A Word

Column: And it's goodbye from them by Jacqueline Alexander
First published in the Henley Standard newspaper

"Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh." These are the words of George Bernard Shaw and never has a truer word been spoken. I quote the great playwright in order to offer justification for the inevitable reaction to the subject of this, my last, article for Web Watch.

Over the last three years, hundreds of websites have featured in this column so selecting my favourite has not been easy. Shaw has featured in at least three but he is topped by a man who has been mentioned in at least five, although it could be argued that this particular website takes his name in vain.

The Darwin Awards (darwinawards.com), named in honour of Charles Darwin, commemorate those people who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it. Each verified account tells how people have, due to their inane actions, been deemed unworthy of the privilege of life. Each year, an award is given, usually posthumously, to the person deemed to have done everyone a favour by ceasing to contribute to the evolution of man.

Many of these stories seem to have an odd sense of justice about them - a fact best illustrated by a would-be armed robber of questionable intelligence. The man, from Washington, USA, decided it would be a good idea to hold up one of his local shops. His target was H&J Leather & Firearms, a Seattle-based gun shop. Apparently, the nature of business was not enough to put off this hapless individual, nor was the marked police car parked outside the shop. He simply walked round it.

The establishment was not short of customers who, quite clearly, were there to buy firearms with the exception of one, a uniformed police officer enjoying a pre-shift coffee with the owner of the shop.

Undeterred, the robber announced a hold-up and fired a few shots to warn of his intentions should he not leave without considerable gain.

Possibly perplexed but undeterred, the officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, covered by several customers who also drew their guns. The confused criminal was immediately removed from the gene pool.

Many similar stories of crazy criminal behaviour abound on the internet but most turn out to be urban legend. However, this one is verified as true with both eyewitness and police accounts available as proof.

Although most stories are checked out - all those that go on to win the coveted annual award have to be substantiated - it doesn't necessarily follow that the story has to be true to be amusing. When you read some of the stories awaiting "approved" status, you will yearn for them to get to the finishing line.

Khay Rahnajet, named as a would-be terrorist, is reported to have failed to pay enough postage on a letter bomb. It came back marked "return to sender." He opened the package and was blown away.

This, of course, may turn out to be wishful thinking on behalf of the storyteller.

It must be difficult for the judges of the annual award to elect a winner - the competition is fierce: the man who played Russian roulette with a semi-automatic pistol, the Jehovah's Witness who stood in the middle of a freeway "to test their faith", the couple who got a little too amorous at 80mph and the woman who wanted "a memorable photograph" of the Running Bulls stampede.

I am not sure what Darwin would make of his name being associated with these extremes of idiocy but we can only hope he would see the funny side. He would certainly appreciate a level of irony, after all, this is the man who said, "I love fools' experiments. I am always making them."

And that, quite appropriately, brings you to the end of Web Watch so it's goodbye from them and it's goodbye from me.

This was the last article for the Web Watch column as Jacqueline went off on her travels including Czech Republic, Italy and Gambia. You can read her Gambian 'love story' here.

Audio: Jacqueline Alexander presents Web Watch with Phil Kennedy on BBC Berkshire and BBC Oxford:

Copyright: Jacqueline Alexander 2012

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