Monday, August 30, 2004


I’m always appalled when Jay Leno does his “Man on the Street” interviews in which random passersby are asked simple questions. Really simple questions, on the order of “what country lies to the north of the U.S.?” Questions that these random passersby have a lot of trouble answering. Leno’s intention is to amuse us by showing us how pig-ignorant some people are. Me, I’m horrified.

There’s even some TV show - I forget the name - on which contestants are asked which of three blindingly dopey people will answer certain questions correctly. I’m sure plenty of folks laugh at this stuff, but it just upsets my stomach. [Update: Ivan (Thrilling Days of Yesteryear) reminded me that the show in question is called “Street Smarts.” Shows how smart I am...]

The late, great science fiction writer Cyril M. Kornbluth wrote about a dystopian future several hundred years down the road - a future in which 99.9 percent of the population was as stupid as the proverbial truckload of hammers. It seemed that, over the span of a few centuries, the less intelligent among us continued to have large families while the intellectual elite practiced family planning, with the result that intelligence was mostly bred out of the species. Running things was left to the one-tenth of one percent of the population that still had normal brains...and they were dying of overwork.

This is the world in which two of Kornbluth’s stories were set. The first, “The Marching Morons,” is a beautifully cynical look at this future society and how it could be impacted by the arrival of a completely amoral man from the twentieth century. The second, “The Little Black Bag,” uses this future society as a plot device but takes place in the present day. Rod Serling adapted this latter one for an episode of Night Gallery back in the 1970’s.

[I won’t divulge any more about either story but recommend you search them out. Entertaining reading, with a horrific undertone and a great Fred Willardesque catchphrase: “Would you buy it for a quarter?”]

Well, as if Leno’s interviews weren’t enough to convince me that “the future is now,” here comes this grisly little news item from today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Cobb driver charged after decapitated body found in truck


A Marietta man left a bar early Sunday morning, got into an accident that decapitated the passenger in his pickup truck, then drove several miles home and went to sleep - leaving his pickup truck parked overnight in his driveway with the body of his friend hanging out the passenger side window, Cobb County police said.

Police said John Kemper Hutcherson, 21, of Marietta drove off a road soon after leaving a bar about midnight and hit a support wire to a telephone pole. The guide wire severed the head of his friend, Francis Daniel Brohm, 23, of Marietta.

Hutcherson then drove 12 miles to his home on Fox Hound Chase, where police found him Sunday morning in blood-splattered clothes.

“It’s hard for one to imagine that you would drive [several] miles from a crash site to your home, turning in various directions, and yet not know what has happened to a passenger sitting next to you in your vehicle,” said Cobb police Cpl. Dana Pierce.
“He looked fine when we left the bar... I thought he was just bein’ real quiet-like.”

A neighbor out on a stroll with his 1-year-old daughter called authorities after discovering the headless body in the parked truck about 8 a.m.
“No, honey, the man is not making faces at us. He doesn’t (gulp) have a face...”

Hutcherson was charged with first-degree vehicular homicide, driving under the influence, failure to stop at an accident with death or injury and failure to maintain lanes.


Police said that before the two friends got to Runaround Sue’s in Marietta late Saturday night, they had been at a house where they had gathered to watch a televised NASCAR event. Brohm’s father, Dan Brohm, said that Brohm was a mechanic who worked late on Saturdays and then met up with friends sometimes.
It’s that damned NASCAR, I tell ya!

Police don’t know how long the friends were at the bar but said the two left after Brohm felt sick.
At least he was feeling something at that point in the evening’s proceedings.

Less than a mile and half from the bar, the pickup truck ran off Canton Road, traveled about 10 feet and hit the guide wire.

Investigators have not yet determined how fast the truck was going. Police would not say why Brohm was hanging out the passenger-side window when he was struck.
My guess is, if he wasn’t retching, he was role-playing. “Hey, looky here! I’m a hound dawg!”

After the accident, police said, Hutcherson’s route home took him through a commercial and industrial district that changed to dark, narrow winding roads before reaching the two-story Colonial house where he lives with his mother and sister. He parked the 1992 Chevrolet Z-71 in the driveway to the house’s two-car garage.

Except for the body in the passenger seat, the only thing amiss was the passenger-side mirror, which had been sheared off in the accident.

Later that morning, police found the severed head at the crash site on Canton Road.
Is that a bowling ball? What the hell is that thing? Gaaaaah!

Pierce would not say how Hutcherson explained the headless body in his truck.
“Er, aaahh... I never saw that guy before in my life! Really!”

Of course, the national wire services have picked this story up. In what has to be the understatement of the new century, the Reuters story concludes: “Alcohol is believed to be a contributing factor.” Well, duh.

What do you bet we hear about it on Leno tonight? Man on the street. Part of him, anyway.

Yep - stupidity and grisliness (grislitude?), always a great combination. Now, add in the fact that they found the body less than two miles from my house, and you have something that’ll really spice up that morning coffee!

[Update: The Cobb County district attorney who will be prosecuting this case is (I am not making this up) Pat Head.]


Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Street Smarts is the show you're thinking of. Or as we like to call it around here, "Darwin's Waiting Room."

Unknown said...

It occurs to me now and then that we're more or less living in the world of "The Marching Morons." What was the name of that popular TV show in the story? TAKE IT AND STICK IT, I think it was. Isn't that on Fox every week now?

Elisson said...

Bill, you are absolutely spot on: “Take It And Stick It!” was indeed the show (TV? Smell-O-Vision?) in “The Marching Morons.” And I can tell you right now, assuming it’s not already on, you can bet at least two or three networks would be very happy to option it...