back to article North Americans just don't steal handsets, apparently...

Back in 2005, when he lost his three-day-old Motorola v 635, Pete Gillespie immediately phoned his cell provider, Canada's Rogers Wireless. Among other things, he urged the cellco giant to blacklist the phone's IMEI number so that miscreants couldn't reconnect his $600 purchase to the Canadian airwaves. But the company said it …

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Happy

networks don't care

The network gets call revenue whether the phone is legit or not, so it's not always in their interests to block phones. A stolen phone either means an additional handset sale for the network or a cost to the insurance company. Either way the network doesn't lose

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arrogant tossers

obviously its the land of the free in all respects.

How about connection to the database is made mandatory for all members of the GSMA and that all barred handsets on there are barred on their networks and their systems should check this as part of the process when a mobile station logs on (the software should not have an option to stop this from happening), if they don't do this they should be barred from GSMA membership and customers should be dissuaded from doing business with them.

It would be like setting up am ISP and leaving the servers/routers in an unlocked room so both the kit and customer data was at risk.

Mine's the one with the mobile locked into the pocket with a ruddy great titanium padlock

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Heart

Street crime in America very different

Having lived in the States for 10 years, I noticed a significant difference in (street) crime from that in the UK, well, London to be more specific.

a) In the US, a phone being stolen from your pocket, coffee shop table etc does not happen as often because a thief is more likely to suffer the consequences right away if he or she is caught. Crime is often limited to ghettos, armed robberies and temporary loss of sanity/planned murder in the case of (school etc) massacres and the like.

b) Here in the UK, we are, alas, so timid, a street thug will think nothing of 'nicking' your phone, whether it be at knife point or off the coffee shop table because if you catch him, what are you going to do Mr. well toned Englishman? And if one of New Labor's Community Officers witnesses or hears about such a 'minor' offense, we all know terrified the thug will be don't we?

A heart symbol because I love the tough "three strikes and you are out" policy implemented in (some) American jurisdictions. It works in New York, and it should be made to work here. Because if you catch / step them early, they won't move onto bigger things later.

Anyone else share this analysis?

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Paris Hilton

I know why...

Who can spot the theft worthy hand set on this page?

http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/phones/

Yes... that's a current page, not one from two years ago.

Seriously, the reason why North Americans don't have to worry about it is because we are force fed crap phones. Seriously crap phones. The PAYG W810i I bought more than two years ago is still better than most of the handsets on the above page. Two f'ing years later! Seriously, who would steal any of that shite? And the premium rate number thing isn't as big over here, so stealing a phone, then running up a couple thousand pounds in premium rate charges to the carrier and getting kickbacks for it just doesn't happen.

Even Paris knows we get crap hardware. Motorola actually sells over here.

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Silver badge

You can't expect such a high level of service...

...from Rogers simply because you're paying the highest cell phones charges in the known universe.

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Happy

Looking on the bright side...

I suppose this is the upside to US "free phone with contract" based service, no one buys phones retail so there is no blackmarket for them either. Why would someone buy an old, stolen phone when they will be given a brand new shiny one with their plan?

Yes, I know its an inferior phone, crippled by carrier specific firmware, but at least there is this one upside, no?

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Black Helicopters

why lose the money?

The carriers know the original owner will buy another phone instead of paying a disconnect fee and losing their number (even easier if they have insurance). The new owner (aka thief) is now a prospective new customer who might not otherwise have been one. I don't see what the motivation is for the carriers as using the DB will likely cost them $ for access to it or cost of reps updating it.

Then there is the question of the right thing to do but clearly that's not something they are worried about...

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Flame

Summary

Unauthorised copying of copyright music gets the full force of the corporate lawyers because there's corporate revenue at stake.

Stealing phones gets no interest from the corporates because the phones are already paid for and only the punter is losing out; stolen phones on a network (even without the previous owner's permission) actually mean extra revenue for the network, why would they care.

Welcome to the Land of the Free (Phone).

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W

Scandinavian this, Scandinavian that...

"Scandinavian operators have been sharing stolen handset data since the mid-nineties."

Can anybody suggest some things that Scandinavia has royally c0cked up on? I'm sure there are plenty, but it just seems as if our Nordic neighbours are always five steps ahead of the rest of most of the world. Common sense seems to be just that: common. Whereas that just doesn't seem to be the case elsewhere. Canada (and maybe Japan?) would appear to be the closest at emulating Scandie successes when you look at the plethora of "quality of life" surveys, lists and tables.

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@Eddie Johnson

This is different to the UK how? All contract phones are subsidised, the cheaper models to the point of being free (like those on that list soaklord posted; actually like much better phones than that)

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different reasons.

The reason behind virtally no thefts of cellphones in the US is the following :

- Cell phones are 99.99% oif the time locked to one provider ( most of them don't even have a sim card. its hardwired inside ... )

- If you lose your phone : change your number. Done. You get a new free phone ... Old number is disconnected. So whoever has that phone can't use it anymore. ...

- taking an existing phone to have it connected to a provider does not work either. most providers don't do that. Why should they ? they have to support an old thing and you can pick from a plethora of flashy new phones anyway.

- They throw phones at you. When you subscribe to a cell plan you get your choice of free phones. ( in some plans you get free blackberrys, smartphones and other advanced things. )

So why would you steal one ? it'll get disconnected , and you can't have it reconnected because operators don't do that.. You get a free phone when you subscribe to a plan... you can pick one from a wide range. So why would you steal one. The free one will typically be a newer and better one.

If you get caught : it's the slammer...

So its not even risc vs benefits. You have zero benefits and all the risc ...

It's the perfect system. There is no point in stealing one.

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Pirate

Why the U.S. Doesn't care about blacklisting...

Here in the U.S, if you lose your phone you go into the carrier's shop, get a new phone, and the old phone is disconnected from the network (when the new phone is activated, the old one is deactivated). So, why bother blacklisting it? Nobody cares.

The phones themselves are usually very cheap, as Eddie pointed out above. We get 'em for free with our plans, so who cares?

And as Wonderkid mentioned, there isn't as much casual "nicking" of phones in the U.S. because we're basically nuts and thrive on violence and chaos. I'm consistently astonished at the weird stuff "chavs" get away with over in England -- take "happy slapping" for instance, where teenagers run up to strangers and smack them in the head. But nobody attacks them! The victim just pouts!

If someone was to try that here in New York, they'd be beaten to within an inch of their lives. They might not even be able to flee, because a sufficiently pissed off New Yorker would throw a garbage can lid at 'em like a giant frisbee. GOD forbid you try happy slapping somewhere like Texas or Arizona... Everyone's packing heat down there, you'll get shot! At least New Yorkers -- USUALLY -- won't kill you!

I'm reminded of the story of a guy who tried to mug an old granny in the parking lot of a supermarket. He told her to give him her purse; she swung it at his head. He was knocked cold, and when the cops showed up, It turned out the old granny had kept two giant bricks in there! The mugger woke up in the ICU with a handcuff tying him to his bed and a massive concussion. The granny was treated like a hero in the newspaper the next day. I doubt that'd happen in England; your grannies are WAY too mannerly to go around bricking people in the head.

We Americans are pretty docile most of the time, but if you give us an excuse to go berserk, we won't put it to waste! :)

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Anonymous Coward

@ Wonderkid

That all sounds terribly fascinating. I'd love to see you cite some sources backing up your claims. Go on. You know you want to. If you start now you can probably produce a couple of half credible websites yourself before I check back here.

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my 'murrikan perspective

The article wasn't sympathetic to US "common sense"...

* phones have zero or negative value--to use one in the long term you have to pay fees to a phone company that far exceed the value of the phone.

* about 10% of the people you might steal a phone from have a concealed weapon permit and will run after you and shoot at you until you stop and wriggle. i have seen this one TV and it doesn't look like it's worth it.

* since there's no shortage of phones, anyone who steals the phone will probably dump it or sell it for $5. call your phone every 12 hours for the next couple of days and you'll eventually get someone to accept a $50 reward for it. ask for their address, call the cops, go get your phone.

* we tend to keep our contact lists in outlook and update the phones from there. losing the phone is no big loss, we'll just get another and download everything and forget about it in a few days

* if your phone is the slightest bit outdated you start looking for an excuse to upgrade anyway. anyone with a 1st gen iPhone is now becoming quite careless with it.

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Stop

Play the terrorist card

Surely all you have to do is claim that al Qaeda cells (geddit?) are using non-blacklisted stolen phones to plot the destruction of the free world and the telco execs will be bending over backwards to implement IMEI blocking.

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Pirate

@Wonderkid

Yes, I'd like you know what data you've based your hypothesis on - It IS based on actual data isn't it?

The reasons you give are probably also why the murder rate is the lowest in the world & the prison population is so low (due to the deterrent factor no doubt)

Of course, I see you've included the obligatory "NuLabour" comment(note spelling for future reference).

Well done.

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wim

NuLabour

This keeps confusing me. I keep reading it as Nul labour since I'am a Dutch speaker this translates into Zero Labour.

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@ JeffyPooh

"...from Rogers simply because you're paying the highest cell phones charges in the known universe."

So that would mean Australia is not part of the known universe then?

Actually, that's probably right.

We don't have IMEI blacklists either, but as is well-known, eveyone here is descended from convicts and are all criminals.

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Alert

sh!tphones

About 40% of the phones are non-GSM and are locked to the carrier.

But in general the phones are pooh.

If nicked the will be sold on and the calls will be to Mexico.

One other thing the little red marker inside the phone (wetness) changes too easily in the humid weather over here. SO time to get a pre-paid phone and get a sh!ter phone.

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Violent Grannies!

Philip Perry said - "I'm reminded of the story of a guy who tried to mug an old granny in the parking lot of a supermarket. He told her to give him her purse; she swung it at his head. He was knocked cold, and when the cops showed up, It turned out the old granny had kept two giant bricks in there! The mugger woke up in the ICU with a handcuff tying him to his bed and a massive concussion. The granny was treated like a hero in the newspaper the next day. I doubt that'd happen in England; your grannies are WAY too mannerly to go around bricking people in the head."

And it is true, it wouldn't happen in England because it would be the granny in handcuffs. The law here supports the criminal not the victim. Human rights and all that! Just look at Abu Hamza? is that case right?

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Paris Hilton

@ Philip Perry

Regular old grannies are not capable of swinging a purse filled with two giant bricks. Physics and osteoporosis don't allow it. Unless it was an undercover officer...

Paris because she swings...

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Happy

Grannies

> I doubt that'd happen in England; your grannies are WAY too mannerly to go around bricking people in the head.

Don't you believe it...

http://tinyurl.com/5ek7ws

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Happy

Phones in the US really are shit.

I went for a couple of weeks to visit an ex in NY and couldn't charge my nokia. I took the little adapter that goes on the old one to contest it to the easily breakable new mini pin thinking everyone would have 2 or 10 nokia chargers laying around like they do in the UK but no one had a Nokia. Just shitty basic phones that still need the antenna pulled out, with call charges that make my free minutes and free N95 package look like the deal of the millenium.

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Tim

@ kissing

He does have a good point, when I've been in the US it's been really noticeable how low crime is in most areas, and it is confined to just places nobody would visit. For instance, I was really surprised to see in San Francisco that people would leave convertible cars parked on the side of the road overnight with the roof down, this wasn't in a particularly wealthy or poor area. Also, on a biking trip over there I was really amazed how whenever we stopped at a diner etc the US riders would leave their helmets on the bikes - something you never see done in the UK, and nobody else even owned a big chain or shackle lock (I have 3...). Camping gear was always left untouched (unlike Latitude last weekend-80 thefts on 1st day alone!), we never saw any indication of crime. That said, you can of course go into the wrong part of town there & things aren't so safe, it just seems they manage to isolate those parts better & leave the rest of the country crime-free, whereas in the UK the crime is spread out thinly everywhere.

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Alert

Street crime in America is very different

Yes its all done over here... European Blacklisted phones have one major market I'll let you guess where?

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@ Philip Perry

"The granny was treated like a hero in the newspaper the next day. I doubt that'd happen in England; your grannies are WAY too mannerly to go around bricking people in the head."

That's because our grannies don't waste their time tackling streetcrime one hoodlum at a time - they pick a fight with the government!

"Miss Rooney, who has lived in the street for 20 years, began withholding the tax two years ago and now owes about £850. She has been paying the tax into a separate account and said she will hand it to the council once it clears the area of drug abusers."

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/global/main.jhtml?xml=/global/2006/06/09/needles09.xml

Also what you won't see in those "happy slapping" videos is the twenty other ratboys that are standing behind the kid with the phone waiting to give the victim a kicking if they try and retalliate.

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Boffin

Actually..

Technically, the phone is still the providers until your contract is finished (read the small print.. even if you pay money towards it!). So if you lose your phone during the contract, and if the provider can't be arsed to blacklist it, it's their perogative to do what ever. If it's YOUR phone though, I would expect them to blacklist it without delay - or I would sue!!

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Gates Horns

Backwards

The USA backwards?

When it comes to cellphones they are still mostly in the dark ages.

When the rest of the world had gone GSM they were still building Analogue networks. Then when they finally went digital they used some home-brewed mess of a system and are still recovering from that cockup.

But then again, anyone who has seen the difference in TV picture quality between a PAL and an NTSC system will understand. <LOL>

God forbid that they should actually agree with the rest of the world and adopt a common standard!

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Anonymous Coward

Hmm, that follows

@ vincent himpe

"- Cell phones are 99.99% oif the time locked to one provider ( most of them don't even have a sim card. its hardwired inside ... )

"- If you lose your phone : change your number. Done. You get a new free phone ... Old number is disconnected. So whoever has that phone can't use it anymore. ..."

I see how that follows, if there's no SIM card and the phone can't be reflashed with a connectable number.

If only 0.01% of US phones are GSM with a SIM card, the networks might well think the cost of an interconnect to the stolen phone database might be a poor use of funds, when only 1 customer in 10,000 stands to benefit.

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Anonymous Coward

Police?

I can see why the networks can't be arsed, but obviously a crime was committed so the police will be investigating.

Presumably they go the network see if the phone is reconnected, get a fix, pick up the thief and bask in the glory of a crime solved and miscreant suitably penalised?

...or maybe they just sit around having a curry.

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@Wonderkid

I'd also like to see some facts here. I recall some little scrote trying to rob my phone a few years ago. The police over the other side of the road (I didn't say he was a very clever or observant scrote) took a rather dim view of it. Once my mate for whom I'd been leaving voicemail at the time gave a statement that she'd heard him demand my phone on said VM, he changed his plea. That cut not very much ice - he was awarded a year's free stay at HMYPOI Feltham. Not a nice place.

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Jobs Horns

NUL Labour = no labour

that's about right

theres no brain power in the labour party

theres no common sense in the labour party

theres no will to support the common man in the labour party

etc. etc.

for these who don't follow british politics new labour or nulabour or simply the labour party are the currently in power polictical party.

as for the phones free can get free handsets to but they are generally crappy so pay the extra to get a slighty better one the punk arse who got the free phone then steals my better phone that i worked hard to buy and uses in replacment of his crappy free phone.

so if you don't use sims in the US Fair enough but i'm sure some telcos do and that means the theory holds mr banker with his blackberry/htc iphone whatever gets it nicked so some punk with a crap phone can have an iphone. i'm pretty sure that still happens and would be the point of imei blocking

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Silver badge
Stop

Blacklisting doesn't prevent theft

All the UK carriers blacklist stolen phones -- and it doesn't do a blind thing to deter theft. Why? Because the object of stealing a mobile phone is NOT to acquire a mobile phone for yourself without paying for it, but merely to deprive someone else of their mobile phone.

Sometimes there is the additional motivation to prevent them from calling the police to report a robbery; but as often as not, the aim of stealing a mobile phone is just to annoy someone.

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@wim

I think you have it pretty much correct.

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Coat

@wim

Me too - but looking at labour (including ours) how much of a difference is it really?

E-

(former pvda voter, now party-apathetic)

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Tim

Ass-backward

America is still in the dark ages for mobile telephony. The UK didnt have IMEI blocking until a few years ago, and it hasnt stopped all theft, because theives can sell their loot to another country, who dont check against a central database.

The other problem of course is that IMEI numbers ran out ages ago, so they are recycling old ones.

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CKM
Dead Vulture

@W Re: Scandinavians

'quality of life' = highest suicide rate in Europe

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Heart

@W

Can anybody suggest some things that Scandinavia has royally c0cked up on?

Good news, they have some of the highest tax rates in europe and rank pretty high up on suicide rates.

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stu
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Coat

@W : Scandanavia

Will, they were still merrily sterilising the disabled and 'feeble minded' until into the 1970s.

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@A J Stiles

"...as often as not, the aim of stealing a mobile phone is just to annoy someone...."

Since as often as not the aim of *owning* a mobile phone is just to annoy everybody[1] there's a certain symmetry to this :-)

[1] Ten minutes in a locked room with a taser and the person who thought letting Mobes play music through crappy speakers was a good idea. Is that really too much for me to ask?

--

JG

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Scandinavian c0ck ups

W asked for examples of royal Scandinavian c0ck ups. There has been no shortage of these in Denmark, where I'm from, and many are in the IT and telecommunications area.

- The tax service has several public information web pages that only work with Internet Explorer.

- A decade-old system digital signatures for certain public services has almost no users. This is partly because it is difficult to use and partly because it only works with Windows and IE. A recent proposal for a new-and-improved system uses cleartext paper cards with access codes.

- Many public IT projects go many times over their original budget and still don't work properly once they are officially finished. A much talked-about case involves electronic patient journals, another a web-portal for industry.

And a lot more. I guess a reason you don't hear so much about these is that no-one outside Denmark care if we f*ck up our own country. :-)

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Coat

re: scandinavian cock ups

Working as I do for a Norwegian Group I think I can answer this question. Would you prefer them in date or value order.

Mine's the one made from whale skin with Kronors in the pocket Thanks.

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America feeding the thieves

America - Feeding the thieves:

Nick a phone from say the UK, where it will get blocked, sell it to America and voila the phone works again! America has made it's own black market for stolen phones. Steal to order for America! Nice one, right off to mug a few hundred people so I can nick their phones and sell them to a dodgy american who can sell them on knowing that American networks are too stupid to block stolen goods!

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@Wonderkid

You don't have an analysis you just spouted uninformed right wing rant. You think it's appropriate to incarcerate people for decades because they steal mobile phones and that this process is "working". The US prison population is currently in excess of 2.38million which is a sign of a degenerate society in extreme crisis. 25% of black males will serve time in prison because of institutional racism and enforced generational poverty. It's not helped by uneducated reactionary types with no perspective whining for insane sentences for minor crimes.

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Happy

@JonB

"...or maybe they just sit around having a curry."

No, in the US its a donut. A jelly donut. Mmmm, donuts.

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Free Phones With Contracts

Lots of people seem to be saying that it's because phones are free with contracts in the US - they're free in the UK too! I've had a new phone every year with my contract here for the last 6 years, feeding my more slack friends with a steady stream of outdated models. That's not the reason people don't nick phones!

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@stu

> they were still merrily sterilising the disabled and 'feeble minded' until into the 1970s.

So was the US. Look up "Buck v Bell" and the history of eugenics in Virginia.

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Stop

No way ...

Seán

No way. I doubt there is anybody in America doing hard time JUST for stealing a phone. Policing that works focuses on dealing hard with the quality of life crimes that are caught. Its called the "Broken Window" strategy of policing.

If you arrest somebody for jumping a turnstile in the subway you probably eliminate a person who may commit 2 or 3 crimes a week. I read this board daily and find the British resigned to very high levels of crime and seeming to have an institutional bias against dealing with it.

As far as phones go, if I lose it, I turn it off and get another one. Its insured. It costs me about $25 deductible. I think everybody in the states above the age of 12 has their own. It seems kind of pointless to try and activate a stolen one. And phones become obsolescent so fast that they are quite disposable.

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Look up "rogered"

This company also sells phones. why would they find your old one for you?

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Paris Hilton

@carlos -- don't mess with a NY granny!

Hey, Carlos: don't underestimate our grannies. They're quite a bit tougher than you think. The brick story was reported in the Journal News, which is quite reputable.

My OWN granny, who grew up in California during the Great Depression, was once married to a brutish creep. As family lore goes, one day the creep decided to slap her around. She beat the crap out of him! In fact, halfway through the brawl she threw him head-first down a tall, narrow staircase; he was lucky to live through it. Supposedly he was VERY polite to her from then on.

When she was 68, she had knuckles like ping-pong balls and would regularly engage in farmwork and restoration of old houses. She used to mind various family properties down in Virginia and the Southeast. I adored her; she was one of my favorite relatives. Sweet as honey to those who were kind to her, a hellion if anyone tried anything.

Speaking of hellions, the aforementioned creep once tried to intimidate my mother (another very sweet woman) in her kitchen. He grabbed her by the sink and tried to get her to have sex with him. She reached behind her to her knife drawer, pulled out a two foot butcher knife, and dug it into his groin -- not an actual stabbing, just more of a poking. She threw him out of the house, saying "You touch me again and I'll cut it off!!"

Us Yanks are very nice, sweet people, and we're lovely and polite. But don't annoy us; we have short tempers. :)

Paris, because I bet SHE knows about the grannies...

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