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Dispatches Quick Takes

Quick Takes

(Garden: Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images)

Free park pass

Claiming to be intimidated by foreigners, a 71-year-old Japanese park employee confessed he had admitted more than 160,000 people into a park in Tokyo without charging entrance fees. The trouble began for the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden employee in 2014 when a foreign visitor shouted at him for not speaking English well enough. Park administrators discovered the problem in January of this year, prompting the employee to tender his resignation and offer half of his retirement savings as compensation.




Cash or check, please

The Australian Red Cross has a message for generous but unhelpful Aussies: Keep your high heels to yourself. The aid agency issued a plea for Australians to stop donating frivolous and unsolicited items like high heels, handbags, and chainsaws to disaster relief organizations. According to the Red Cross report, odd donations often end up either in landfills or packed away in shipping containers for months at a time, racking up storage fees. A better way to help? Send money.


Virginia Mayo/AP

(Virginia Mayo/AP)

Protecting entitlements

The Belgian Federal Parliament has found something upon which members can agree: free beer. According to a local report on Jan. 20, the European nation’s lawmakers rejected a proposal that would have scrapped a decades-old perk that provides free alcoholic beverages to MPs while Parliament is in session. The proposal came from the legislative body’s ethics committee, which had recommended turning off the taps because of rowdy representatives. “Some MPs tend to become quite unpleasant if they have been drinking,” committee chair Danny Pieters said.


Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Biker’s regret

A migrant worker in China hoping to make it home before Chinese New Year on Jan. 28 got everything right except the directions. According to Chinese media, the young man, too poor to afford a train ticket, allotted himself time to pedal a bicycle all the way from Rizhao on the country’s eastern coast to his family’s home in Qiqihar in the North. But instead of pedaling north, the man rode 300 miles south over 30 days before finally discovering his error. After hearing his story, locals in China’s central Anhui province pitched in for train fare back home.


Sean Dempsey/Press Association via AP

(Sean Dempsey/Press Association via AP)

Parking for pagans

An Englishman who styles himself as the reincarnation of King Arthur has filed a lawsuit arguing that the $19 parking fee at Stonehenge violates his religious freedom. Calling the parking fees “pay-to-pray,” John Rothwell—now legally named King Arthur Pendragon—claimed in court filings in Salisbury that his neo-Druid religion requires him to pray at the ancient stone ruins and that the charge to park his Kawasaki motorcycle impinges on his religious rights. On Jan. 9, the court agreed to grant him a hearing.


Indiana State Police

(Indiana State Police)

Lost marbles

One wrong move and a trucker motoring down Interstate 465 in Indiana lost his marbles. The Jan. 21 crash near Indianapolis caused authorities to shut down part of the interstate highway for the day as road crews worked to clean up the truck’s spilled cargo—more than 38,000 pounds of marbles strewn about the shoulder and median because of the crash.




Anything for love

Arguably the number one cat lady of Charleston, S.C., just made a horrible discovery: She’s allergic to cats. Ashley Brooks opened the Pounce Cat Cafe on Nov. 25 offering a place for cat lovers to come and lounge with 20 roaming kittens while sipping wine or beer. In late December, Brooks confirmed that her lifetime of congestion wasn’t simply coincidental with her lifetime proximity to cats—she was allergic to the animals. Rather than get out of the cat business, Brooks has found a therapy that suits her. Every week she gets allergy shots that contain cat allergens to help her immune system. “They are injecting me with cat so hopefully I won’t be allergic anymore,” Brooks told the Charleston Post and Courier.


David Criggeru/The Bristol Herald-Courier via A

(David Criggeru/The Bristol Herald-Courier via A)

Keep the change

A penny for his thoughts? No, Nick Stafford of Virginia has 300,000. Stafford delivered 300,000 pennies in wheelbarrows on Jan. 11 to a Department of Motor Vehicles office all because the government officials there annoyed him. The beef started when he tried calling the DMV to ask about paying the sales tax on his son’s new Corvette and was routed instead to a call center. After obtaining the Lebanon DMV direct line through a records request, Stafford then filed a lawsuit against the state to obtain direct numbers to other DMVs around the state. “If they were going to inconvenience me, then I was going to inconvenience them,” he told the Bristol Herald Courier. A judge tossed the man’s lawsuit after the state provided the numbers, but Stafford felt he hadn’t caused enough mischief. In January, he spent $440 paying 11 people to unwrap rolls of coins so he could settle his $3,000 sales tax bill at the DMV in pennies.