I remember exactly where I was when my head nearly exploded.
Camped out on luxurious Couch Island (centered in my living room, in a strategic spot in front of my television), I was catching up on some news on CNN when they did a feature on a study by the American Academy of Pediatricians — stating that one child dies every five days in the United States from choking on food. That’s concerning, to say the least.
But that’s not what caused the inside of my head to rattle like a penny in a cement mixer. The study said that hot dogs were considered the biggest danger in regards to children choking, and the CNN team was off to the races with a campaign to save the world.
They set out to find a safer way to make hot dogs.
The reporter did the typical “man on the street” story, interviewing people in New York City and asking their opinions on how to make hot dogs more safe for children. There were the typical glassy-eyed doofuses that television news teams do such a nice job of finding to put on the air, and the ideas ranged from changing the shape of hot dogs to grinding them into a fine paste. I began to raise my remote to find something else when an image flashed across the screen of a warning label on a pack of hot dogs that advised that they pose a choking threat to children.
And, ladies and gentlemen, that’s when my head began its aforementioned launch sequence.
Why do we need warning labels telling us that people can choke on hot dogs? I realize this is some kind of preventative legal step taken to excuse the hot dog makers of the world from any legal responsibility for somebody choking on one of their products, but are we collectively ignorant enough to believe the smart thing to do with a hot dog is to just swallow it whole? Didn’t anybody else’s mother harp on them constantly to take his or her time to chew food properly before swallowing it?
I remember a trip to Ireland a few years ago when I was positively giddy over the warning labels on cigarettes. They were blunt, with messages like, “Smoking can cause a slow and painful death.” I found them more entertaining than informative. But, rest assured, I am not fully-entertained with the warning labels on most products.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I want to know the side effects of medicines before I start taking them. I want to be informed that certain pills can cause dry eyes, heart disease, stroke, bleeding, spontaneous amputation or four-hour ...
But I digress.
I’m shaken up about the lack of accountability and personal responsibility that has pervaded our society. We’ve become so litigious and blame-oriented that every statement, product or idea has to come up with some legalese to prevent the subject from being sued or otherswise found accountable. Spill hot coffee on yourself? Sue. Choke on a hot dog? Sue. Fall out of your neighbor’s tree while stalking her with high-powered binoculars and ...
Sorry, Bob. I promised you I wouldn’t tell that story.
Regardless, I’ve decided to use my crystal ball (no, not my bald head, smart alecks) and anticipate a few warning labels we might see in the not-so-distant future.
• “Warning: Using this hammer could result in injury if you continue to bash yourself in the face with it.”
• “Warning: Drinking this whiskey from noon to 2 a.m. could result in you not being able to read this warning label.”
• “Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that covering yourself in this cooking grease and lighting yourself on fire could result in skin irritation, blistering and a nasty boo-boo.”
• “Warning: Accelerator pedal might stick...”. You know, that one might be a good warning label to keep around for a while.
• “Warning: Juggling chainsaws could result in tennis elbow.”
• “Warning: Stapling your toes together out of boredom could result in a lack of balance, bleeding toes and the inability to pass through security at an airport.”
• “Warning: Books have words. Read at your own risk.”
• “Warning: Reading this column could result in anger and frustration.”