Bible Verse of the Day

Friday, April 20, 2012

You can leave your hat on... and other fallacies

Stop! Are you about to eat a scoop of onion dip? It could cause meningitis. Showing some kids around work? Be careful, please, keep them away from the stapler. Planning a walk? Bring plenty of water or you could end up in a coma!
And let’s not even talk about what could happen if you take the kids to the shopping centre and find yourselves contemplating an escalator ride. You should tie their shoelaces, insist they hold the handrail, and place them in the centre of the step, and say your prayers (but not on your knees, for obvious reasons). “Perhaps most important, learn where the emergency shut-off button is so you can turn off the escalator if someone gets trapped while riding. That’s right: if you want to be safe - and who doesn’t? - Every time you ride the escalator with a child, you should first make sure you can leap into action and slam off the contraption, mid-mangle. That’s not too much to think about when you’re on a shopping trip, is it? Yeah, right…
We are being warned about the weirdest, wildest, least likely and most far-fetched, ill-founded and downright bizarre possibilities to the point we are being scared stupid.  “Watch out” mania rules the media. All the warnings above are real; the stapler one came from an interoffice memo. But they’re just the tip of the iceberg. (Watch out for those, too!) Do some research - watch TV; cruise the internet, read books, magazines and email “tips” to see what the average person gets warned about in the course of everyday life.
The result..? Please continue to read this from inside a giant safe-deposit box. They can feed you - but no onion dip, please - from a hole you can drill in the side. Don’t take a cell phone, because it could give you a brain tumour. Don’t have a bottle of water, because the plastic could disrupt your endocrine receptors and switch your gender. Don’t have a mattress; it could be toxic. Don’t eat meat; it could give you asthma.

But you can’t leave the box and go to the supermarket, because you might be tempted to put your kid in a trolley. Parents are strongly urged to seek alternatives to transporting their child in a shopping trolley until an effective revised performance standard for shopping trolley safety is implemented.

 That’s right: the modern shopping trolley is just too dangerous. Parents must come up with an alternative. A dogsled, maybe? A mini Hummer?

You probably shouldn't leave your box, because if you go out in the sun, it could give you cancer. Then again, so could sunscreen. Then again …
Let’s look at some of the warnings:
Recently, TV health guru Dr Oz had a woman serve dip at a function and then he sent the remains to a lab to see what was in it. Guess what? The lab discovered Group B streptococcus, bacteria that are generally found in the intestinal tract and can probably be traced to the detested double-dippers. Furthermore, said Dr Oz, these bacteria can lead to things like.., meningitis! He neglected to add that strep B is usually a hazard only to newborns (who aren’t big dip enthusiasts), and bacterial meningitis is quite rare. Instead, he left viewers ready to lynch the next guy who sticks a half-chomped chip in the guacamole. But it’s not just dip that’s going to kill you.
 Dr Oz has devoted other segments to the dangers of cosmetics- counter make-up, shoes, nail salons, and that silent scourge: the complimentary mints next to the cash register in restaurants. Really, he did a whole big thing on these and his grossed-out audience swore off them forever. As if so many millions have been felled by free mints…
 Warning! “Hot weather can have a dire effect on senior health!”  - So what are the symptoms of overheating? You’ll never guess. Tops on the list: thirst! Then come those ever-so-subtle hints, including staggering”, “fainting”, “high body temperature”, and, in case you still didn’t get the message, “coma”. Really now, is there any way to avoid this stealthy danger? Thankfully, yes. Try these obscure but possibly helpful remedies: “Drink plenty of liquids”. Also: “Avoid exercising in the heat”. And: “Cover windows that are in direct sunlight”. Do you reckon? Not that I ever want to see seniors suffer from overheating, but I also don’t want to see seniors suffer from being treated as if they have bingo chips for brains. Anyone over 60 has probably worked out by now that when you’re thirsty, you should drink, and when you’re staggering, it’s time to take a break. Same goes for when you’re in a coma…
You don’t want your child to live in a bubble.., but remember that the more chances you take, the more likely your child will be injured or killed by an accident,” reads the passive-aggressive Hidden Dangers to Your Child’s Safety page on And so it warns about the “hidden dangers” of jumping castles and parade floats (“which can run over a child”) and my favourite new fear, “musical instruments, such as a guitar, that can hurt a young child... If one of the strings that is under high tension breaks, flying into his eye, or scratches his face”. That is the gold standard of warnings: a warning about an item that has been around almost forever and never been associated with any danger, except to the eardrums of parents and music teachers. And now it’s a bona fide health hazard!
One cell phone company issued instructions encouraging customers to “use your phone in a safe and sensible manner”. One of these “sensible” tips? “If your device rings and you discover it’s in the backseat, do not crawl over the seat to answer it while driving”.
 That’s verbatim. And it illustrates the whole problem. We get so many warnings flying at us that the real dangers (drunk/drink driving) and the almost hallucinatory ones (backseat-climbing driving) are jumbled together.
The fact is, the stranger and striking the warning, the less likely it is to be true. We tune in to the shocking studies because for some reason, we like to be scared. As children, we had ghost stories. As adults, we have health stories. Either way, we listen because something that seemed innocent is about to kill us! But shouldn’t it have killed us already? And why are we living longer than ever before?

Turns out, we live in very safe times. Not perfectly safe, but safe enough that instead of worrying about diphtheria, we’re worrying about dip. Pay attention to your health - and a little less to the health scare of the day - and you’ll be fine. Provided you watch out for that onion dip, and the shopping trolleys, and your kids’ plastic toys, and the top button on your shirt, and…

Gottaluvit! ~ Stafford (piece condensed from Lenore Skenazy)