to get this far in the post WITHOUT MAKING ANY BAD PUNS!? Well, there it was, just slipped in there quietly. Did you miss it? Here it is again ".......tail end of it" - story about an alligator? geddit? Anyway, thought I'd just point out how subtle I can be, when I want to. Back to story...). I mean, how many times do you get to hear a story about an alligator in the news that isn't one where some pour soul gets mauled, or where the alligator is owned by a zoo who has to give it up as lack of funding/animal rights issues, or some such reason, where the alligator story doesn't have a happy ending?

Here was an alligator story with a happy ending, and where the policemen involved got to go home to their nearest and dearest and, when asked how their day went, had the opportunity to reply "Actually darling, today at work, I caught a dangerous, rampaging alligator!" Okay, looking at the photographs, it was maybe quite a small  alligator, only able to rampage the distance of say, between the policemen's leg's, BUT IT WAS DEFINITELY AN ALLIGATOR! AND IT WAS DEFINITELY RAMPAGING!

This is a story that gives and gives though. I smiled again at the realisation that the reports state that the policeman all fell about laughing when they got the first 'phonecall. This was in Germany, which means that these were German policeman. Germany is not a country famed for it's wit, or indeed, overly dry sense of humour. But these policemen thought that a member of the public was playing a practical joke on them and, absolutely contrary to stereotype, these German policemen initially decided to IGNORE THE CALL!!! This proves to me that Darwin's Theory of Evolution not only exists, but is hard at work on all of us (or, at least in a small town with a long name, in Germany). There is hope for us all yet!

The third smile (yes, there's more!) was when I realised that not one of the online articles I had read had taken this golden opportunity to take the obvious alligator joke* and work it into the story. Yup, remembering that joke made me smile! 

The "dismembered arm on the motorway" story began with me hearing a traffic report (Sally Traffic - Radio 2, btw.) that a lane on the motorway had been closed, but reasons as to why it had been closed were not clear. I may be wrong, but I think this later turned out to be the same motorway where sightings of an apparently severed arm had been reported to the police, who spent ages looking for it, before hearing from a local Council worker (who had heard the story about the police searching for it on the radio news) who told them that he was part of a road maintenance crew who had picked the arm up earlier on, not realising the police had been looking for it in response to calls from motorists reporting it. When this story was reported again later on the radio news, it had been upgraded from potentially dreadful to "happy ending" status(transpired that the "severed arm" was a plastic joke one!), PLUS - when the newsreader linked to the sports reporter, he asked if the arm had been found ON THE HARD SHOULDER! Yeah! - a radio news pun! Excellent! (Even if they missed the one's about "armed and dangerous", the police being"given a hand" by Council maintenance crew, or "given the finger" even, or someone trying to "palm" it off. So many puns, so little time (was it wearing a wristwatch, I wonder?). And the daddy of them all -AFTER ALL, IT WAS ONLY ARMLESSBoom Boom! The full story is here.

Finally, a story that had the most serious start, and the most laughable outcome (literally), then back to unhappy ending. Again, I heard this whilst listening to the radio, and an interesting thing happened. The story developed over a few hours from being a "surprise and a smile at how effective a silly idea was" to "baaad policeman - inappropriate action), which was, in my opinion, a real shame.

The news story was that there had been some kind of small incident somewhere in Belfast. The incident had quickly developed into a full-on riot. The police had been bombarded with missiles thrown by youths. From what I gathered, the police understood why the youths were rioting, and were trying to reason with them. the youths weren't interested in listening, and the violence had escalated, until the police were, as I understood it, forced to consider using serious force against the rioters. Serious stuff. Very serious.

Enter the PC with the gall to have some initiative, and what's more, the brass neck to use it!
This policeman had somehow rigged-up the tannoy in his police car to play ice-cream van music! Genius! According to the initial reports I heard on the radio, the rioting mob had, to a man, fallen silent on hearing the come-get-your-ice-creams-kiddies music, and then had all started laughing helplessly! Again I say, Genius! The mob of would-be rioters had pretty much lost their momentum, after all, how can you be rioting, hear something funny which makes you laugh, then go back to rioting again? In a very short time, they had all dispersed, no serious injuries, no excessive violence used. Excellent end to the story!

But, the story carried on, as stories tend to do (particularly mine, I hear all four of you cry! Bugger off - it's my blog and I'll take as long as I want! - I retort!), and this story turned out not to have such a happy ending.

Senior officers got wind of what had happened and, unfortunately, had decided that this one amazing policeman who had managed to diffuse a serious, and increasingly violent, incident by using his sense of humour, was acting inappropriately. What??? How??? Thankfully, one or two other officers have supported him and managed to have their voices heard, but I feel so sorry for Belfast police officer PC?, who played what I consider to have been an absolute masterstroke of psychological warfare, one that had no downsides, and where everyone walked away, if not happy, at least not rioting. How can this guy get the blame, instead of accolade, for bringing a bad situation to a good end? This is an example of what worries me about the world we live in. In my opinion, this story should be held up as an example of how a sense of humour can do wonders, even in situations where it may not, at first, seem appropriate. Humour is a tool that is hugely underused and underestimated in it's powers for good. We should all take note of this story, and see how we can bring more humour into our daily lives - especially when it's inappropriate!

*Get me an alligator sandwich - and make it SNAPPY!

1 comment:

Alistair said...

How about the crazy ones that don't even make it to the radio?

"Something went wrong", states Air Crash Investigator

"Loss of the engine on today's airplanes is not as serious as it was in the past", says Air Traffic Controller

...and speaking of airlines, what about this beauty?

The German air controllers at Frankfurt Airport are renowned as a short-tempered lot. They, it is alleged, not only expect one to know one's gate parking location, but how to get there without any assistance from them. So it was with some amusement that we (a Pan Am 747) listened to the following exchange between Frankfurt ground control and a British Airways 747, call sign Speedbird 206.
Speedbird 206: "Frankfurt, Speedbird 206 clear of active runway."
Ground: "Speedbird 206. Taxi to gate Alpha One-Seven." The BA 747 pulled onto the main taxiway and slowed to a stop.
Ground: "Speedbird, do you not know where you are going?"
Speedbird 206: "Stand by, Ground, I'm looking up our gate location now."
Ground (with quite arrogant impatience): "Speedbird 206, have you not been to Frankfurt before?"
Speedbird 206 (coolly): "Yes, twice in 1944, but it was dark,... and I didn't want to land."