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Today's word on journalism

January 13, 2009


"I get the feeling that the 24-hour news networks are like the bus in the movie 'Speed.' If they stop talking for a second, they think they'll blow up."

--Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, 2008 (Thanks to alert WORDster Ross Martin)

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

ChapStick saved my life, not just my lips

By Seth Bracken

Deceober 7, 2008 | ChapStick -- you should never leave home without it. It could save your life. I can honestly say that it saved mine.

I was a Mormon missionary for two years in the beautiful country of Argentina. And as a Mormon missionary I was often sent to the most dangerous parts of town, I mean real, live ghettos. The majority of the people are humble and very accepting. But some see two well-dressed Americans walking through with no defense, and assume that we are carrying large sums of money.

My No. 3 mugging happened on a cold night, and I could see the perpetrators coming from across the park. I knew there was nowhere for me to go. It would be No. 1 for my companion and I didn't want him to get hurt. Being mugged at gunpoint by someone in a different language can be hard on a guy. He was brand new to the country and did not know Spanish at all.

I started walking fast and straight toward them. My stare locked onto the eyes of the one facing me, I wasn't going to break down. Even though my knees were knocking together as I scanned to see where he was hiding the gun or knife or whatever he was going to use to mug me. But I kept my face cool and calm.

My companion was completely oblivious to what was about to happen, but I could feel it coming. I always could. We crossed paths and the two of them stopped us, blocking our path.

"Can I help you?" I asked, as if I didn't know what was going on.

He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and I felt cold steel being shoved into my side.

"Don't hurt my friend, he doesn't speak Spanish," I was whispering, and I could feel the adrenaline begin to pump through my veins as I begged for mercy for my companion. I promised to cooperate, as long as they left my companion alone.

The other thug overheard the conversation and put the gun he was pulling out of his pocket back in, and just pulled my companion aside so that I could be dealt with.

I was astonished by the idea that this punk that was threatening my life was going to do as I asked and leave my companion out of it. Here this guy was threatening my life, and yet he was willing to be nice to my companion. I couldn't understand it.

"Empty your pockets," he told me nonchalantly, like he were ordering at a fast food restaurant. There was no anger in his request; it was merely an order that he knew I would follow.

I showed him the contents of my pockets; keys to my apartment, a broken watch and a ChapStick, original flavor. He looked past the keys and picked up the watch. It was a "Hello Kitty" pink watch without a band. I carried it so no one would want to rob it. He put it back and went for the ChapStick.

"What is it?" he asked.

"Chap Stick, for your lips, when they hurt."

My knees weren't shaking anymore and my pulse started to level out. I didn't feel like I was in any immediate danger. I was talking to this guy that was holding me at gun point as if we were discussing the weather.

"I want it." The thug left everything else behind, grabbed the ChapStick and walked away.

"Why did you give that guy your Chap Stick?" my companion asked curiously, as we finished walking home.

"I think his lips were chapped real bad," I responded. "I didn't need it."

This guy could have beat the crap out of me, he could have shot me, he could have taken away my keys and caused a huge mess. But he didn't. This guy could have grabbed my companion too and told him to empty his pockets. We were alone at night. There was no one around. But they didn't. Was it possible that these two street thugs had a set of morals? Was it possible that these guys were holding a pistol to my side because they had no other option?

I'm still not sure what made that time I got robbed different. I was robbed 11 times in a span of two years, and I will never forget how I walked away from No. 3 without being hit, spit on, or losing anything of any real value. I still wonder what made the difference. Was it kindness on the part of the two assailants? I personally don't think so.

I think it was the ChapStick.


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