The Odd Truth, March 9, 2004

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The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com's Brian Bernbaum. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.


Designated Driver

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A man who allegedly had a few too many drinks decided he shouldn't drive drunk so he handed his car keys to his female companions - all too young to drive, police said.

Lionel Cerda told officers that he had been nodding off, so he first let a 14-year-old drive. But when police pulled the car over after midnight on Saturday, they found Cerda in the front seat, with empty bottles at his feet, the 14-year-old in the back with an open can of beer, and a 10-year-old at the wheel.

"This," said Lt. Dave Haskins, "is a strange one."

Officer Christina Abshire saw a car swerving and breaking erratically, going 5 mph. She followed the car, then pulled it over. As she walked over to the driver's window, the car sped off. She then pulled it over again, and found the three inside.

Abshire said Cerda explained to her in thick, slurred speech that the girls were his relatives, and he was teaching them how to drive. Cerda was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and child endangerment.

'Dear Abby' Yanks Prank Letter

KANSAS CITY, Missouri - A prank letter forced Dear Abby's editors to pull next Monday's advice column.

The letter mirrored an episode of the TV series "The Simpsons."

Universal Press Syndicate says it was tipped off by a newspaper editor who thought the scenario sounded "awfully familiar."

The column is titled "Wife meets perfect match after husband strikes out."

In the letter, the writer describes a "greedy, selfish, inconsiderate and rude" husband Gene, who gave her a bowling ball with his name on it for her birthday. She writes that while learning to bowl she met another man she prefers - and now wants a divorce.

The column's editors determined that Gene seems a lot like Homer Simpson's thoughtless character in an episode titled "Life on the Fast Lane."

Diot Coke, With A Twist

LONDON - Naming your child after a popular soft drink could be seen as a little bit faddish but the parents of young Diot Coke might be forgiven - they gave their baby daughter the name way back in 1379.

Researchers at Britain's National Archives believe that the little girl, born in West Riding in Yorkshire, was the unfortunate victim of the corruption of the name Dionisia. One of the diminutives derived from that name on its path to the modern day Denise was Diot.

The girl's surname is believed to be a variation on the name Cook.

Archivist George Redmonds, writing in the organization's Ancestors magazine, discovered in his scrutiny of the birth archives that names now considered to be masculine, such as Philip and Thomas, were once used for girls in the 14th century.

Redmonds also found that names such as Godelena, Helwise, Idony, Avice and Dionisia were more popular than some of the names now considered traditional, such as Mary.

Woman Caught With Fake $1 M Bill At Wal-Mart

COVINGTON, Ga. - A woman was caught trying to use a fake $1 million bill to buy $1,675 worth of merchandise at a Wal-Mart, and was later found with two more of the bills in her purse, police said.

The United States Treasury does not make $1 million bills, but people can buy souvenirs of such a bill at some stores, police said.

"It looks real, but of course there's nothing real about this," Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton said Tuesday. "People do crazy things all the time. I think it's just another example of some odd things that occur."

A clerk at the store immediately noticed the bill was fake when 35-year-old Alice Regina Pike handed it to her on Friday, Cotton said.

Pike then tried to use two gift cards with only $2.32 of value on them to buy the merchandise, but when that didn't work she again asked if the clerk could cash the $1 million bill, Cotton said. The store then called police.

Pike, of Porterdale, was charged with forgery. There was no listing for her phone number in directory assistance, and she could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Covington is 32 miles southeast of Atlanta.

Spare Change Bandit Caught

NORWICH, Conn. - City police say they have nabbed a spare change bandit who made hundreds of dollars by stealing coins from cars.

David R. Small, 31, of Norwich, would move from car to car, checking for unlocked doors over the past month and would make off with anything of value including coins left in a center console, police said.

The loose change added up.

Police said on a good night, Small said he would make upward of $200, and $1,000 in a good week.

Occasionally, police said, he stole a car for the night if keys were available.

Small was arrested Monday and charged with larceny by possession, third-degree burglary and sixth-degree larceny.

Police said they expect to add to those charges as they uncover more victims.

"He's admitted to several dozen others ... some reported and some not," Detective Lt. Timothy Menard said.

Small was being held on a $250,000 bond pending his arraignment in Norwich Superior Court Tuesday.

Nebraska Mayor 'Bans' Shaving

LEXINGTON, Neb. - Beware showing any whiskers in Lexington these days.

Lexington Mayor John Fagot has implemented a "ban" on shaving for every man in town older than 21. Those caught clean-shaven without a shaving permit could face being dunked in a horse tank or other benign punishment.

The mayor implemented the lighthearted ban to get the town in the spirit of this summer's Plum Creek Days, a festival bearing the town's former name. One of the festival's traditional highlights is a beard-growing contest.

The not-so-consequential edict is in effect until July 5, the last day of the three-day festival.

The ban is part of a Lexington-area tradition that began in 1939 with the first Plum Creek Days festival. Those wanting to shave can avoid being arrested and taken to Kangaroo Court by purchasing a special shaving permit.

Along with the shaving ban, the mayor has proclaimed all men and women must dress in Western or historic clothing on Fridays beginning in May.

Kangaroo Court will be held every Friday beginning June 4 and will included "trumped-up charges and fun sentencing," Fagot said.

An Extra Zero Goes A Long Way

LONGMONT, Colo. - The American Cancer Society in Longmont is stuck with 36,000 daffodils after an order mix-up.

The society intended to order 3,600 daffodils for its annual fund-raiser from a company in Washington state, but accidentally faxed a request for 3,600 bunches.

The 25 boxes of flowers, containing 36,000 daffodils, showed up on the society's doorstep Friday.

Tammy Evevard, an assistant director at the cancer society in Longmont, said an invoice for $4,000 alerted the society that there was a mistake with the order.

But the flowers were already on a delivery truck and couldn't be turned around.

Evevard is confident that the flowers could be a "blessing in disguise" and said the society hopes to sell the extra flowers at its fund-raiser to advance cancer research and education.

The nonprofit's fund-raising goal is $10,000.

"Who knows, maybe we will be selling them on the street corners," Evevard said.