Admit it: at some point you've imagined yourself in a hostage situation or bank robbery, knowing that you'd be the one to kick the crap out of the bad guys the moment they let their guard down.
Believe it or not, that kind of thing does happen. All it takes is a crazy enough crime fighter, and hopefully a really dumb criminal.
#5. Should Have Used Rosetta Stone
Ahmedou Mohamed Lemine was the captain and pilot of an Air Mauritania Boeing 737 jet, and he was rather put out: His perfect safety record was in jeopardy. This is all because, a few minutes prior, Mr. Mohamed Abderraman had rushed into his cockpit armed to the teeth and announced that he was hijacking this plane. He demanded to go to somewhere devoid of man's laws; a feral, savage place where a terrorist like him could blend in: Paris, France.
The problem being that the flight was traveling from Nouakchott, Mauritania to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands: A relatively short jump. So they weren't carrying a full tank of fuel, and certainly not enough to reach Paris. Lemine turned around in his seat and told the hijacker this in French. He was met by a blank stare.
Now, it's important to note that, though Mauritania's official language is Arabic, it's still located in "French West Africa." Nearly everybody speaks French, except, of course, for this particular hijacker. And hey, that's understandable: Some of us barely speak the one language goodly. But remember his destination was Paris. France. He boarded a plane in a country where he did not speak the language, in order to hijack it to another country where he still did not speak the language. So just keep in mind that Abderraman is not exactly Lex Luthor here.
When the pilot realized this, he clicked on the intercom and told the plane the hijacker couldn't understand them, so they were going to make a hard landing at Las Palmas. If everybody braced themselves, the captain suggested, they might be able to use that opportunity to overpower the hijacker. When the plane touched down, Lemine immediately slammed on the brakes, the would-be hijacker was bowled over, and a flight attendant swooped into action, grabbing a pot of boiling water and hurling it into the off-balance criminal's face. Ten other passengers took the opportunity to beat the man to a pulp, and held him down until they came to a stop.
In Las Palmas.
That's right: Despite being hijacked partway through it, Ahmedou Mohamed Lemine completed his flight as scheduled, his record wholly intact.
#4. The Saddest Bank Robbery Ever Foiled
Andrew Stewart was relaxing at a Royal Bank of Scotland in Exeter, reading his newspaper (apparently they don't have coffee shops in the UK) when a bank robber burst in, his hand clutched around a "gun" inside his backpack. He threatened the tellers, stated plainly that he had a weapon and demanded money. Even though our dim cultural understanding and ill-informed stereotypes tell us guns don't exist in the UK, and all crimes are instead settled by a rousing, but closely monitored debate, the tellers still bought his story and started handing over the cash.
That's when Stewart felt he had to step in. He happened to notice the date on his paper, April 1, and though he loved a good April Fool's prank as much as the next chap, he thought that perhaps "feigning death threats and armed robbery" might be a touch too far.
He folded his paper, stood up, crossed over to the robber and suggested that the joke had gone on long enough. The robber threatened to shoot Stewart, which Stewart mistook as simply "keeping character." So to set the teller's mind at ease, he reached over and pulled open the robber's gun-bag.
That is a serious, often fatal mistake in that kind of situation. The lives of Stewart and everyone in the bank were put in danger. Or they would have been, had the robber, Brian Davison, actually had a gun. The bag was empty, and he had been bluffing. Davison, no longer armed with the dangerous power of imagination, fled the scene to be apprehended later. Stewart, in his mind simply having spoiled a joke, sat back down without a word and continued reading his paper.
The real bank robbery he had mistaken for fake had in fact been fake, but in a different way, the whole thing a multilayered web of misdirection and illusion. Hey, it's like Inception! That, or one of the "wacky misunderstanding" episodes of Frasier.
#3. The King Declares War on Drugs
You probably think Elvis Presley and drugs go together like Maury Povich and staged paternity tests. That's the popular conception, after all. But that might come as news to Elvis: He didn't consider himself a drug user at all. He never touched a drug that wasn't first prescribed to him by a doctor. Or several doctors. All at once. But he wasn't a drug user. No, in fact, Elvis hated illegal drugs and the dirty hippies who used them so much that he even volunteered to help the government fight them.
He started his personal war on drugs by writing a six-page letter to then-serving President Nixon. In it, he requested that he be named a "Federal Agent at Large," a position Elvis was sure would enable him to bust every junkie he came across despite the fact that, by all accounts, Elvis made up the position of "Federal Agent at Large" while writing the letter.
The transcript of the letter can be found here, and reveals some interesting thinking on Elvis' part. He points out that "The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do not consider me as their enemy." Yes, Elvis was offering to be Richard Nixon's undercover hippie hunter.
Historians generally agree that what happened next is one of the three awesomest things to happen since God killed all the giants in the Old Testament. Nixon received Elvis' rambling, barely coherent letter that ended "I have a personal gift for you which I would like to present to you and you can accept it or I will keep it for you until you can take it." If that's the closing sentence in a letter from an ex-girlfriend, you're going to want to make sure to never see her again, ever. Proving Nixon either had a way better sense of humor, or a way bigger crush on Elvis than history gives him credit for, Nixon agreed to the meeting with Elvis.
ADMIT ONE: The White House
Elvis promptly donned his Formal Rhinestone Cape and his most subdued and tasteful Giant Golden Cummerbund, then set off for the White House. Handshakes were given, pictures were taken and even gifts were exchanged: Nixon gave Elvis an honorary badge and title (that's right, that badge up there? That's not a Photoshop), while Elvis revealed his "personal gift" for the President of the United States: a gold-plated Colt .45.
Although he had to leave it at the gate initially, and it was later "presented" by Secret Service Agents, that act still cements the King as the single most prominent pop culture icon in history. If Lady Gaga showed up to the white house today carrying a hand grenade and a samurai sword as "gifts for the President" we highly doubt they'd be shaking hand afterwards.
Tragically, the two men--Elvis Presley, Federal Agent at Large, and a golden Colt .45-wielding Richard Nixon--parted ways after that, never to meet again. Though we have to imagine that Elvis' handlers had to get used to every trip to the bathroom being referred to as a "top secret mission to the men's room."
Also tragically, our pilot for The King and I, a wacky buddy cop series based on the events, still has yet to be picked up.