Friday, September 05, 2003

Speaking Ill of the Dead

One of the long-standing conventions of journalism, it seems, is that when someone dies under tragic circumstances, the journalists covering the story will feature lots of quotes from neighbors, friends, acquaintances, etc., all describing what a wonderful person the deceased was, and how awful it is that it should happen to someone like him, etc.

But not always.

You may have read of the bizarre case involving a Pennsylvania pizza delivery guy who was called out to a non-existent addess, showed up an hour later at a bank with a bomb collared to his neck, tried to rob the bank, was cornered by the police, told the police that he had been forced to rob the bank, and then got killed when the bomb went off. This Washington Post story features some quotes from the poor guy's landlady, who apparently wasn't too impressed with him. I know it's wrong and morbid and awful, but I couldn't help being cast into a state of disbelieving amusement over the landlady's lack of tactfulness:
Payne, an elementary schoolteacher [and his landlord], said Wells was of "average intelligence" but that "he had a different value system."

"Laid-back," she said of Wells's lifestyle. "To be 46 and delivering pizza? He didn't want to work any more than he had to."
* * *
Payne said Wells called all of his cats "kitty," apparently not bothering to name them.
* * *
"I always wondered what would happen to him because he didn't have any goals except being Brian and delivering pizza," Payne added. "By 46 you should have your life in gear, but he didn't mind."
"I always wondered what would happen to him"! As if being killed by a bomb were only a fitting end for someone so unambitious.


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