Gary Brown: Spare the auto, not the animal

Gary Brown

“According to an April 25, 2007, Associated Press article, the director of the Feline Health Center at Cornell University, a prominent cat veterinarian, was killed near Marathon, N.Y., when he lost control of his motorcycle when a cat crossed the road.”

You cannot make this stuff up.

And, once again, Leland Gregory didn’t.

The words at the beginning of this column were culled from an abundance of actual occurences uncovered by Gregory — the author of such previous books as “Stupid American History” and “America’s Dumbest Criminals” — for his newest collection of oddities and idiocy, “Stupid on the Road: Idiots on Planes, Trains, Buses and Cars.”

As Gregory’s publisher, Andrews McMeel Publishing, notes, his book turns bon voyage into bad voyage.

“A man complained because no one warned him or his family that there would be fish in the sea,” writes the author, taking his material from a travel Web site listing official complaints lodged against tour operators in the United Kingdom.

“A tourist complained that the sand at a beach was not the color he had expected: It was not the yellow in the catalog and was simply too white.”

It is acceptable at this point, for readers to roll their eyes.

Stupid stuff happens

It is quite plain that stupidity is so prevelant that we cannot travel to avoid it. Gregory no doubt learned that long ago in his research, which includes scanning insurance claims.

“Insurance Files Part Three: ‘An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck vehicle, and vanished.’ ”

Gregory also looked at accodent reports, such as the following excuse given for speeding to an Anderson, Ill., police officer.

“I just spent a lot of money getting my brakes repaired and I didn’t want to wear them down.”

The author scanned news reports as well.

“According to an Aug. 5, 2003, article in the Toronto Star, a 29-year-old man caused a traffic jam after stopping his vehicle in the passing lane on the highway because he was ‘too nervous to drive in the rain.’ ”

Gregory repeated curious quotations, such as the one spoken by the attorney for the founder of Students Against Drinking and Driving at Calgary University in Canada — in response to his client’s second drunken driving offense.

“When he’s sober,” the lawyer reportedly said, apparently with legally straight face, “he’s very much against drinking and driving.”

And he gathered questionable headlines in newspapers about topices related to the road.

“AAA Says Record Gas Price Predictions May or May Not Come True,” said a headline Gregory attributed to the Kingsport (Tenn.) Times-News, on July 11, 2006.

As a journalist, all I can say is “Ouch!”

Getting their goat

We began with an animal, it seems appropriate to end with critters.

The story, the author writes, takes the excuse “My dog at my homework” to a new level. In August 1997, the IRS granted the Caron family of Sandown, N.H., an extension to file a quarterly tax return.

“The Caron family reported that they would have to reconstruct their entire income tax paperwork because, while they were on vacation, their pet pygmy goats had eaten all the documentation.”

It gets worse.

“In addition to the tax forms, the goats also ate toilet bowl cleaner, a telephone directory, and a lampshade.”

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