Big Hairy Pile Of Whoa!
Y2K cons, vacation terrors, and bellicose bystanders

Con men profiting from Y2K. In Hong Kong, a woman shelled out the equivalent of $15,440 to buy a secret cure for the millennium bug: stomach pills. Although she wasn't sure what the millennium bug was, the con men appealed to her greed by telling her she could sell the pills to her friends and neighbors and rake in the dough. Knowing a golden business opportunity when she heard one, she rushed to the bank, withdrew the money and gladly forked it over.

See also...
... by Jeff Morris
... in the Whoa! section
... from October 8, 1999

Vacations really can be more stressful. They scrimped and they saved for the vacation of a lifetime: an ocean cruise. But sometimes dream vacations turn out to be nightmares. Just ask the vacationers aboard the Norwegian luxury cruise ship "Norwegian Sky."

The ship ran aground on St. Lawrence Island, bringing a jarring conclusion to the ocean voyage. Passengers were given the option of hanging around Quebec City and taking an extended tour while the ship was being repaired; otherwise, Norwegian Cruise Lines would pay for their passage out. Most opted to leave. They climbed on a bus, thinking the worst was behind them. Wrong. The bus ran off the road and crashed into a ditch, hospitalizing 10 of the passengers.

Trash bag bandit apprehended. What do you do when you decide to rob a convenience store on short notice to bankroll your crack habit, but you don't have a mask to hide behind? This was the problem facing Herman Hill, a 35-year-old transient. Hill grabbed the first thing he could find: a clear trash bag. He threw it over his head and burst through the front door.

"It looked like a big prophylactic down to his waist. Kind of translucent," said Pinellas County, Fla., Sheriff's Sgt. Greg Tita.

Hill made off with less than $100. He was eventually caught in the act of committing another robbery, and was identified as the convenience store bandit thanks to the video security camera.

And you thought America's health care system was bad. In Iran, if you're injured and require hospitalization, you better bring plenty of cash.

A state-run hospital in central Tehran has a cell in the orthopedic ward to hold those who cannot pay their medical bills. Three guards are stationed around the clock to prevent deadbeat patients from escaping the cell, according to the daily Aftab-e Emrouz.

The hospital demands at least one-third of the payment up front, before treatment -- even for emergency care -- and the rest upon release. As many as 24 patients are thrown in the hospital slammer each month for failing to cough up the cash.

"To make sure patients will fulfil their financial obligations, several months ago we began detaining patients who fail to pay," an unnamed hospital staff member was quoted as saying. "We had no other choice. We have to pay our staff and had to assign a room for this purpose."

However, a new problem has emerged which the hospital failed to anticipate: the high cost of feeding and clothing the prisoners. I wonder how long it will take the Iranian government to discover they have an abundant supply of live organ donors....

Unsportsmanlike conduct -- When good fans go nuts. High school soccer is a physical game; most people are aware of that. Not George Telidis of East Lake, Ohio.

Telidis said he became upset watching a player on the opposing team pushing his son around during a high school soccer game. After the game, Telidis bolted onto the field and assaulted the opposing player. Upon turning himself in, George told authorities he acted on impulse. "I'm not proud of what I did."

And, in a related story, one of East Penn Township, Pennsylvania's finest is under investigation. Officer Shawn P. Phillips has been accused of paying a little league pitcher $2 to hit a batter with the ball.


Jeff Morris is a professional journalist who subscribes to the highest ethical standards of reporting...and other magazines, too.