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Caution: Reading this Blog Will Likely Cause You To Know My Opinions

I did my normal snowy/cold day commute this morning by taking the redline subway from Porter Square to Harvard Square (instead of walking). Presumably because of the cold and snow, the trains were delayed. By the time the subway arrived, it was already packed. Of course people on the platform had been waiting forever so they (well, we) all tried squeezing into the train. The next thing I knew, I was in the most crowded train car I’d ever been on in my life. It’s not uncommon to be on a train that’s so crowded that there is no need to hold onto the bar (because there’s no way to fall down – the people forming a wall around you will prevent that).

Today was different. At least in the example I described in the last paragraph, if the train lurched or stopped short, the whole crowd would have been jossled and it’s likely people would fall over (domino effect). Not today. Today it was so crowded that there would have been no motion. Imagine buying some toothpicks in those see-thru plastic containers. You can jossle that thing around but the toothpicks don’t budge. THAT was the subway this morning.

It got me to wondering why there are no occupancy limits on subways? I mean, airplanes limit the number of people on board. Restaurants, nightclubs, elevators and even the front seats of cars have capacity limits. Why don’t subways?

But then I started thinking about our country and how over-the-top afraid society has made us. I mean, my Mom smoked a pack a day and drank the occasional glass wine throughout her pregnancy with me. Nowadays, if you have a glass of wine the day following your first missed period, you’re a bad person. I understand there are risks…but I think Americans take it to the extreme.

I never wore seatbelts until I was in my teens, at 11 years old my Dad would let me ride his moped (with no helmet). At the same age, I would ride my bicycle to a friend’s house 3 miles away, I would go swimming in the ocean without adult supervision, my Dad would always let me have a sip of his beer and my childhood diet consisted of beef and potatoes for nearly every meal. I’m not dead.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for smoking bans in public places and seat belts laws. It’s the over-reactionary responses nowadays to everything infuriate me: Seafood is good for you, but don’t eat it because of mercury poisoning. Carbs are a necessary part of a diet, but don’t eat any because they make you fat. Beef is full of protein, but don’t eat any because of Mad Cow, Hoof and Mouth and fat. Air bags can save your life…except they can damage your skin and eyes. I give up.

And I hate that we have to label everything. I mean, the fact that coffee cups now have to warn you that the contents are hot is absurd to me. And that plastic shopping bags have warnings that they cause suffocation. I mean, come on. I’m guessing those warnings are for little children who are prone to play with the plastic bags. But do you really think a 5 or 6 year old can read “risk of suffocation” and understand what it means?

And what about headphones? All headphones now warn that listening to high volumes of music can cause hearing loss. OK – makes sense. But if it’s so dangerous to listen to music so high, why do volumes go that high? If the manufacturer is so concerned about our well-being, why don’t they make the maximum volume lower? It doesn’t have to go to 11.

There’s an episode of Absolutely Fabulous where Edina was ticketed for parking in a no-parking zone (well, it was a sidewalk – but that’s beside the point). When in front of the judge she proposes a stupidity tax: tax the stupid people. Tax the ones that create frivolous law suits and don’t use common sense to function. I’m all for that.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue putting plastic bags over my head while smoking cigarettes and drinking hot coffee in moving vehicles with loud stereos and no seatbelts. That’s just the kind of guy I am.


  1. Comment by chrispy on January 28, 2005 1:15 pm

    wait…wait…what have you done with karl? who’s writing this blog?

    i didnt know you had a rebellious bone in your body! youve never seemed to be one of those people who would rock-the-boat, or question authority (-ies). are you just having a punk rock day? whos been influencing you with these thoughts?

    i wont even get into “my mother smoked and drank through her preganancy with me”. THAT explains a lot! LOL

  2. Comment by Underling on January 28, 2005 3:00 pm

    Edie: Why not just have a stupidity tax. Tax the stupid people.

    Patsy: LET THEM DIE!!!!

    One of the best AbFab lines ever!

  3. Comment by Will on January 28, 2005 3:50 pm

    The U.S. has become one of the most over-warned and over-regulated countries in the world. Also, one of the worst educated, thus the over-warning and over-regulation.

    In Europe it’s different. At the Pont du Gard, the great Roman aquaduct in the south of France, the mistral wind blows gales across the Mediterranean from Africa. You can walk in safety through the water channel at the top of the aquaduct a couple of hundred feet in the air but protected by the stone walls either side of you. Or, you can chin yourself on the stones and walk on the naerrow stone roof of the water channel where the wind is at its strongest. The French put a big warning sign at each end of the elevated, exposed section that says “Danger of Death” in several languages and then tells exactly how death can occur if you walk on top in words and in pictures. Then, it’s your choice.

    Each year a couple of people elect to walk across the top, are swept off by the wind and fall to their deaths in the rocky river bed below, while the vast majority of people walk safely in the water channel. The French government picks up the bodies, sends them home with a note of condolence, mentioning gently but firmly that monsieur or madamoiselle had been warned but had made an unfortunate personal choice. And it ends there. No scandal, no multi-million Euro law suits or parliamentary investigations. Seems kind of rational somehow.

  4. Comment by karyn on January 28, 2005 4:42 pm

    Gee Karl, maybe Denise would loan you an Estrogen patch. KIDDING. But calm down. You know perfectly well from a logical rational standpoint that society has those disclaimers on everything from plastic bags and coffee cups to soap (Directions: Unwrap, use like soap) and christmas lights (For Indoor or Outdoor use only. – as opposed to…?) to protect themselves from the LITIGIOUS among us. Being an employee of a law school I think this would be glaringly obvious to you. It’s Jim Sokolove, D’Oliveira and Morgan, Dane Schulman and those scheisters! Go after them! And Chris is right, your mom’s prenatal habits explain a great deal… KIDDING! KIDDING! DOWN BOY!

    Jeez. xxoo

  5. Comment by chrispy on January 28, 2005 5:00 pm

    BTW, we have a stupidity tax already. but we know it by a different name:



  6. Comment by Karl on January 28, 2005 5:07 pm

    Hey!?!?! My parents managed to win $200,000.00 on the lottery! And a year later my cousin won $100,000.00. And trust me, they didn’t spend $300,00.00 on lottery tickets before then won!

    Wishes can come true! LOL

  7. Comment by Thom on January 28, 2005 6:16 pm

    As a follow-up to Will’s comment, I remember years ago when I visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I was absolutely amazed that visitors were permitted to go up in the tower and walk out on those balconies that encircle each floor with nary a railing in sight. As I recall, there was a sign on the ground that pointed out that the tower was, you know, leaning, and therefore if you fell off it was not going to be the Italian government’s fault, but that was it. My first thought was how that would never in a million years be permitted in the United States!

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