For many people, the age of wonder is over.

    Technological marvels no longer astonish us. Spectacular movie stunts are more likely to elicit bored sighs instead of gasps of amazement. Even the Internet, with its endless possibilities for armchair adventure, has become less a source of astonishment than an everyday tool.

    But it's still possible to rediscover your sense of wonder, not to mention your sense of humor, by picking up the daily newspaper.


For many people, the age of wonder is over.
    Technological marvels no longer astonish us. Spectacular movie stunts are more likely to elicit bored sighs instead of gasps of amazement. Even the Internet, with its endless possibilities for armchair adventure, has become less a source of astonishment than an everyday tool.
    But it's still possible to rediscover your sense of wonder, not to mention your sense of humor, by picking up the daily newspaper.
    Even on the slowest day, the newspaper offers a rich feast of folly —  particularly in the form of tales from my favorite genre, the stupid crook story. The best of these stories provoke the same response: A disbelieving "Wow!," followed by an avid hunger to keep reading.
    A good stupid crook story delivers those qualities in spades.
    I began collecting tales from this genre as a cub reporter at the New Town (N.D.) News, where the police chief entertained me one day with a tale of two young thieves who had broken into a Schwan's frozen food truck the night before. For some reason, the thieves bypassed the lobsters, steaks and other high-quality items in favor of burritos, burgers and french fries — and boxes of frozen vegetables.
    When the thieves discovered their haul included veggies, they discarded the boxes along the road, creating a handy, if somewhat soggy, trail for the police chief to follow the next morning.
    Delighted by this story, I soon began collecting more stupid crook stories. Until recently, my favorite tale centered on a guy who saw the cops pull up outside his house to conduct a traffic stop one day. For some reason, he thought the cops were going to raid his house for drugs — so he tossed his plastic baggies of cocaine out his front window, where the cops were sure to see them.
    As you can see, the hallmarks of a good stupid crook story usually include petty crime, a less-than-stellar person and some variation on good old-fashioned moronness. I appreciate all of these qualities, especially when they help shore up my occasionally fragile self-esteem on a bad day. (Hey, I may have locked myself out of my apartment for the 10th time, but least I'm not as dumb as these guys!)
    But what truly boggles my mind and keeps me reading is this: Who on earth lies awake at night, thinking up some plan guaranteed to make them look like an idiot if it fails?
    Take my new all-time favorite stupid crook story, which appeared in the Globe earlier this week, courtesy of the Associated Press. A Leavenworth man used a stolen skid loader to pry an ATM loose from a credit union, then tried to break the machine open by dropping it down a 50-foot wooded embankment.
    When the skid loader dropped, so did its driver.
    The thief was found inside the beaten-up machine and taken to a hospital for treatment of his non-life-threatening injuries.
    I can only imagine the dialogue in this guy’s head as he planned the ATM heist:
    Man to self: Ho-hum. Another boring day to get through. How can I have some fun — and make enough money to get through this month?
    (Man thinks for a minute, then light bulb goes on in his head.)             Man to self: I’ve got it! I’ll steal a skid loader, then use it to steal an ATM, which I’ll drop down an embankment. The ATM will break open, and I’ll be rich. Genius!
    While I love chuckling over stupid crook stories, I'm also amazed by the sheer ingenuity (admittedly, much of it misplaced) that some of these guys exhibit in inventing new forms of folly. It's an endless source of amusement, humor — and even wonder.
    It's almost enough to restore my faith in mankind.