Real news that sounds fake

The challenge with writing satire these days is that real-life events tend to be more bizarre than anything most people could think up. I wrote a piece a year or so ago about how ridiculous it would be for someone to have seven babies at one time, and then Octomom comes along. What’s a humorist to do?

One option I’m taking today is to blatantly steal from real-life newspapers. In particular, I’m looking at a couple of days last week when the moon was full over my small South Carolina hometown and very strange stories started appearing in the local newspaper. What follows are four items as they appeared in The Herald, slightly abridged but otherwise unadulterated. Enjoy the lunacy.

More than just a sunburn

Investigators have yet to say what caused a tanning bed in Lake Wylie to catch fire Monday while a man was inside, but regulators insist such a burn is rare.

It’s the first tanning bed fire on record in South Carolina, regulators said. While the federal government oversees tanning bad manufacturers, it’s up to states to police local salons. Shop owners are required to show that at least one employee is certified to run tanning equipment.

“It keeps us very busy,” said the state tanning program manager, who oversees two employees tasked with inspecting the 1,900 salons at least once every two years.

Salon owners must also register with the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Bureau of Radiological Health. But that group doesn’t inspect shops unless a complaint is filed. Routine inspections stopped seven years ago because of budget cuts.

The man caught in Monday’s tanning bed fire escaped unharmed, although neighboring shops suffered smoke damage that will likely keep them closed for several days. The victim, who declined to give his name, said he was working on his tan when he heard a popping noise, then saw a flame at the corner of the bed near his foot. He threw open the lid and jumped out, he said.

At least one other tanning bed this year caught fire with someone inside. A man in Saskatchewan told local newspapers that after three minutes in a bed he heard popping, smelled smoke, and then saw flames. The man escaped nude but safe, according to reports.

Local tanners said they’re undeterred by the fire.

“That could happen anywhere, not just in a tanning bed,” said tanner Kim Bazemore. “I would still feel comfortable (in a tanning bed). I’m fixing to get in one now.”

When an emergency isn’t

As part of an effort to reduce emergency room wait times, Piedmont Medical Center says it will begin encouraging patients who do not have a medical emergency to get treatment elsewhere.

“This allows the emergency room to focus on emergencies,” said hospital president Charlie Miller.

Sometimes a patient’s perspective of what a true emergency is and what a doctor determines to be an emergency can differ, said Dr. Peter Hyman, a practicing emergency physician.

“If a child wakes up in the middle of the night with an earache, the parents may think that’s an emergency,” he said. The doctor may decide the earache is not life threatening but if the earache is left untreated, it could become an emergency.

A candidate for losers everywhere

For a ballroom full of downhearted conservatives desperate for some good news, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford had an odd message. He urged activists gathered in late February to be prepared to lose, and to feel happy about it.

“Would you be willing to support a cause or candidate that is likely to lose?” Sanford asked.

Sanford’s speech prompted some to hope he seeks the White House in 2012. Nicole Quinn of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, said she felt “Sanford has the potential to win over mainstream voters. Whether or not he could beat Barack Obama, he would restore Republican credibility.”

Too much focus on winning leads to compromise, the governor said. As members of the audience leapt to their feet and applauded, Sanford declared “the name of the game is staying true to your principles and letting the chips fall where they may.”

Sanford’s following will likely grow among conservatives when he announces his formal rejection of some of the state’s federal stimulus funds. He’s scheduled an unusual statewide tour, with stops in three locations, to reveal his response.

The governor said he would write President Obama a letter seeking a waiver that would allow him to use the stimulus funds for something other than roads, schools, unemployment benefits and Medicaid benefits.

As for higher political aspirations, a prominent Republican consultant said “I don’t have a clue whether he wants to run, but he obviously is one of our better-known Republicans, having been on TV a lot.”

Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls – it doesn’t

A set of bell tower monuments will rise this month along Interstate 77, signaling the city’s latest effort to spruce up the area.

Two 45-foot-tall towers next to the exit ramps will greet drivers whizzing by in both directions. It’s all part of a $6 million makeover launched six years ago to generate more commerce in the surrounding district.

“If you’re going by at 70 miles per hour, you may wonder what it is, and stop on your next trip,” said developer Lee Thomasson. “It does make people think, what’s going on here? Should I stop and look? It will help just because of the curiosity factor alone.”

One tower next to Cracker Barrel restaurant will be visible to northbound traffic from nearly a mile away. On the opposite side, the other tower is envisioned as a gateway to South Carolina for drivers on their way out of Charlotte.

The structures will not actually contain bells.


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3 Responses to “Real news that sounds fake”

  1. anonymous Says:

    Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, Folly Beach Mayor Carl Beckmann Jr. and about 20 of the other mayors who signed a letter on its way to Sanford said that without the money, municipalities will be forced to make severe cuts in basic services. Not only will local services be curtailed, Riley said, but the state will lose prosecutors, State Law Enforcement Division agents and probation and parole officers — all of which will negatively impact public safety and quality of life.


    1. State will lose prosecutors
    2. State will lose SLED Agents
    3. State will lose probation and parole officers

    Sanford is PRO-CRIMINAL


  2. shaaakspsyco Says:


  3. Blanche Millis Says:

    Great stuff here 🙂

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