Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t dream of starting another blog series given how poorly some of the others have performed—most notably the Reality Round-Up, which many readers never warmed up to. But I’m impelled to do so now because every time I prowl the news sites or peruse printed publications for new ideas, I inevitably come across inspiring stories of fellow humans doing heroic things.
Granted, some of their exploits may not seem like heroic deeds—even in the eyes of the law—but they all serve to better humanity or to right some injustice in their own unique way, and for this I feel they deserve some recognition. Hopefully you will feel the same once you read this first installment of Heroic Humans!
Our first hero comes from the American Heartland of Milford, Iowa—a very small town known as the southern gateway to the Iowa Great Lakes. He is 27-year-old Robert McKevitt—a veteran of Kosovo and Afghanistan via the Army National Guard and formerly a forklift operator at Polaris Industries in Milford.
McKevitt was fired last October following an incident of “misconduct,” according to the official report. If you ask me, though, what he did not only cut through some bullshit we have all faced at one time or another, but also warranted congratulations, not termination. You be the judge.
On October 22nd of last year, McKevitt was working a shift at the plant and decided to visit the restroom. On his way there he spotted the vending machine, so he put in a dollar and attempted to purchase a Twix candy bar. Here is how he described what happened next:
“I don’t know why I decided I wanted a candy bar, but I did. So I put in a dollar and it spun like it was going to give out the candy bar, but it didn’t. It got hung up on the spiral thing that ejects the candy bar.”
Who among us hasn’t experienced this time and time again? And every time is more frustrating than the last, only McKevitt wasn’t going to take it any more.
“I tried shaking it by hand, but it didn’t do anything. Then I tried putting in another dollar and nothing happened,” McKevitt continued. “I could see the candy bar dangling and I was already having a rough day. My girlfriend was nine months’ pregnant and it was rough.”
And it was about to get rougher.
After spending several dollars on candy he never received—and shaking the vending machine furiously without producing the Twix—McKevitt employed a more powerful tool: his forklift!
Specific details depend on who’s describing the incident, but everyone seems to agree that McKevitt used his forklift to lift the vending machine several feet off the ground and then drop it—a procedure he repeated five or six times. He then moved the machine back into place and collected the two or three candy bars he managed to shake loose.
And that’s more-or-less what got him fired. A Polaris representative witnessed the incident, confronted McKevitt about taking candy bars he never saw him pay for, and reported him for misconduct.
“I was fired two days after my daughter … was born,” McKevitt said.
A short time later—and because of the added financial stress—McKevitt’s relationship with the mother of his child ended, he couldn’t make his rent and he was forced to move in with his brother. Polaris denied his request for unemployment, so McKevitt had to file an appeal with Iowa Workforce Development. Unfortunately, he never received the letter about his hearing and missed it, meaning his request for unemployment benefits was again denied.
“I had to take a job at Walmart making about half of what I was making at Polaris,” McKevitt said recently. “I’m making just under $9 an hour and before I was making about $16 an hour. This issue was blown way out of proportion.”
I couldn’t agree more, my friend. And I confess that using a forklift to knock loose a candy bar stuck in those annoying spirally things inside a vending machine appeals to me greatly. There were certainly times that I imagined putting my foot through the glass and letting everyone around me gorge for free… or perhaps shaking the machine so hard that it toppled over and spread free goodies all over the floor. Sadly, I never had the balls to actually do it, but McKevitt did.
Does he really deserve to be fired for it, though?
Not from where I’m sitting, Polaris!
It’s finally Friday and like millions of people around the country, I am anxiously waiting for what I hope will be a relaxing, flu-free weekend. Of course, there are still hours to go until quitting time—the perfect amount of time for another edition of the Reality Round-Up—so here are some dumb and disturbing things that have been happening in the good old United States recently.
23-year-old Teresa Hernandez appeared in court this week on charges of first-degree assault of a child. Apparently, she was home taking care of her boyfriend’s 3-year-old son and decided to punish him in some extreme and brutal ways.
When he got too close to her while she was ironing, Hernandez pressed the hot iron down on his hand and left it there for at least five seconds while he screamed in pain. She initially told police that he grabbed the iron by accident, but changed her story a short time later.
Hernandez also confessed to pushing the young boy down the stairs a few days after burning him with the iron. She was apparently bringing a laundry basket downstairs and pushed into the boy, who tumbled down 12 stairs and hit his head on the tile floor below. The boy was taken to Randall Children’s Hospital for surgery and, as of now, remains in fair condition.
I certainly hope this poor little guy recovers. And I hope they throw the proverbial book at this mean “witch with a capital B.” What a loser…
PORTSMOUTH, RHODE ISLAND
A few weeks ago, Portsmouth Middle School parents received a rather disturbing email informing them of even more disturbing behavior by some of their students. It seems that some kids were caught snorting Smarties, the sugary candy normally associated with Halloween and trick-or-treating.
According to school officials, snorting the fruity treats causes a sugar rush—likely the same kind of rush you might get from actually eating the candy. Unfortunately for this young “users,” snorting sugar won’t get you high and could instead do damage to nasal passages. What’s worse is that school officials even claimed this behavior could lead to cigarette smoking or drug use later, which makes sense since a buzz-seeking middle school student may be more willing to experiment with different substances.
I only hope they don’t graduate to something harder… like Fun Dip or Pixie Sticks!
A 14-year-old girl in the Chicago area was arrested on Tuesday morning and charged with murder. And what she did shocked the small Mundelein community where she lives.
On Monday night, the young girl reached her breaking point with her 11-year-old half-sister, who she felt was unappreciative for all the help she’d been given—her older sister often cooked dinner for her and performed other chores around the house. After deliberating for 10 or 15 minutes, the older sibling went down to the kitchen, grabbed a butcher knife and proceeded to stab her younger sister… at least 40 times!
After showering and rinsing off the blood, the young girl phoned the police and claimed an intruder had broken in and attacked her sister. Local schools were briefly placed on lockdown, but this soon ended once the young assailant confessed to her crime. And since her sister died a short time after being found, the young killer could now be tried as an adult and could spend a considerable portion of her life behind bars.
It’s sad that we live in a society where even young children resort to violence to solve problems that could easily be solved without it. School shootings get all the attention, but it’s obvious that the problem runs much deeper. And the true victims are the kids who should be learning reading, writing and arithmetic… not revenge.
It saddens me to report on this next story, but it does provide yet another example of young children taking extreme and violent measures. Only this time the child in question was an 8-year-old boy.
By all accounts, Julianni Plascencia was a happy and sensitive young boy. He served as the youngest usher at his church, loved to play football and often asked his parents to give money to homeless people on the street. Unfortunately, something changed last Saturday night… and it was something destined to change the lives of his loved ones forever.
While his mother was out buying groceries, Julianni told his older brother that he was going to hang himself. His brother thought he was joking and told him not to say such things or he would tell his mother. Julianni walked away and, for a while, everything seemed fine… at least until his brother realized how quiet the house became and went to see what was happening.
What happened next still shocks the hell out of me.
The older brother found Julianni in his parents’ bedroom and, sadly, he had done exactly what he said he would: he used a scarf to hang himself from the doorknob. Paramedics soon arrived on the scene and were able to get Julianni’s heart started on the way to UC Davis Medical Center, but he passed away the next morning.
Julianni’s father believes his son was only mimicking something he’d seen on television, but that certainly doesn’t make his suicide any easier to handle. And again, it seems as if our violent society has claimed yet another victim… and we all know that he won’t be the last.
It’s been a weird couple of weeks and, as you can see from these stories, a traumatic few weeks, too. Kind of makes you wonder what tomorrow will bring, doesn’t it?
Basically, kids are either stealing prescription medications from their parents or getting them from other kids—who I can only assume are stealing from their parents, as well. Once they have them, they boil down the candy, stir in the drugs, allow the candy to re-harden and then package it to look like any decadently-sweet treat you might find at a corner candy store.
In other words, teenagers can walk around and unassumingly ingest anything from Xanax to Valium and no one will be the wiser—at least not until the effects of the drugs are noticeable or someone dies from it.
Yes, this practice is extremely dangerous. And I would never come out in support of anything that might harm other human beings, but you have to admit these methods are pretty ingenious. Misguided and wrong, but impressive if only for the creativity involved.
When I was a teenager, drugs weren’t our “weapons of choice,” but alcohol certainly was. I confess to nothing, of course, but some of us occasionally stole liquor from our parents so we could “throw down” over the weekend. We would stash it in the woods or some other hiding place; recover it once we were free-and-clear of all authority figures; transport it to a house party or other such function—normally at the home of whichever friend’s parents happened to be out-of-town; and use it to enhance the good times… if you know what I mean.
And I am certain that you do.
The only problem with our teenage, booze-soaked rebellion was that it often drew attention from a common enemy: the police. And believe me… convincing a cop that you haven’t been drinking illegally is hard to do in a house full of empty vodka and tequila bottles.
Drunk, teenage jackasses falling all over themselves don’t help, either, but I digress.
In an effort to divert attention away from our “extracurricular” activities—and to avoid having to hide deep in the woods to drink—we did what many others were doing at the time: we hid the liquor in plain sight, only with a disguise.
And no, we didn’t just drink the mouthwash to catch a buzz. Give us some credit, will you?
What we did do, however, was buy some Scope from the drug store—which back then was within walking distance of my home; dump out the mouthwash; clean the bottle thoroughly; pour in our own alcohol mixture, which consisted only of clear liquors; add a little Crème de Menthe for color; shake and then drink to our hearts’ content.
Granted, you couldn’t just walk around taking slugs from a mouthwash bottle in public, but you could carry it with you and not worry about it being discovered by any frisky cops. And since the Crème de Menthe gave it a peppermint scent and flavor, you could easily explain why your breath smelled so fresh if questioned by party-busting officers later.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is this: teenagers will always find ways to obtain and use drugs and alcohol. My friends and I got creative with mouthwash over a quarter century ago, but today’s teens have evolved even further. The only problem is that the substances have evolved, too, and taking medications not prescribed to them—even if they come in the form of Dum Dum lollipops—is never a good idea.
Might I suggest a quick mouthwash run to the drug store instead?
Later today, millions of children will put on their costumes and venture out into their neighborhoods to trick-or-treat for Halloween, the spookiest of all holidays. Ghouls and goblins of all shapes and sizes will walk the streets like candy-craving zombies, anxious to stockpile sweets that will inevitably lead to the real-life horror of stomach aches and cavities. None of that matters, though, because everyone knows how wonderful this experience can be.
They also know how dangerous Halloween can be. When I was a kid, the urban legend that caused the most fear involved razor blades being hidden in apples. Fortunately, my friends and I never ate the fruit we were given and always shunned the people who chose to substitute it for Snickers bars and Sweet Tarts. We would normally heave the fruit into people’s backyards for them to discover later, always hoping they would “take the hint” and spring for real sweets the following year. I now understand why they did it—fruit is much healthier and causes less tooth decay, in most cases—but Halloween is supposed to involve junk-eating. It’s an important part of the tradition, for goodness sake!
Of course, more serious Halloween horror stories about kids being abducted, attacked or even killed always seem to garner headlines. Safety is important and there are tons of useful tips to be found online. Here are a few of my own to add to the collection.
Safety in numbers
The most obvious tip is to travel in groups rather than individually because it makes you less of a target. Thankfully, most people I know trick-or-treat with their parents or friends because face it, going by yourself is just sad.
Beyond safety, trick-or-treating with a group provides a number of other benefits. For one, you and your friends can mix-and-match your costumes and hit the same houses multiple times. This can quadruple your candy intake and ensure Halloween lasts well into November. Groups can also perform more elaborate tricks, especially on those people handing out the apples and oranges. Someone needs to teach them a lesson, after all. And if another group of costumed hooligans step to you—perhaps to try to steal the candy you’ve worked so hard to collect—then your posse can back you up. I would never endorse violence or any kind of Halloween rumble, but it never hurts to be prepared.
The right costume
When you select a costume to wear, there are certain precautions you should take to further guarantee your safety. Huge, plastic masks are fine—even though they cause excessive face and head sweating—but only if they allow for clear vision, especially peripherally. You never know who or what will be hiding in those dark corners or behind bushes. And if you can’t see threats coming, you stand little to no chance of avoiding them. Wearing a mask that allows for a clear line of sight—or that can be quickly removed at the first sign of danger—is always your best bet.
You should also make sure your costume is flame-resistant (or at least flame-retardant) and by all means, leave the capes at home. If someone does try to mess with you and you flee, having a long cape drifting behind you will make you much easier to catch, and potentially choke. It may also get snagged on a fence or tree branch, which could result in you choking yourself!
One of the most dangerous aspects of Halloween involves the candy, and not just because it will fatten you up or rot out your teeth. You never know when some lunatic will tamper with their treats or even try to poison revelers, so checking each individual piece you receive is always a good idea. Look for the obvious signs first, like damage to wrappers, small puncture marks (needle-sized marks especially) or evidence it has been opened and re-closed. Once everything is clear and you start eating, pay attention to the taste and immediately spit out anything with a weird or unusual flavor. You just never know whether it comes from a bad factory batch or some psycho who dipped each candy into drain cleaner or liquid laxative.
One more thing about candy: Have you ever gone trick-or-treating and come across a house where the residents are gone, but where a huge tub of candy was left outside for the children? Normally, there’s a sign that says something like “please take only two pieces” or “make sure you leave some for the other children.” My advice in these situations is simple: ignore the sign. Do you think people really expect children to exercise restraint? They may hope for it, but I guarantee they have a better chance of meeting an actual vampire than having kids follow the honor system in these instances. And remember this: if you don’t take it all, then someone else will. And we can’t have that, can we?
Props sometimes hurt
My final Halloween safety tip relates to costumes and can be very helpful in preventing danger. It is never a bad idea to carry a prop that could double as a weapon if the need arises. Of course, it should match your costume because honestly, a werewolf with a Samurai sword just wouldn’t fly. But if you decide to be Harry Potter, why not grab a stick, call it a wand and then poke anyone who tries to do you harm? Wizards like Gandalf from “Lord of the Rings” carry long wooden staffs, which can also do wonders in terms of self-defense. Whatever the case may be, a sturdy prop can add a lot to your costume, but it can also keep the demons at bay. Something to consider, I think.
So there you have it: some rather unconventional tips to keep your Halloween safe and enjoyable. There is a lot of darkness in this world and the freaks definitely come out, especially since this is the only holiday where it’s acceptable to hide your identity. Take the necessary precautions, however, and you need not worry… at least not until your next trip to the dentist!
Happy Halloween, everybody!
I ran across this story a few weeks ago, but thanks to the lovely and talented Kara at the blog “I just want to lay on a beach” for putting it back on my radar!
Like most of us, cattle farmers have been struggling during this down economy and have to find creative and cheaper ways to get things done. Given the record prices for corn feed, they are now turning to a different food source for our bovine friends: candy.
Since 2009, the price of corn feed has more than doubled. It now averages around $310 a ton. Fortunately, candy is far less expensive and can be purchased for roughly $160-240 a ton. I wouldn’t tell your kids about this, though.
Some of the candy being fed to these cows includes ice cream sprinkles, cookie pieces, gummy worms, chocolate bars and even hot chocolate mix. These foods are perfectly safe as long as they make up only a small percentage of the cows’ total nutrition. Aside from fattening the animals up and making cheeseburgers even more delicious, the candy also seems to increase milk production.
I guess this means you can dip your Oreo cookies into milk produced by cows that ate Oreos for dinner. How strange is that?
Earlier today, I had the distinct displeasure of yet another trip to the grocery store to stock up on much-needed food and other supplies. As you can likely tell, this isn’t a task I enjoy very much. Aside from the fact that groceries cost more and more each day, which results in my waiting until the absolute last minute to shop, there are a multitude of other issues and annoyances that prevent me from enjoying the experience.
Please forgive me if I end up sounding misanthropic or sexist because that is not my intention. It is, however, an unfortunate side effect when you post something like this. I apologize in advance if I offend any of you, but getting this off my chest will undoubtedly be very cathartic.
Living in the Matrix
My first encounter today was with two women, one of them a mother and the other presumably her daughter. I was standing there, quietly surveying the deliciously decadent candies, when mom came up, reached across me and grabbed some M&Ms. The whole time she was muttering either to herself or her daughter, “And these are the candies. We have a coupon for that. And now off to the meats.” No apology. No “excuse me”. Nothing.
I equate her behavior to someone from the computer-generated world of The Matrix. It’s almost as if she was programmed to simply go through her usual grocery shopping routine, all the while barking orders and making comments to her obedient daughter not far behind.
She was completely unaware that I was there. Normally, I appreciate being left alone, but this woman was one step away from knocking me down for a bag of candy. Some acknowledgment would have been nice.
A few aisles over, I came across one of those extreme coupon ladies, and this woman was organized. Draped across her cart was a huge book of plastic pages filled with coupons. Armed with her shopping list in one hand and a pen in the other, she thumbed through the book, furiously searching for savings and comparing coupons to the goods in stock. To me, she seemed like one of those coupon gurus who purchase a thousand bucks worth of stuff with only a handful of dollars.
Crafty, to say the least.
The only problem was that this coupon clipper was parked directly in the middle of the aisle, oblivious to the fact that other shoppers could not squeeze past her on either side.
I tried some obvious maneuvers, like pretending to check a shelf close enough where she could see me and be more inclined to move over a few inches.
She never blinked.
Thankfully, another shopper started towards her from the other end of the store and she snapped out of it. “Excuse me,” she said as she moved and went about her business.
At least she was polite enough to say “excuse me”.
Checking out is always a challenge when you have too many items for either the express line or the self checkout machines. I ended up behind a young family as they were completing the process. My cart was pretty full and I noticed the checkout guy glance over and sigh. I certainly didn’t envy him, but was fully prepared to lend a hand with bagging.
Behind me came a middle-aged woman with her teenage son, their cart just as full as my own. I smiled casually and went back to minding my own business. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught the woman comparing our grocery loads and then shooting me the stink eye as she made some comment to her son. Although I couldn’t hear her, I knew what she was saying.
“This jackass could let us go first. He has more items.”
Of course, I didn’t acknowledge her stink eye or even glance back in her direction—unless you count the sarcastic smile I shot her as I was leaving with my freshly bagged groceries.
Get Out Alive
The grocery store parking lot is another wonder of complete stupidity and frustration. Shoppers roll in and out of the store’s many entrances all day long, yet drivers still cruise past as if they’re late for work. Then there are the idiots who decide that out of all the available parking spots, yours is the one they want. They sit there with their turn signal on, blocking traffic and quietly cursing you for having the audacity to load your groceries into the car.
And don’t get me started on the people who decide ten feet is too far to walk to roll their cart to the bin. Instead, they leave it abandoned in an empty spot or worse, they roll it out of the way and pay no mind when it bangs into the side of your car.
Perhaps it’s unfair for me to judge or dislike people who behave this way. After all, I’m sure that I do things that annoy others, too. I’m certain I annoyed that woman in the checkout line, even though some of it was intentional on my part.
All I’m saying is this: When in public, please remember to be courteous to the people around you. I’ll try and do my part in the hope that future grocery store trips might be more pleasant for us all.