People are always doing strange things to get attention. At the same time, people are always finding new and creative ways to earn money or win fancy prizes – perhaps this is more true now that the price of gas has nearly doubled in the last couple of years. When the two meet, you can often get a startling perspective on the kinds of people there really are out there.

A Life For A Wii
Don’t get me wrong; when the Wii first came out I knew that it was going to be a game system I would eventually own. I saw all of the stories about people who would stay in line for days at a time in order to make sure that they had one. This, I thought, was pure insanity. Was it really worth it to spend hours of your life waiting in line so that you could be one of the first people to purchase a product?

Similarly, people lined up for days in order to get the Apple iPhone – one woman even bought her way to the front of the line so that she could then spend tens of thousands of dollars to buy out the store supply. When she found out that there was a limit of one per customer, you can imagine not only how she felt – but the person who came after her in line and was now able to get an iPhone at no cost. I suppose that would have been worth the wait – but the man couldn’t have known he would have gotten so lucky by means of the greed of a person.

The craziness culminated in a series of radio stations and other businesses having contests to let people win the Wii. Most of them were standard radio contests – if you were the one hundredth caller, the Wii was yours. If you were able to answer some trivia questions about the Wii, you could have it. One radio station decided to try a different route: they offered the Wii to the person who could drink the most water without going to use the toilet.

What a perfectly revolting concept, in theory. In practice, it eventually brought about the death of one contestant, who drank so much water that she eventually died of water intoxication. As a result of her death, about ten people at the radio station were sacked, but does that somehow make up for the fact that a person died because they so desperately wanted to get a video game system?

My Dead Army Father
One of the biggest concert tours last year was the Hanna Montana Best of Both Worlds tour – it sold out so quickly that even after adding new shows, they continued to sell out in minutes. Scalpers were selling tickets to the shows for thousands of dollars above face value. How scalping is not yet punishable by strangulation death, I don’t know – I can assure you that a lot more people are hurt by scalping than by smoking marijuana.

You can guess where this is going – something is incredibly hard to get and wanted by tens of thousands of people – so of course, there were contests on television shows and radio programs just as there were for the Wii. Nobody died in the name of getting a ticket to see Hannah Montana, as far as I know – but something equally insidious did happen.

One radio station had a forty yard dash for fathers in high heels that got one man prosecuted for fraud – he was on workman’s compensation and claimed he could not work. One store for teenage girls held an essay writing contest – the best essay would win the tickets and airfare to New York to see the concert. How heartwarming it was when a six year old girl entered the contest and wrote about how her father had died in Iraq and how much she loved him and missed him.

Perhaps not wanting to miss an opportunity to show of their love for the United States, the company soon announced that the girl had won the grand prize. How could anything go wrong in such a beautiful story? There was no dead father. Some people write fake memoirs and then go on Oprah to boast. This six year old girl pretended to have a dead father so that she could see a hit pop sensation. Personally, I just waited until it was in movie theaters and in 3D (and substantially cheaper) to see it – and the bears loved it.

The Two Million Dollar Abomination
The last item I will mention is one that is quite disturbing; I certainly found it so. I found it so upsetting that I don’t want to even link to the “official Web Site” because the babies involved do not need more attention than they are already getting.

The story goes like this: a boy of nineteen claims that somehow, despite all efforts to prevent it from happening, he managed to get his girlfriend of the same age pregnant. Being only nineteen, he realized that they did not have the means to raise a child without some help from strangers. Mind you, millions of people have managed to do it just fine. Perhaps, you think, the boy just asked for money from strangers online – like the “Save XYZ” sites of yesteryear where people flat-out begged for money to get out of debt. That would be one thing — but these babies-as-parents set a whole new standard for infantile behavior.

This lad has taken an entirely different approach. He claims that the cost of raising a child to the age of twenty-one – including buying the child a car and taking the child to Disney World – adds up to about two million dollars. Naturally, he figures it would be best if he had the money all up front. (The astonishing amount of interest on that sum of money would be equal to a standard middle class income – why work when you can get money to do it for you?)

The part that takes this begging site out of the norm and puts it into the disturbed area is the part where he goes on to say that since he isn’t interested in adopting the child out, he and his girlfriend will go to get an abortion if they don’t get the money by the end of June.

The first thought that comes to mind is that I hope that this is just a hoax and there is not really a pregnant teenager out there considering getting an abortion if she doesn’t get a certain amount of money – it sounds like a hostage situation of sorts.

While I do have pro-choice tendencies, this is something that I find to be completely distasteful and wrong. Hundreds of articles have been written about this couple and their site has been shut down numerous times for Terms of Service violations, so I think it’s a safe bet they aren’t going to get their two million dollars.

What brings people to these desperate, conniving and clever measures?

What is it that causes otherwise rational people to do things that bring about their own death and destruction, making them pay far more for something than they would have had to if only they had gone about doing it in a sane manner?

I have a Wii and all I had to do was wait for it to be in stock – it was there and so was I, so I bought one. There was no suffering involved there. I got to see Hannah Montana in my own way and I didn’t have to scam anyone to do it. With a little bit of patience and rational thinking, we can get the things we want without hurting others – or ourselves.