Roy Exum: I Love ‘The Darwins’

Tuesday, December 3, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I will be the first to agree it is particularly un-Christian to laugh at another human being’s misfortune. Just as importantly, it does not behoove any of us who aspire to be gentlemen to poke fun of the dead, but for some years I have found too much glee to ignore “The Darwin Awards.” A very real and active group, this organization creates a list every year of others – all posthumously, mind you – who “salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who accidentally remove themselves from the world’s gene pool in a spectacular manner!” The awards are named for Charles Darwin, (1809-1889) who is regarded as “The Father of Evolution.” His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is accepted by some, and considered a foundational concept in science.

If you think you may be a relative of former Darwin winners, you are urged to avoid things like open flames, wild animals, men who yell at their friends to “Watch this!” and all manners of taunts like, “I dare you!”

For instance, this April in South Africa, a rhino poacher ventured into the sprawling Kruger National Park where it is believed 80 percent of the world’s highly-endangered rhinoceros live among their wildlife friends. The poacher’s goal is to shoot the rhino with heavy tranquilizers, remove the prominent horn from the animal with a chain saw, and then sell it to be reduced to powder and sell as an oriental aphrodisiac. The maimed rhino usually dies an agonizing death and there is a worldwide outcry over the poachers. This particular poacher attracted the attention of a Belgian sheepdog, one of many the park has brought in to combat this very thing. The alert park rangers organized a quick pursuit but the dog’s barking also alerted some others who live in the park.

By the time the rangers found the poacher a herd of elephants had not only trampled the poacher to death, but a pride of lions was just finishing a fresh breakfast when the rangers arrived. The poacher could not be identified but he will be mentioned among the year’s Darwin winners. Are you kidding me -- Trampled by elephants, eaten by lions …. that’ll get you on the list.

* * *

On the 24th of May, two dandies from Texas, ages 32 and 23, approached the Black Bayou drawbridge just south of Lake Charles, Louisiana, as the road was being closed to allow a boat to pass. With bells sounding loudly, the bridge was opening wide so that the boat could navigate through when one of the Texas boys leaped from the passenger side of a Chevrolet Cruze. The man’s first mistake was to wrestle the well-lit barrier high enough for the car to slip beneath. His second mistake was to scream as he jumped back in the car, “Shoot the gap! … Shoot the gap!”

According to a Darwin Awards spokesman, “You cannot live long if the road's IQ is higher than your own. In this IQ test, our Double Darwin winners failed; indeed they set a new low. Because these Texas Men--unlike the Blues Brothers--lacked "Cop Tires. Cop Engine. Cop Suspension, and a Mission From God." A witness told police he observed a passenger emerge and push up the arm of the safety gate, then get back in while the driver backed up a bit and accelerated hard over the draw-bridge edge. Over the bridge and through the waves, our “Double Darwin Winners” paved new ground, and demonstrated a new "dead end" leading off the path of evolution.”

* * *

On March 8 in New Jersey, a man from Wanaquer died in a vehicle fire after he drove around barricade cones and onto live power wires in Franklin Lakes. A good son, Anthony G. was en-route to his father's house to shovel the driveway.

“After the second nor'easter storm in a week, hundreds of thousands were left without power. Utility crews worked overtime to deal with downed trees and electric lines. Traffic snarls and frustrated motorists were everywhere. Anthony did not want to lose time to a detour! According to police, our winner simply navigated around bright orange traffic cones warning motorists of a hazardous downed wire on Route 208.

“Responding to calls, officers arrived at 9 a.m. to find the vehicle fully engulfed in flames. A live power line was sputtering in the roadway near the vehicle. The fire totally gutted the car, and the driver was pronounced dead at the scene. Ironically this Darwin Award winner was employed as a New York City electrician.”

* * *

“In Gaza this may have been an act of Allah … (30 January 2018, Gaza) A sexagenarian was examining his personal weapon in his home when he inadvertently discharged it into his face! Twenty-one days after accidentally shooting himself, Abu Hamam, 62, succumbed to the self-inflicted head-bang and died clutching a Darwin Award. But, who is Abu Hamam?

“Abu was known to the world as Imad al-Alami, a founding member of Hamas, a militant group that has been the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip since 2007. Mr Alami served as Hamas' main envoy to Iran, a military and financial backer, during several wars with Israel. Although declared a specially designated global terrorist by the United States, in recent years Abu Hamam was a key negotiator in Hamas ceasefire talks with Israel, and in the 2011 release of a captured Israeli soldier.

"Hamas was Abu Hamam and Abu Hamam was Hamas," said Hamas Politburo Chief Haniyeh. One would assume that a senior member of Hamas knows how to handle a gun--yet Abu's incautious "personal weapons inspection" was unexpectedly daft. This Darwin Award's for you, Mr. Alami.”

* * *

From The Darwin Award files: "He who cannot put his thoughts on ice should not enter into the heat of dispute." -Friedrich Nietzsche

“On February 14 (Valentine’s Day)  in Berlin, a 19-year-old and his soon-to-be-ex were walking along the beautiful Havel River, quarreling. Unable to win his conversational point, the frustrated man suddenly shoved the woman into the icy river, jumping in to push her under again and again!

“But she could swim. He could not...

“She swam safely to land and quickly recovered from hypothermia. He sank and lost consciousness in the 2°C waters, forever forgetting the quarrel, and was pulled out by water police and transported to Charité Virchow Clinic in Berlin. The attacker fell into a carceral coma, and an arrest warrant was issued against him for "attempted homicide for low motives" (in German, "Versuchten Heimtückemordes aus niederen Beweggründen.")

“The crime was committed on December 19th, and the perpetrator died on February 14th--an ironic date indeed--from irreversible brain damage.

“Usually no Darwin Award is granted when an innocent bystander is injured. In this case we make a rare exception, because the woman fully recovered (and is perforce better off without this madman) while the diabolical and drowned deed-doer was Darwinian-dumb.”

* * *

“This from Mayaysia -- (28 January 2018, Selangor Malaysia) Zaim Kosnan spotted a twelve-foot reticulated python dozing on the side of the road. "That sizeable snake is worth money!" The 35-year-old prepared for this windfall with gloves and a sickle.

“Sweet success! Swiftly was the first round won, and triumphantly Zaim held the reptile's head high as he transported it home by motorbike. Picture that crazy scene.

“Swinging in the air, the displeased captive made a counter-move and wrapped its body round and round its captor, constricting in self-defense. Zaim swerved off the road and the results of Round Two became apparent to passers-by the next morning. They killed the 3.5 meter snake to free the man's body, and a post-mortem confirmed his death by strangulation.

“Zaim Khalis was described as a quiet person who kept to himself.”

* * *

URBAN LEGEND NO. 2

This story was submitted to the Darwin Awards but could not be verified:

Accident Report

This one needs an introduction, so you won't be lost at the beginning. This man was in an accident at work, so he filled out an insurance claim. The insurance company contacted him and asked for more information. This was his response:

"I am writing in response to your request for additional information, for block number 3 of the accident reporting form. I put 'poor planning' as the cause of my accident. You said in your letter that I should explain more fully and I trust the following detail will be sufficient. I am an amateur radio operator and on the day of the accident, I was working alone on the top section of my new 80-foot tower. When I had completed my work, I discovered that I had, over the course of several trips up the tower, brought up about 300 pounds of tools and spare hardware. Rather than carry the now unneeded tools and material down by hand, I decided to lower the items down in a small barrel by using the pulley attached to the gin pole at the top of the tower. Securing the rope at ground level, I went to the top of the tower and loaded the tools and material into the barrel. Then I went back to the ground and untied the rope, holding it tightly to ensure a slow decent of the 300 pounds of tools."

"You will note in block number 11 of the accident reporting form that I weigh only 155 pounds. Due to my surprise of being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate of speed up the side of the tower. In the vicinity of the 40-foot level, I met the barrel coming down. This explains my fractured skull and broken collarbone. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley. Fortunately, by this time, I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold onto the rope in spite of my pain. At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of tools hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel."

"Devoid of the weight of the tools, the barrel now weighed approximately 20 pounds. I refer you again to my weight in block number 11. As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the tower. In the vicinity of the 40-foot level, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, and the lacerations of my legs and lower body. The encounter with the barrel slowed me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell onto the pile of tools and, fortunately, only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, that as I lay there on the tools, in pain, unable to stand and watching the empty barrel 80 feet above me, I again lost my presence of mind. I let go of the rope..."

* * *

BEST URBAN LEGEND STORY EVER

This is also from the Darwin Awards archives but cannot be verified:

At the 1994 annual awards dinner given for Forensic Science, AAFS, President Dr. Don Harper Mills astounded his audience with the legal complications of a bizarre death. Here is the story:

On March 23,1994 the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head. Mr. Opus had jumped from the top of a ten story building intending to commit suicide. He left a note to that effect, indicating his despondency. As he fell past the ninth floor his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast passing through a window which killed him instantly.

Neither the shooter nor the descender was aware that a safety net had been installed just below at the eighth floor level to protect some building workers and that Ronald Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide the way he had planned.

"Ordinarily," Dr. Mills continued, "a person who sets out to commit suicide and ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be what he intended, is still defined as committing suicide."

That Mr. Opus was shot on the way to certain death, but probably would not have been successful because of the safety net, caused the medical examiner to feel that he had a homicide on his hands. The room on the ninth floor, whence the shotgun blast emanated, was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. They were arguing vigorously and he was threatening her with a shotgun. The man was so upset that when he pulled the trigger he completely missed his wife and the pellets went through the window, striking Mr. Opus.

When one intends to kill subject A but kills subject B in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject B. When confronted with the murder charge the old man and his wife were both adamant. They both said they thought the shotgun was unloaded. The old man said it was his long-standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her. Therefore the killing of Mr. Opus appeared to be an accident; that is, the gun had been accidentally loaded.

The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old couple's son loading the shotgun about six weeks prior to the fatal accident. It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would shoot his mother. The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.

Now comes the exquisite twist. Further investigation revealed that the son was, in fact, Ronald Opus. He had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder. This led him to jump off the ten story building on March 23rd, only to be killed by a shotgun blast passing through the ninth story window. The son had actually murdered himself so the medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.

* * *

On November 3, 1912 in St. Louis a tight-laced corset caused the death of female impersonator Joseph Hennella, 40, who collapsed on the stage of a South Side Vaudeville theater and died at City Hospital three hours later. The headline: “Of corset was a terrible waist."

royexum@aol.com


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