Podcast 014: An Act of Charity

In This Episode: A mostly seasonal segment for No Longer Weird. Then, it seems like just a funny story, but a crusty donation to a food bank maybe isn’t so charitable after all, and — when you think about it — demonstrates the value of thinking about your actions before doing.

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Show Notes

  • No Longer Weird: burglars falling through the ceiling, or trying to break in via the chimney or stove vent. The story, from the Columbus, Georgia, Ledger-Enquirer.
  • And the new collection of No Longer Weird stories on this site.
  • In case you wonder, “git” is a British word that means obliviot.
  • If you have an intruder-via-chimney story, tell us about it in the Comments below.

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Randy: Welcome to Uncommon Sense, the Podcast companion to the thisistrue.com newsletter with the mission to promote more thinking in the world. I’m Randy Cassingham.

Clare: And I’m Clare Angelica.

Randy: As we round the corner into the final stretch before The Holiday Season, I want to get something out of the way.

Clare: What’s that?

Randy: Another segment in No Longer Weird! And that’s when a burglar or other intruder falls out of ceiling, surprising victims below, or getting stuck in the ceiling, chimney, or vent and begging for help from the people inside. …Or, sometimes, not being found stuck in a restaurant stove vent for weeks, months, or even years.

Clare: So they found a corpse?

Randy: Yeah.

Clare: Ooh!

Randy: That’s happened more than once.

Clare: Oh my god! Oh, those poor people.

Randy: Well, they are burglars.

Clare: That’s true. I mean…

Randy: So you know: screw ’em!

Clare: Starvation and dehydration.

Randy: Yeah, not a very good way to go when you get down to it. Plus it’s probably really hot, and greasy, and ehhhh…. But you know, if you fall into something like that on a Friday night and they’re not open on the weekend or, whatever? Yeah, you could be there for a couple of days, and yeah, you could very well die in that time.

Clare: Ooh. In the two days?

Randy: Yeah! You know, no water, like you said, and sometimes it’s really hot and you’re just up there sweating, and there’s nobody there to hear you yell for help. Not a good way to go.

Clare: And with cell phones, they shouldn’t be dying in there anymore: they can call or text for help!

Randy: Yeah, except they’re usually in a metal cage at that point [in a vent], and cell phones don’t really work well inside a metal box.

Clare: That is true.

Randy: So the story in this vein I passed by recently even had a nice twist, which I’ll get to in a moment. It was reported by the Columbus, Georgia, Ledger-Enquirer, that a “retired colonel” in town heard noises in the ceiling at 1:15 a.m. and figured an animal was trying to get through the metal cap on his chimney. But the noises continued 15 minutes later, his burglar alarm went off, so he got up to investigate.

“At that point, I thought I had an animal of some kind in the house, but a pretty good size one to come through the ceiling,” said the homeowner who, I swear, is named John House. Yeah, it was an animal all right! One of the most ruthless of predators. Except that when House called the police, they came and looked around, didn’t find anything, and they left!

Clare: [gasp!] Bad reporting, guys!

Randy: No, good reporting: bad policing!

Clare: No? Bad policing, true. Switch those around.

Randy: They probably just figured it was a quick visit from Saint Nick and his tiny reindeer.

Clare: Oh my gosh!

Randy: And I say that because the closer it gets to Christmas when we get these stories, the more the news media tends to compare someone trying to break into a house through the ceiling or chimney to the work of Santa Claus. But OK, they didn’t actually do that this time, maybe because it happened it late September.

Anyway, House and his wife were still awake talking about it at 3:00 a.m. when they heard creaking in the rafters. They called police home again, and this time they searched a little more thoroughly.

“One of the policemen went up into the attic, and then I heard him tell someone not to move,” House said. “He was buried in the insulation in the attic.”

Clare: Ooohhhh.

Randy: And as the officer tried to take the intruder into custody, he fell through the ceiling. And here comes twist in this one:

“So I was standing in the kitchen,” House said, “looking at a naked body hanging from my ceiling.” He says his reaction was, and I quote: “Oh gosh. This can’t be happening!” Yeah, that’s probably what I would say too: “Oh gosh.”

Clare: Yeah, right! He’s very calm, actually.

Randy: I think I’d break out my French, personally.

Clare: Yes. I’d be using some colorful language I think.

Randy: He continued, “You don’t see someone come through your ceiling with no clothes on every day,” House said. Well it depends on where you work!

Clare: That’s true….

Randy: Police estimated damage at about $1,400 and the dude, Randy Forsyth, 24, was charged with first-degree burglary. And, I hope, given a jumpsuit before they took his mug shot.

Clare: Oh, naked in insulation.

Randy: Yeah.

Clare: Ohhhh… I can’t imagine.

Randy: Yeah, and in an attic and in even in September was probably pretty warm in Georgia. So can you imagine how much of that stuff was sticking to his skin everywhere?

Clare: And the itchy and rash and the reaction from the chemicals.

Randy: How long do you think it was before they let him take a shower?

Clare: Probably before they left the house — House’s house!

Randy: I… don’t think so. I’ll bet you they let him stew in that for awhile.

Clare: Yah, House probably wasn’t that generous.

Randy: You know, I wouldn’t let a burglar take a shower before he went to jail.

Clare: No, I wouldn’t either, actually. Did they find out why he was naked?

Randy: They didn’t actually cover that point.

Clare: Well alrighty then!

Randy: That’s reporters these days! They don’t ask the obvious question.

Randy: Now that we’re getting a pretty good number of No Longer Weird stories, I thought it was time to make a page to collect them all. You can catch up with the list at go.thisistrue.com/nlw

Now the story main I want to talk about today seems like just a funny story, but I think it has some deeper meaning and nicely illustrates the value of thinking before doing. I’ll put the story, with an amazing photo, on the Show Page, thisistrue.com/podcast14.

It’s from this week’s newsletter, #1217, about the food bank in Cardiff, Wales, that was given a can of soup — a 50-year-old can of kidney-flavored soup.

And here’s what I mean about thinking first: some git probably thought they were doing something noble and selfless by giving a piece of crap they found in their dead parent’s pantry, a crusty 50-year-old can of soup, to charity. Yeah, wouldn’t some hungry person bow down and kiss the feet of that donor! Consider that the flavor is so bad, Heinz admitted they discontinued that variety over 35 years ago! Consider that the flavor is so bad, the original owner skipped over it every day for more than 50 years.

Now Clare, you work for a non-profit, which takes donations. And some of it I think you pass on some of that to other non-profits, right, like food banks?

Clare: Yes. We’ll do around Christmas — holidays — sometimes Thanksgiving we do a food drive and donate it to food banks, or schools, or families in need.

Randy: And I don’t think you’d pass on a 50-year-old can of soup.

Clare: Oh, absolutely not. Our people are very diligent about dates. They go buy new stuff from the store and donate it to us, so we can donate it in turn.

Randy: Yeah. I think that the expiration dates on food are ridiculously conservative. I mean, things that have two-year dates on them, especially canned food, that are probably really actually edible and, maybe, even, perhaps, possibly nutritious after 50 years? But you know, when they start looking crusty: that’s not charitable, that’s just rude.

Clare: No! I mean, when you look at the picture, what, isn’t there rust on the can?

Randy: Yeah, take a look at the picture on the web site. I will actually put the picture there. It’s pretty amazing. And the label on it shows the price, equivalent to about 5 U.S. cents today. But it was “old pennies” on the price label, and the United Kingdom hasn’t used old pennies since 1971.

Clare: Wow. That gives you a little hint.

Randy: So think about this. If you really want to help hungry people, give a food bank some real cash, like maybe a full day’s pay. And that’s before taxes, since you’ll get to write the donation off on your own taxes. Or go help feed the hungry in a soup kitchen, so you can see their humanity and understand just how close any of us could be to having to beg for food in the streets, and then decide whether a tossing them a crusty 50-year-old can of soup is a worthy donation, or an act of inhumanity. And as we head into the holidays, if you’re doing well, maybe see what you can do to help those who aren’t doing so well.

Clare: Well at least they gave us something to laugh about!

Randy: And point fingers! So maybe really, once you really get down to it, Col. House, in the No Longer Weird section, maybe he was being charitable by not letting the guy dangle there for the rest of his short miserable life.

So if you have a story to tell about ceiling intruders, getting stuck in a chimney yourself, or otherwise wish to comment on this episode, let us know on the Show Page, at thisistrue.com/podcast14

This is True — both the podcast and the text newsletter — are completely supported by the listeners and readers. There’s a Support Our Mission form on every page of the web site to contribute, or you can sign up for monthly contributions at Patreon.com/ThisIsTrue — where if you sign up at the $4 level or higher, you can get the full Premium edition of our newsletter. Thanks so much for your support. I’m Randy Cassingham…

Clare: And I’m Clare Angelica. Thanks for listening to us.

Randy: And we’ll talk at you later.

[Easter egg]

4 thoughts on “Podcast 014: An Act of Charity

  1. EWWW! Dept.: It sounds as if at least one burglar expired in a restaurant exhaust vent.

    I’ve dealt with the long-deceased. Adipose tissue (body fat) liquifies during the decomposition process. It becomes soap.

    The exhaust system heat likely evaporated this and prevented it from dripping onto the cooking surface below.

    If your burger tastes like soap, call the cops.

    Melted fat doesn’t automatically become soap: soap is a salt (an ionic compound formed by the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base). The usual way to do that is to start with a fairly pure fat and add lye (sodium hydroxide or, less often, potash — potassium hydroxide) to induce saponification (yeah, really!) Yeah, I know, you were mostly making a joke, and this is more detail than you wanted, but I don’t want anyone thinking that’s quite what happens. -rc

  2. I worked at a rescue mission that accepted donated goods. They sent tons of clothes to rag makers every month. Amazing what folks think is wearable. If it’s too stained, ripped or otherwise damaged for you, no one else is going to want it, either.

    Right — not even “poor people.” Think about it! -rc

  3. I saw the can of soup item on my copy of the newsletter today (have been catching up on emails after several days without internet — oh, the pain!). I remember Heinz Kidney Soup very well, and actually rather liked it. Not sure that I’d risk eating from a 50-year-old can, though. And as for donating it — would it have killed the donor to buy something fresh?

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