2022 headlines: driving goldfish, a marinara mess, and (not) tasty toads

Published 6:09 pm Friday, December 23, 2022

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As the end of the year approaches, many of us start looking back and reflecting on the last 12 months, thinking about all the things that we accomplished or all the things we expected to happen but didn’t. Every year is unique in its own way.

And every year comes with an abundance of strange headlines! So, as usual, here are the oddest headlines I stumbled across in 2022:

Jan 11: “Israeli scientists have trained goldfish to drive, in a scene out of a Dr. Seuss book” (reported by NPR)

That’s a sentence that makes you pause and look twice, isn’t it? I’m not quite sure why scientists wanted to see if animals are capable of navigating outside of their natural environments (that’s an oddly specific goal), but according to the results, they might actually be able to. To conduct these experiments, they constructed what essentially was a fish tank with wheels, and included equipment that steered the vehicle based on the goldfish’s movements. After some driving lessons, the fish were able to successfully “drive” to their target. If one day in the future, we have to share the road with fish, I hope they’ll be a little less reckless than some human drivers!

April 11: “Man crashes into Henderson Burger King, eats lunch as cops investigate” (reported by Henderson Daily Dispatch)

I stumbled across this story out of Henderson, NC by chance thanks to social media, but the headline was too intriguing to simply pass by. A man who was planning to eat lunch at the local Burger King unintentionally left a hole in the building and broke a window when his foot slipped off the brake and hit the gas instead. Despite this rather large problem, the restaurant staff and Henderson police agreed there was no reason he couldn’t still buy his lunch there. The news article even featured a photo of the truck stuck in the wall with the driver enjoying his burger inside in the background. I hope that burger tasted great because it sure was costly!

May 9: “Alligator joins drive-thru breakfast crowd at Bojangles in North Carolina, video shows” (reported by News & Observer)

This story caught my attention as someone who likes to frequent the drive-thru lines at Bojangles as well. A person waiting in line at the Bojangles in Southport, NC glanced out his window one morning and saw an American alligator, native to the region, crossing through the parking lot and then walking down the restaurant’s sidewalk before picking a good spot in front as if to wait for his order. The driver filmed the alligator’s trek which garnered some attention online afterwards. Judging by the size, the alligator was a juvenile. I wonder what a young alligator prefers from Bojangles… chicken or biscuits?

Aug 25: “Man defeats horse: voice actor Tasuku Hatanaka outspeeds racehorse in 250m dash” (reported by Anime News Network)

Can you imagine trying to run faster than a horse? Tasuku Hatanaka doesn’t have to imagine it because he’s done it himself! The actor, who provides voices for characters in several popular Japanese series, took on the challenge during a guest appearance on a TV show. The 28-year-old is apparently in good shape, having played basketball in high school and had a good track record for previous 50m dashes. Though, to be fair, the retired racehorse (named Oolong) was given a 15-second handicap for this particular race. Hatanaka won a little less than $4,000 for his impressive feat, and now has bragging rights for his speedy accomplishment.

Aug 30: “A tomato spill makes a major California highway a marinara mess” (reported by NPR)

It sounds like something out of the book “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” California drivers commuting between San Francisco and Sacramento were treated to a mess of mashed tomatoes after a truck hauling a load of them hit a center divider on the interstate. Several lanes were shut down while crews cleaned up the so-called “saucy surprise.” Too bad a truck hauling pizza dough, mozzarella cheese, and/or pepperonis didn’t conveniently wreck in the same area.

Oct 6: “Man charged with smuggling pythons in his pants at US border” (reported by Associated Press)

That headline sounds like it could be misinterpreted, so let me start off with clarifying that the man in question was literally hiding three Burmese pythons in his pants. The article doesn’t explain how the guy was able to wrangle three different snakes into his clothing or how big his smuggling pants were. (I, for the record, am imagining a pair of those roomy-looking Hammer pants made popular by MC Hammer.) Importing Burmese pythons is highly regulated because they’re dangerous to people and invasive to the US, but the man charged with the crime apparently thought it was a good idea to stick the snakes in his pants and then board a bus from Canada to New York. This article left me with more questions than answers, and also a new nightmare: unknowingly taking a bus seat beside a man with snake-infested pants. Crazy!

Nov 6: “The National Park Service wants humans to stop licking this toad” (reported by NPR)

This sounds like the kind of thing you’d have to scold young kids for who don’t know better. I, personally, have no desire to go around licking things in the woods, let alone strange wildlife. But apparently the National Park Service is worried enough that they added a request in a Facebook post to “please refrain from licking” anything you come across in a national park. Including, apparently, the Sonoran desert toad (also known as the Colorado river toad). The article didn’t specify how many people may or may not have been licking toads on their visits to enjoy nature’s beauty, but it did explain that this particular frog secretes a powerful hallucinogenic. Basically, if you want to get high, maybe find a better means for it. Sonoran desert frogs aren’t FDA-approved, and they probably would appreciate people leaving them alone!

These stories are just a small sampling of everything that happened in 2022. Cheers to more head-scratching headlines in 2023!

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.