Irish officials thought they had a pair of Soviet defectors on their hands when a man on his way to Havana whispered that he wanted "protection" at a duty-free store at Shannon airport. After 20 minutes of questioning, it was learned that the lusty Russian "defector" didn't want political protection—he wanted sexual protection in the form of condoms. The authorities couldn't help the young lovers, though. In Catholic Ireland, the sale of condoms is prohibited except with a doctor's prescription.
Who says the use of marijuana is a victimless crime? Certainly not a Memphis, Tennessee, woman and her 73-year-old mother who both required hospitalization after seven police officers kicked in the door of their apartment on a drug raid. Wanda Messina, 52, was knocked to the floor by the cops and required 10 stitches to close a wound on her forehead. Her elderly mother collapsed in shock. "It appears we did make a mistake and raid the wrong apartment," commiserates assistant police chief J.D. Moore.
Kermit Haugen faces up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Why? Well, the nefarious criminal was convicted of using live bait—namely, a worm—in a fly-fishing river in Yellowstone National Park. Haugen, who was with his son and a friend, baited the hooks and started fishing in the Firehole River, north of Old Faithful. After an hour of fishing, the only bite they got was from an undercover park ranger. Federal officials expected Haugen just to pay the $50 fine, but it's a matter of principle to the angler. He says he'll fight the conviction up to the Supreme Court. "We didn't know there was no worm fishing allowed, and I can't see paying a fine for something I didn't know was wrong," he says. So far, he's lost in court and spent $4,300 in air fare to get to his trial. But the worm may turn in the appeals process.
The way to get away with almost anything is to know the right people, announce publicly that the indiscretion was an "error in judgment," and promise never to do it again. That's exactly what New York City police commissioner Benjamin Ward did after a newspaper reported on some hanky-panky. It appears that Ward entertained a woman in his prison office at Rikers Island when he was the city's corrections commissioner. Ward also kept a private boat at Rikers Island and used the chief of marine security to help repair it. The newspaper also alleged that Ward, who's known for his tough stance against rank-and-file cops who bend the rules, appeared drunk and confused at a police union meeting. When introduced to 1,000 people, according to the New York News, Ward spoke at the wrong time, had trouble identifying top police officials, and called out to the audience: "Hi, everybody. I'm on vacation!" Mayor Koch said he would take no action.
Stephen Kenney of Kenmore, New York, is facing a jail term for failing to cut his weedy and wildflower-filled lawn. "I refuse to mow my lawn because it is an environmentally unsound practice and against my most basic principles," he says. Kenney's neighbors, however, say he's a kook who ought to be locked up. Kenney responded with a sign on his property: "This lawn is not an example of sloth. It is a natural yard growing the way God intended. It does not attract mosquitoes or other pests. The plants planted here do not emit noxious fumes. And no valuable natural resources like water or gas are wasted on this environment." Kenney's argument that it's nobody's business what he does with his property ran smack into a local ordinance that says undergrowth and accumulation of plant life must be controlled. Under the lawn ordinance, artificial grass is fine since there's no undergrowth. Plastic is okay, but wildflowers ain't.
Break-dancing, banjo-playing, juggling, singing, and even reciting poetry is illegal on Chicago's North Michigan Avenue, the city's "Miracle Mile" of shopping. The city council, which usually can't even agree on what time it is, unanimously passed an ordinance banning street performances in several expensive shopping areas in response to complaints from store owners and the musicians' union. The city contends that performers attract spectators who block sidewalks, obstruct traffic, and hurt business. The street performers believe in the free marketplace. "I try to find out people's attitudes toward my new material," says street banjo-player Walter Friedrich, who was nominated in 1980 for a Grammy Award for song writing. "If they walk right by, you know you're doing something wrong. If they stop, you know you're doing something right."
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Brickbats".