#3. Not Seizing the Chance to Be a Dick
Most of us have a secret fantasy where we'll get the perfect excuse to act like a dick in a situation where nobody will blame us. That's why we love revenge movies, like the ones starring Liam Neeson where he or his family is wronged and he goes on a completely justified murderous rampage. It's not just that we fantasize that we'd respond like a destructive god of vengeance if wronged -- it's that we want to be wronged just so we have an excuse. It's also why we love sitcom smartasses and Dr. House types, because we wish that we too had the perfect insult ready to whip out on the next person who deserves it.
So here's one of those perfect smackdown situations that actually happened: Imagine you spend your entire life in the military as an officer who leads units in multiple wars. In 40 years of service, you rise through the ranks to become a general, and the vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army. So one day you're at a fancy Washington dinner with the president of the United States and other bigwigs. As you pass one table, one of the liberal women Obama has working in his administration glances back at you and tells you to go get her a glass of wine.
"And don't drop any of those stupid patches in it."
The man was General Peter Chiarelli, the woman was Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, and the situation was an all-time setup for a smackdown of epic proportions. "Who are you, you freaking bleeding heart bureaucrat, to talk to me that way? YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH." He had the chance to utterly obliterate her, and he'd have been applauded for it.
What did Chiarelli do? Well, he immediately figured out what had happened -- the waiter's uniforms were identical to what the officers were wearing, minus a couple of dozen medals. She just saw him out of the corner of her eye and mistook him for a server. Immediately after seeing her mistake, she probably assumed that she had just ruined her career. But Chiarelli? He went and got her some wine, just like she asked. Then they all laughed about it.
Silently quieting the urge to send her to Guantanamo.
There is a similar famous story where a woman at a Utah airport saw a big black man at the curb and assumed he was an airport employee. She asked him to carry her bags to her car, not realizing the man was NBA great Karl Malone. She did not find this out, in fact, until after he carried out her bags and had to explain why he couldn't accept her tip.
But probably my favorite example of this was a Major League baseball pitcher named Armando Galarraga. The guy has had a mediocre career, spending most of it in the minor leagues. But in 2010 he got called up out of the minors by the Detroit Tigers and pitched one of the greatest games in the history of the sport.
That's him, straining under the weight of the standard 28-pound American baseball.
He reached the final out in the ninth inning, having pitched a perfect game -- he allowed no hits and no walks. Understand, this is something that had only happened 19 times in the last century. So before you say, "Ah, it's just a game, who cares?" keep in mind that he was doing something that, in the field he worked in, would have earned him instant immortality. That perfect game would follow him for the rest of his life. The vast majority of even the greatest Hall of Fame pitchers play their entire careers without ever doing it, and here this 28-year-old nobody was about to pull it off, in miracle fashion. He just had to get one more out.
He made the pitch. The batter hit a little ground ball. The fielder threw it to first base, the runner was out by a mile.
Via Huffington Post
"His shadow touched the plate! It counts!"
But first base umpire Jim Joyce wasn't paying attention and declared the runner safe, ruining the perfect game, and ruining the one great achievement of Galarraga's life (the very next batter would get an out, ending the game). The crowd went nuts, sounding like they were about to riot. The Tigers players and manager screamed at the umpire, who admitted that he blew it (or as he put it, "Biggest call of my career, and I kicked the shit out of it.").
Galarraga's reaction to having the crowning achievement of his life ruined by an incompetent umpire?
He said, "Nobody's perfect. Everybody's human. I understand." Joyce, the umpire, came to apologize to him after the game, and Galarraga hugged him. Joyce was working the next Tigers game, and Galarraga made it a point to carry the lineup card out, part of every pregame ritual. He shook the umpire's hand. Joyce was crying.
Via LA Times
"By the way, just so you know, I played with my nuts for about an hour before coming out here."
Completely Unrelated Bonus Video:
A baby deer, walking for the first time:
#2. The Internet Making Sappy Stories About Reunited Loved Ones Come True
In 1938 Germany, it was widely known that things were about to get very bad for the Jews. Seeing the approaching shitstorm, some Jewish families secretly sneaked their children out of the country, sending them to America on ships.
A pair of 12-year-old German girls -- Edith Westerfeld and Gerda Katz -- met on one of these boats, and for two weeks during their journey, they became friends. Two girls, heading to New York, while a black wave of horror was about to crush the lives they left behind. Upon arrival in America, they went their separate ways -- one to Chicago, the other to Seattle -- and never saw each other again. For most of a century, anyway.
Then, 73 years later, Westerfeld's daughter was talking to a classroom full of middle school kids about the Holocaust. She told this story, about the ship and her mother and her mother's long-long-lost friend. The eighth graders looked at each other and said, well, shit, we have the Internet now. Nobody needs to stay lost.
Then they showed her how to watch all the porn she could ever want for free.
So, while we think of Internet-using 13-year-olds as spending all of their time spamming racist comments on YouTube, this class spent four solid days tracking down Gerda Katz. They found her, still alive, and got her in touch with Westerfeld. After more than seven decades, those two girls on the boat spoke to each other, and later met up in person, in Seattle.
The Internet, it turns out, is actually pretty good for this stuff. In 2007, a woman living in Malaysia took to her webcam and asked for help finding the mother she had left behind in America 32 years earlier, after her father had taken her away.
She uploaded the video to YouTube and, months later, her mother's nephew and his girlfriend were sitting around vanity searching their own names when this weird YouTube video came up. The nephew forwarded it around to the rest of the family. They got in contact with the woman from YouTube, Halimah Hajar, and said yes, your mother is still around, and she has a whole family now. A couple of webcam conversations later, they bought her a one-way ticket to come to the USA. She was hesitant, because she had been raised as a Muslim and heard that Muslims weren't welcome in the U.S. Then she got off the plane and the first thing she saw at the airport were other women in head scarves and nobody really giving a shit as they wandered around eating their meals from Chili's Too. She was home.
In China, meanwhile, they've set up a whole system for doing this. Child kidnappings are rampant there, and in a country of 1.3 billion people and 3.6 million square miles, the odds of finding your kid again are almost nil. But now they've set up a system where parents of lost children can upload photos of their missing kids, and other people upload photos of random kids they see begging in the street, trying to find a match. It seems like (literally) a one in a billion shot, but this has already resulted in one man reuniting with his son who had been lost for three damned years.
Time flows more rapidly in China.
Completely Unrelated Bonus Video:
A dog who believes (wrongly) that he is committing the perfect crime:
#1. Making Naive Dreams Come True, At All Costs
I don't want to come off like I'm being too hard on 5-year-olds, but they tend to have grossly unrealistic expectations of the world.
For instance, when a 5-year-old girl in Seattle heard her poor mother hinting that maybe "Santa" might not have the cash to bring Christmas presents this year, she embarked on what probably seemed like a reasonable solution: She wrote a letter to Santa with her Christmas wishes (a doll, a tea set, some pants) and tied it to a couple of balloons. Then she sent it off under the drastically incorrect assumption that it would somehow find its way to Santa's shop at the North Pole.
"There's email now, kids. You know this."
It didn't, of course, but it went further than you might think: The note made it from Seattle to an empty field in Northern California, 700 miles away. And that's where it should have stayed, to be ground up by some farm equipment months later. But the Sanderson family, who owned the property, happened to stumble across it.
This traveled 676 miles.
Why would they particularly care about the piece of paper they found in the mud with Spanish writing on it? They couldn't even read Spanish, after all. But they had a ranch hand who could, and they had him translate. Then they realized it was a little girl's plea to Santa for some rudimentary Christmas gifts. Then they went out and bought all of the gifts, and shipped them to her. Because Santa Claus does exist, if we want him to.
Of course, I can't talk about this sort of thing without bringing up the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which specializes in granting the wishes of dying children (we did a whole article about the most badass wishes they've granted). But occasionally they'll get that weird kid whose wish is, say, to rain down utter destruction as if by the horrible fist of Shiva himself. And that's when the Make-A-Wish Foundation says, "No problem."
And so, when a 7-year-old cancer patient from California said his big wish was to utterly destroy a large building, they found where a huge concrete grain silo complex was about to be demolished in Ohio. They pulled some strings and little Maxwell Hinton got to push the button on this:
Then you have the 6-year-old kid who, for his wish, wanted to meet Hellboy. Well, that's easy enough -- anybody can slap on a Hellboy costume and the kid would be thrilled. But the guy who actually played Hellboy in the movies -- Ron Perlman -- wanted to do it himself. And he wanted to go all the way -- he actually sat down and went through the four-hour-long makeup process so he'd have the exact look from the movies. The kid had to have felt some combination of elation and sheer terror.
He just stared at him like that for a solid hour. Didn't even blink.
This last one happened completely by accident, but I'm including it because it happens to be my most favorite photo of all time. In early 2012, the Pope went on a visit through Latin America, which, as you can imagine, is a big deal. You've seen on the news what these events are like -- massive crowds and parades and people screaming their heads off, as one does when face to face with the man who one believes is God's representative on earth. But during a parade in Mexico, just as the Pope's motorcade passed, Washington Post cameras captured this random dog trotting down the parade route ...
Via Washington Post
"For my first decree as emperor: All vacuum cleaners must be purged."
... soaking up the adulation and truly believing that the crowd of tens of thousands had gathered just to tell him he was a good dog.
Check out the look on his face. Every human should have a moment like that.
Completely Unrelated Bonus Video:
This hippo, which also happens to be quite the showman:
David Wong is the Executive Editor of Cracked.com and a NYT bestselling author, his long-awaited new novel is about cybernetic criminals and other futuristic shit like that. Pre-order it at Amazon, B&N, BAM!, Indiebound, iTunes, or Powell's. You can read the first seven chapters for free by clicking below:
For more from Dave, see 14 Photographs That Shatter Your Image of Famous People and 5 Ways Modern Men Are Trained to Hate Women.