Warning Message

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

Once in a while I read, see or hear something that strikes me as funny. It could be the several lines of fine print that pop up under a TV ad for a new wonder drug, perhaps the real cost of financing a new car, or how long a person should wait before dialling 911 after taking Viagra. The blurb is never on the screen long enough to actually read or hear the details. It is like the list of stores carrying a product. The announcer rhymes it off at ninety miles an hour just before going into cardiac arrest, which is stupid since we can read it as fast as he can say it. I guess it is a make-work programme.

In the case of the drawbacks of a product, the companies really don’t want you to read about them. Most drug ads are followed by “Ask your doctor if Kleen-Flo Enema Kits are right for you.” I’m sure your doctor would be pleased to hear from you, especially if it’s three in the morning. It really doesn’t matter though, since he or she thinks you are a wacko anyway.

If Kleen-Flo is advertised in a magazine, the ad is followed by two pages of technical language about its pitfalls and possible side effects that can only be understood by a chemical engineer or a malpractice lawyer.

The other day I had to buy a new cartridge for my printer and I noticed a warning on the warrantee sheet. It said, “Ink may be harmful if swallowed.” I guess it may be, but is it really necessary to have it in their literature? Most of us aren’t so dumb that we will pick up a cartridge and drink it or feed it to small children. The more I thought about it, the more I realised the warning is probably there for legal reasons. All companies in this day and age are afraid of lawsuits. If some dough-head does something dumb with their product, no matter how ridiculous, it could cost them millions. I love the warnings on coffee cups, or the dangers of drying your dog in the microwave oven – in case you are wondering, don’t do it.

It wasn’t always so. We didn’t have to worry about that fifty or sixty years ago. It’s not because we were more safety conscious, no intelligent person would think of suing a company over some asinine thing he or she did in case your neighbours found out what a stupid ass you were.

“Did you hear what Foster did? He put his underpants in the washer and he was still wearing them. Now he is suing both Harvey Woods and Procter and Gamble – what a bonehead that man is.”

Nevertheless there were unwritten warnings, rumours mostly, about certain things we should never do. Of course we did them anyway. Don’t chew the end of your pencil. The lead in there could lead to blindness. There was also something else that would lead to blindness that your father told you about when your mother and sister were out of the room but we did it anyway. That’s why we have so many optometrists in Orillia.

Never lick a wrought iron fence when it is twenty below or you will be there until spring. In spite of the warning, there was always some poor jerk whimpering while one of the other kids went for warm water.

Don’t eat the tar that drops off the barrel when the city is patching the road. That’s a good rule. The petrochemicals in that stuff will kill you. I mean who would do such an insane thing anyway? Well, other than me and all the other kids in the City of Toronto. I don’t know about the boys and girls up here in Orillia, probably not. They didn’t pave the streets until 1995.

Some rules turned out to be false. Waiting an hour after dinner before swimming was one. It appears that there is no danger. I suspect that mothers said it so the kids would stick around and dry the dishes. I had an aunt who got around the dish-drying by hitting the john seconds after dessert. In all the years I knew her, she never so much as picked up a dish towel. However her aversion to kitchen duties was good for her intellectually. She read War and Peace, the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and the dirty parts in Lady Chatterley’s Lover.      

I’m a little thirsty. Say! I wonder what printer ink tastes like.

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