Editorial: Parsnips and pursed lips

Last updated 05:00 17/02/2014

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OPINION: The man who plonked a vibrator among the veges at Wanaka's New World supermarket told police he was "extremely remorseful and embarrassed".

It presumably seemed like a good idea at the time. Lots of things do.

This particular, um, plonker's path from larrikin to penitent opened up for him after police first publicised their stern displeasure at the case, then posted surveillance footage on their Facebook page.

Within 20 minutes he had contacted them.

Which was probably wise. His number was surely up.

It wasn't a manhunt, exactly, but community interest in the case was considerable, for one reason or another, and that footage would have been pored over assiduously indeed.

Had the perpetrator expected to be commended for his sense of fun, he would have been part-right. This was the sort of stunt that generates both broad grins and pursed lips, albeit in proportions we're not game to try to guess.

On the one hand, lots of people like a joke.

On the other, folk do tend to get testy when foreign objects pop up in their foodstuffs.

And they don't come a lot more foreign than this one.

Certainly it's potentially a lot less funny to anyone who might have bought and consumed any product that spent companionable time with the vibrator.

Mercifully, the good people at the market destroyed all products it may have touched and the jokester has offered to recompense them for that.

He was, we note, described as middle-aged. As opposed to mature.

Most of us understand that one person's joke is another person's offence. It's such a subjective issue that there do need to be tolerances for people's different sensibilities. Ideally, the laws of the land shouldn't be entirely forgotten, either.

It's one thing to say that you go too far at your peril. The tricky thing about it is that all too often "too far" is something that's a good deal easier to pick in hindsight.

A Christchurch bar was recently forced to pay $26,000 in compensation and lost wages to a female employee who quit after repeatedly being harassed by a manager known for his crude jokes and off-colour comments. Not a lot of people would have a default setting of sympathy for that jokester.

Certainly nobody was laughing in 2012 when a drunk Ngaruawahia man took exception to a practical joke by three friends who took off with his ride when he temporarily stepped out of it.

After searching with mounting frustration for the car, he walked home. When they showed up he attacked them with a meat cleaver, causing injuries so serious he was jailed for seven years.

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He told police he'd felt disrespected.

This doesn't mean that nobody should ever pull a practical joke for fear that someone might react extravagantly, even violently.

But a sense of imagination doesn't go amiss. Particularly in this day and age when, with social media, decisions that are made on a whim can be permanently attached to our own reputations, and to other people's.

Worth bearing in mind before you succumb to the temptation to put a plastic protruberance amid other people's fruit and veg.

- The Southland Times

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