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Fuzzy Logic

Claim:   A motorist mistook a Dustbuster vacuum cleaner for a Fuzzbuster radar detection device.

LEGEND

Example:   [Deseret News, October 2000]

Sgt. Larry Wehrli could hear a humming sound as he approached the car he'd just pulled over for speeding.

Wehrli was even more surprised to hear the elderly woman behind the wheel curse her grandchildren who weren't even in the car.

"I said, 'Ma'am, what about the grandkids?'" Wehrli said. "She said, 'Well they told me if I put a Dustbuster in my car that I wouldn't get a ticket.'"

"Sitting on the dashboard of the car is a Dustbuster and it's on, it's just humming away."

Wehrli told the woman she needed a radar detector known as a fuzz buster, not the household cleaning tool she'd mistakenly taped to her dashboard. After the quick tip, Wehrli sent the woman on her way with a warning.
 

Origins:   This tale about a grandmother who attempted to use a Dustbuster as a Fuzzbuster plays upon a recurring theme in urban legends: the supposed cluelessness of female motorists (e.g., the woman who caused her car to perform badly by hanging her purse on its choke). That anyone (at the behest of her grandchildren or otherwise) could confuse a cordless handheld vacuum cleaner with a radar detector used to alert motorists to the presence of speed traps sounds like a tale too good to be true; although the article referenced above supposedly provides a
first-hand account of one such incident, since the purported encounter did not result in the issuance of a citation or police report, it's difficult to independently verify.

However, we do know that a Dustbuster was used criminally at least once. In 1997, 43-year-old George Foster of New Haven, Connecticut, attempted to hold up a store while armed with one. He had concealed the small appliance in a bakery store bag, which he then brandished at a clerk in a WalMart store while demanding money. Foster fled when the clerk refused to hand over any cash and was apprehended as he drove away. The failed robber was charged with first-degree robbery, possession of drug paraphernalia, and driving with a suspended license.

Returning to the topic of clueless female drivers and radar speed traps brings us to the following legend, which is sort of a reverse form of the previous one:
A friend of a friend's mum was on her way back from her daughter's new house and had stopped to top up with petrol at a motorway service station. She had just finished and was about to rejoin the main carriageway when her eagle eyes spotted a microwave oven glinting on the hard shoulder, seemingly abandoned.

Figuring it must have fallen off the back of a lorry, the overjoyed woman screeched to a halt and hoicked the modern technological marvel into her hatchback. Even if it was damaged, her handyman husband would soon get the gadget up and cooking.

The woman couldn't believe her luck: her conventional cooker was on its last legs, and for months she'd been jealous of her neighbours, who never stopped gassing about their microwave marvel. Eager to get home and excited by her good fortune, she put her foot down.

But shortly after she'd set off, a police motorway patrol car came haring up behind her, sirens wailing. The driver flashed her and indicated she should pull over.

As the officers sauntered over towards her, the poor woman began perspiring heavily and just couldn't help looking horribly guilty.

Deciding honesty was the best policy, she was ready to blurt out the whole sorry tale about the microwave when one of the officers jammed his head through her open window. 'I'm terribly sorry to bother you, madam, but could you please tell us why you've just stolen this object,' he oozed.

Through floods of tears, the women explained everything: 'I just wanted to use it to cook my family's dinner,' she sobbed.

'You'd be hard-pushed to cook for anyone with that thing,' smirked one of the officers. 'You see, it's a radar speed-trap box.'
Barbara "the hot box" Mikkelson

Last updated:   19 August 2010

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Sources:

    Healey & Glanvill.   "Urban Myths."
    The Guardian.   1 June 1996   (p. T59).

    Jensen, Derek.   "Excuses: Police Hear Them All."
    Deseret News.   25 October 2000   (p. B1).

    Associated Press.   "Police Bag Man Armed with Dustbuster."
    23 December 1997.