Thursday, February 25, 2016
Heroic Failures :)
The Book of Heroic Failures, written by Stephen Pile in 1979, is a book written in celebration of human inadequacy in all its forms. Here are some excerpts. Words in bold are to be looked up in the dictionary.
THE WORST TOURIST
The least successful tourist on record is Mr Nicholas Scotti of San Francisco. In 1977 he flew from America to his native Italy to visit relatives.
En route the plane made a one-hour fuel stop at Kennedy Airport. Thinking that he had arrived, Mr Scotti got out and spent two days in New York believing he was in Rome.
When his nephews were not there to meet him, Mr Scotti assumed they had been delayed in the heavy Roman traffic mentioned in their letters. While tracking down their address, the great traveller could not help noticing that modernization had brushed aside most, if not all, of the ancient city’s landmarks.
He also noticed that many people spoke English with a distinct American accent. However, he just assumed that Americans got everywhere. Furthermore, he assumed it was for their benefit that so many street signs were written in English.
Mr Scotti spoke very little English himself and next asked a policeman (in Italian) the way to the bus station. As chance would have it, the policeman came from Naples and replied fluently in the same tongue.
After twelve hours travelling round on a bus, the driver handed him over to a second policeman. There followed a brief argument in which Mr Scotti expressed amazement at the Rome police force employing someone who did not speak his own language.
Scotti’s brilliance is seen in the fact that even when told he was in New York, he refused to believe it.
To get him on a plane back to San Francisco, he was raced to the airport in a police car with sirens screaming. “See,” said Scotti to his interpreter, “I know I’m in Italy. That’s how they drive.”
THE WORST BANK ROBBERS
In August 1975 three men were on their way in to rob the Royal Bank of Scotland at Rothesay, when they got stuck in the revolving doors. They had to be helped free by the staff and, after thanking everyone, sheepishly left the building.
A few minutes later they returned and announced their intention of robbing the bank, but none of the staff believed them. When, at first, they demanded £5,000, the head cashier laughed at them, convinced that it was a practical joke.
Considerably disheartened by this, the gang leader reduced his demand first to £500, then to £50 and ultimately to 50 pence. By this stage the cashier could barely control herself for laughter.
Then one of the men jumped over the counter and fell awkwardly on the floor, clutching at his ankle. The other two made their getaway, but got trapped in the revolving doors for a second time, desperately pushing the wrong way.
THE LEAST SUCCESSFUL MUGGING
In 1978 Sussex police launched a hunt for a “six-foot, dark-haired youth of about 20” who failed to mug a five-foot, 74-year-old grandmother.
The youth sprang upon Mrs Ethel West while she was walking through Chichester Cathedral cloisters. The result should have been a forgone conclusion. Surprisingly, however, when Mrs West grabbed the mugger’s wrist, he cried, “Oh God! Oh no! Stop!”
Encouraged by these pleas, she put him in an arm lock at which the mugger cried, “Oh no, oh Christ!” and ran away.
“If I hadn’t been carrying my shopping, I would really have put him on his back,” said Mrs West who took a course in judo when younger.
“Before my husband died I used to practise throwing him at Christmas,” she explained.
THE LEAST SUCCESSFUL ATTEMPT TO MEET A RELATIVE AT AN AIRPORT
In 1975 Mrs Josephine Williams and her family went to meet a long-lost brother at Heathrow Airport. They took home a complete stranger.
Greatly relaxed by in-flight drinking facilities, the traveller wandered into the airport lounge to be smothered by kisses of Mrs Williams and her sisters. “Gee, this is great,” he kept saying, all the while cuddling Mrs Williams in a manner which she later described as “not like a brother.”
His enthusiasm for British hospitality was modified, however, when Mr Williams shook his hand firmly and ushered him to a parked car.
The first suspected that something was amiss when their relative tried to jump out of the car while travelling at speed up the motorway.
When told that he was being taken to a family reunion in Coventry, he replied, “Take my money. Here’s my wallet. Take it and let me go.”
Slumped miserably in the front seat, he added, “This is the first time I have been to England and I am being kidnapped.”
“I thought from the beginning he wasn’t my brother,” Mrs Williams said later, “but my sisters wouldn’t listen. They said I was only twelve when he left for America and wouldn’t remember.”
THE WORST MOMENT FOR A CRIME
Choosing the right moment is vitally important in any crime. Mr David Goodall of Barnsley, for example, set off in January 1979 to do a bit of shoplifting. He had hardly entered Barnsley’s British Home Stores when he was simultaneously seized by eight pairs of hands. The shop was holding a convention of store detectives at the time.
THE LEAST PROFITABLE ROBBERY
Intending to steal cash from a supermarket in 1977, a Southampton thief employed a unique tactic to divert the till girl’s attention. His method was to collect a trolley full of goods, arrive at her till and put down £10 by way of payment. She would then take the money and open the till, upon which he would snatch the contents.
He arrived at the cash desk and put down the £10. She took it and opened the till; but there was only £4.37 in it. Undeterred, the Southampton thief snatched that and made his getaway, having lost £5.63 on the raid.
The till girl was considerably uncertain what to do for the best. She screamed briefly until calmed by her friend Betty.
Pile, Stephen (1979). Book of Heroic Failures: Official Handbook of the Not Terribly Good Club of Great Britain. Futura. ISBN 0-7088-1908-7.