(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published Dec. 23, 2001.)
We continue to see evidence of an alarming decline in the quality of our nation's criminals.
Consider the man who attempted to rob a mini-mart in the town of Vernon, Conn., as reported in a Journal Inquirer story sent in by alert reader Dan Thompson. The robber elected to wear a disguise, which was a good idea, since he was a regular customer of the store. The problem was the particular disguise he picked.
Yes. According to police, the man walked into the store with his face lathered in shaving cream, apparently believing that this made him unrecognizable. Of course the only place where that disguise would work is Metropolis, the city where Superman lives. The citizens there are so stupid that, in 50 years, they have not figured out that Clark Kent is actually Superman wearing eyeglasses. They would be totally baffled by shaving cream.
BRAIN TEASER: Suppose that, one day in Metropolis, Clark Kent loses his glasses. What can he do to prevent the citizens from realizing that he is Superman?
ANSWER: He can announce: "I'm wearing contact lenses!"
But getting back to the attempted robbery in Vernon: Despite the disguise, the store owners instantly recognized the shaving-cream bandit, who ran away and was later captured by the police. The story does not say whether he tried to make himself invisible by putting his hands over his eyes, but we would not be surprised.
Another example of a criminal not being the sharpest quill on the porcupine was reported in an Associated Press story from Jackson, Miss., sent in by alert reader Bill Goggin. The story concerns a man who was arrested for robbing a restaurant and two banks. See if you can guess what clever detective technique the police used to figure out who he was. Do you think they found his fingerprints? Or do you think maybe they analyzed the banks' security videotape? Wrong! The police figured out who he was because, while he was waiting for a bank teller's line to shorten so he could rob her, he filled out a credit application.
Our point is that the nation's criminals are becoming so incompetent that pretty soon they will need some kind of federal subsidy to stay in business. But this does not mean that we citizens should not be vigilant. For an excellent example of citizen vigilance, we turn to an amazing story from the Oklahoma City, Okla., Oklahoman (motto: "Located in Oklahoma").
This story, written by Ryan Mcneill and sent in by alert legal attorney Jim Webb, describes a crime spree by a man who robbed three businesses by threatening cashiers with an ax. The third business was a Wal-Mart, and when the man entered the store, he was spotted by a Wal-Mart employee. We all wonder how we would respond if we faced such a situation - a man walking into our store, carrying an ax - and we just hope that we would show the presence of mind of this employee, who, without regard for personal safety, walked up to this man and ....
.... and ....
.... and put a sticker on the ax. This was to show that the man had the ax when he entered the store. If not for this display of quick thinking, there could have been a major misunderstanding during the robbery, as we see by this hypothetical scenario:
ROBBER (brandishing the ax): Hand over the money!
CASHIER: Wait a minute! Did you steal that ax here?
ROBBER: No! I had it when I came in!
CASHIER: Oh, really? Then where is your sticker?
ROBBER: Dang! (He leaves, empty-handed.)
We conclude our National Crime Report with the following police-blotter item from the July 3 issue of the Tomahawk, Wis., Tomahawk Leader, sent in by alert reader Sylvia Linton, which we swear we are not making up:
"An elderly Merrill woman stated that a bear on a bicycle had vandalized her bird feeder Friday. She suspected that the bear, described as big, had fled from the circus because an ordinary bear could not ride a bicycle so well."
So if you own a bird feeder, BE ON THE LOOKOUT for a bicycle-riding bear described as "big."
Of course, all bets are off if it gets hold of shaving cream.
(c) 2010, Dave Barry
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