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Sue Carlton: Sometimes, stupidity carries a hefty price

Like mine, maybe your youth contained some stupid.

I once jumped from the roof of a neighbor's house on a dare and promptly broke my arm. For fun, we used to push each other off a friend's two-story roof into her backyard pool, somehow miraculously avoiding concrete. Once, we toilet-papered a college official's house and would have gotten away with it, had one of us not dropped his picture ID at the scene. (Okay, so ours weren't the sharpest criminal minds.)

That last one is what you could call a prank: Dumb, largely harmless, meant to be funny. Even in a world that celebrates potentially damaging idiocy on shows like Jackass, a deliberate and dangerous act is not a prank.

What a contrast there is in the story of what happened to a teenager out for a run Sunday night on Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard. Here was a kid motivated to do 9 miles with his brother and buddies, a top cross-country runner at Robinson High, a young man with his sights set on the Marine Corps.

Then you had three other teenagers tooling around in an SUV, armed with a few dozen eggs and looking for a target. Police say they found one, that they felled 17-year-old Noah Grant, fracturing bone and seriously damaging his right eye. And maybe his Marine Corps plans along with it.

While he was on the ground, witnesses said the SUV circled back and someone hurled another egg. A "prank"?

An egg might seem a delicate and fragile thing, harmless as a whipped cream pie in the face, until one is hurled at you at great speed and you suddenly understand an egg can also be a missile.

Once my husband and I were sitting outside at a Hyde Park restaurant near where Grant was hit. Here came kids in a truck, an arm out the window. The egg hit our table and bounced up to catch my husband just next to his eye, cutting him slightly, so loud and violent I thought it was a gunshot. They were gone.

Ask people who regularly use Bayshore, a picturesque ribbon of concrete for walking, running, biking and skating through South Tampa along the water, more a linear park than a sidewalk. You will hear stories of beer can throwers, deliberate swervers, even paintball gunners and assorted other idiots. Eggshells are not an unfamiliar sight.

What was also striking about this story was Grant's grace afterward even with the fate of his eye uncertain, praising police for a fast arrest. "I couldn't be happier to know that Bayshore is safe again," he told the Times.

You hope the three arrestees — Patrick Wasp and Tyler Metzger, both 16, and Daniel Borgeson, 17 — had no real idea of the amount of damage stupid can do. I know plenty of Florida kids who threw grapefruit at cars for fun. How scary is that?

Years ago, a group of teenagers on an Interstate 75 overpass threw rocks at cars and finally a chunk of concrete that killed a woman driving below. She was a college professor. She had a life, a family. "I never thought about how (the drivers) would feel," one of the young men said before he was sentenced to life in prison.

You hope a kid who was just out for a run will heal and move on with his plans. And you hope three young men look back and see a turning point, a moment when they learned the real cost of stupid.

Sue Carlton: Sometimes, stupidity carries a hefty price 05/29/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 7:25pm]
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