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Beware of Waking the Neighbors –Cagle

April 2011

How often have you heard or read a story and certain elements of it seem a bit odd, maybe even nonsensical? You'll begin to question things, those incongruous elements that cause you to cast doubt on its authenticity. But, sometimes, the story is funny enough to allow you to suspend those suspicions, if only momentarily.

We've journeyed to the southern European country of Malta to bring you this little nugget, courtesy of It seems a 61-year-old man, Andrew Spiteri, became so incensed by the constant rattling of a printing press at a neighboring company that he proceeded to damage three cars in the parking lot of said company (Miller Distributors) to the equivalent of about $4,400 worth of damage.

Here's the thing. The press was "practically" located on the other side of Spiteri's bedroom wall. C'mon Andy, you didn't know you were living next to a manufacturing company that operates, among other things, a printing press?

Well, according to Wikipedia, Malta is one of the world's smallest and most densely populated countries (not to mention an island), so perhaps it doesn't have zoning laws that segregate residential and commercial dwellings. Or maybe there isn't an abundance of available apartments for rent, so Mr. Spiteri grabbed the best he could find.

Further, who knows which came first, the press or the pissed off person? But you'd think that a meeting between tenant and the business would lead to some sort of less destructive solution. Oddly enough, Spiteri himself filed the police report, even though he was the offending party. Must have had something to do with Spiteri seeing the close-circuit TV cameras outside the building.

At any rate, Spiteri was given an 18-month suspended jail term and was ordered to pay for damages to the car owners within three months. Hopefully, he will have found another place to live by then. In the future, perhaps Spiteri should think twice about using the Charlie Sheen method for dispute settlement. TV stars get dubbed wildly eccentric for such bizarre behavior, but the average Joe's can't pull it off.

CRUEL LESSON: The brutal winter many of us experienced earlier this year wasn't relegated to the United States, obviously, but one sad tale of trying to keep warm from India has an unfortunate printing slant. Seven people—six of them children 11 years of age and younger—were burning waste material in a drum this past January. Tragically, the drum they chose was located outside of a printing plant in New Delhi and contained some pressroom chemicals.

The resulting explosion left three of the youngsters with burns on 55-60 percent of their bodies, according to The Times of India. The others suffered minor injuries. Apparently, the kids (and one adult) were huddled around the drum with temperatures around 40 degrees, accompanied by icy winds.

These children are known as rag pickers in India. These extremely impoverished victims, many of whom never attend school, sift through garbage for items that can be recycled or sold at flea markets. Adding insult to injury are the middle men who prey on the kids and take most of the profit, keeping them perpetually poor.

We tend to think of India as a country that produces intellectuals by the truck load, especially doctors and technology professionals. Unfortunately, no country in the world is completely spared from crippling poverty and a lack of educational opportunities. For these six kids, it was the harshest of lessons in a life that likely promises many more.

R.I.P. JOHN: John Sweeney Jr., 62, died in late February while in an Allentown, PA, hospice. He worked for 32 years as a material handler at Mack Printing, which became Cenveo Easton, before retiring in 2010. Judging by the condolences book on The (Easton, PA) Express Times Website, it seems Mr. Sweeney became sick and spent his final days in the hospice.

I found Mr. Sweeney's obituary while sweeping the Internet for printing news. The thing that caught my eye in the obit was his 30 years as a baseball coach at various levels, including 20 years as a coach at Northampton Community College. As head coach, Mr. Sweeney posted a very impressive 443-171 record. His teams won 17 conference championships and three state titles. He was inducted into that school's hall of fame.

In January, John and Kathleen Sweeney celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary. They have one son and a granddaughter.

Never having met Mr. Sweeney, I discovered he had three great loves in life—his wife, baseball and printing—thanks to statistics. To you, sir, I say it was a life well spent.

Let it also serve as a gentle reminder that as long as you follow your passions in life, you'll never have a regret...regardless of how soon that great hand taps you on the shoulder. PI

—Erik Cagle



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