2008.12.31 A less-than-appetizing end to a really long year

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

What will you remember most about 2008? The election that seemed like it would never end? Or one of the personalities that somehow turned up on the news practically every day, like Britney Spears? Or one of those people like Sarah Palin or Joe the Plumber who almost no one had heard of when 2008 began, only to become a household name you couldn’t avoid by the time the year ended?

Here at Nowhere Road, we prefer to remember some of those stories that didn’t get nearly enough publicity the first time around, like that giant, runaway inflatable piece of “art” in the shape of a mound of dog excrement.

The brainchild of American artist Paul McCarthy, the artwork, named “Complex Sh**,” was on exhibit at a Swiss museum this summer when it was blown loose of its moorings and went on a brief reign of terror. The house-sized display had a safety system in place designed to deflate it in inclement weather, but it failed to work as planned and the dog stuff made an escape.

First, it tore down a power line, then traveled about 700 feet before settling to the ground and breaking a window at a children’s home. Don’t you wish you could hear that 911 call? You know the police had to see this to believe it.

Unfortunately, none of my sources say if any children were in the yard at the time the excrement fell from the sky. I’m sure that was quite a sight for any eyewitnesses.

On a somewhat similar subject, the city of Seattle has ended its experiment in the world of high-tech toilets.

You may have heard of the incredibly expensive, self-cleaning toilets popping up in cities around the world. Seattle joined the trend four years ago when they bought five of the devices at slightly over one million dollars each.

The idea was to provide a clean, convenient rest room facility for tourists and the homeless in Seattle’s downtown. Instead, they became more infamous as handy hangouts for prostitutes and drug users. Further study indicated that they were less cost-efficient than regular public rest rooms as well.

Seattle’s city council finally voted to sell them on eBay, with a minimum of $89,000 each. That strategy failed to attract a single bid. Hoping to spark a bidding war among bargain hunters, the city relisted the toilets, this time with a bargain-basement opening bid of 99 cents per toilet. That move aroused some interest, but not as much as the city had hoped.

One toilet sold for $4,899 while the other four averaged about $1,900 each. The grand total for the five toilets was $12,549. After paying the company it hired to handle the auction, the city of Seattle netted a return of just over $10,400 on its initial investment of $5 million or so.

The buyer? Butch Behn, a Washington state businessman who owns a race car supply business and local race track was the winning bidder for all five units. He said he planned to use two of the toilets at his track and either sell the others or store them for future use.

“It’d probably be good to have a couple around for spares,” Behn told The Associated Press. “We get pretty busy at the track sometimes.” And if you live on a diet of racetrack food, there’s no such thing as too many toilets.

Closer to home, some residents in Columbus, Ohio, received some free salad dressing, courtesy of the T. Marzetti company. It just didn’t come quite the way they might have wished.

Heavy rains in late June combined with discharges from Marzetti’s Columbus facility to overwhelm the city’s storm sewer system, resulting in at least ten basements being flooded with a mixture of sewage, storm runoff and salad dressing.

An EPA spokesman suspected that the factory’s pipes merged with those of nearby homes and aren’t big enough to contain the additional water from a heavy storm. I’ll bet he’s at least a high school graduate to come up with such a reasonable explanation.

And you’re probably all wondering what flavor of salad dressing it was. I’m happy to report that the dressing in question was creamy ranch. 

Makes you hungry just reading about it, doesn’t it? Then go have a snack and join me back here next year. I’ll try to be even more tasteful.

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