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rare steaks and safety gear

Sometimes I wonder if we are too safety conscious. Have we taken all the spontaneity and thrill out of living? It seems the more the government wants to babysit us, the more frightened we become to do anything.

While all this fear - especially fear of litigation - has spawned a million warning labels that read as parody (see here for some good examples), that's not the real problem. Warning us to not take hair dryers into the bathtub or to not ingest cleaning fluids is just a way to keep people from going all Darwin on us. The real problem exists not in warnings that get stamped on a label which then get stamped on a bottle of bleach, but in the warnings that come out of memos, rules, regulations and studies and are usually announced to the public by a serious looking newscaster on the 6:00 show during sweeps week.

When I was a child - this would be the 60's - my mother engaged in behavior that would today cause men in white coats from the Center for Disease Control to come barging in the door with arrest warrants.

She cut chicken and vegetables with the same knife, on the same cutting board. She didn't scrub apples before giving them to us. She cooked steaks and burgers in such a way that they almost mooed when prodded with a fork. She packed her children, the neighbor's children and most of our cousins into her brown station wagon, all sitting on laps and squished up against the back window and none of us wore seat belts. My infant sister sat on my lap - in the front seat - very often. Sure, that almost killed her once when the door flew open as we rounded a turn, but the point is, it didn't kill her.

Now, before you start throwing statistics at me let it be known that I am a seat belt advocate. My car does not move from its spot unless everyone is buckled up. It's the whole of the subject, all those safety rules bunched together in one alarming package, that frighten me more than any warning label ever could.

One of my favorite childhood memories is of the summer we spent riding our bikes to Wantagh to a pedestrian walkway that spanned the Wantagh Parkway. The walkway was concrete and sloped all the way down into (I think, my memory is a little fuzzy these days) a school parking lot. We rode to the top of the walkway (two to a bike, which you rarely see these days) and took turns riding down the steep slope, pedaling until we were at a break-the-sound-barrier pace (kids tend to be hyperbolic, you know) and once we reached top speed, do a no arms, no legs maneuver so we were coasting down the walkway without thinking about breaking or steering. At the end was a small bump, which was enough to make your bike do a little wheelie, which more often than not left you flat on your back, your bike underneath you, wheels still spinning. We did this with no helmets, no knee pads, no shin pads. It would be the greatest thrill any of us would have until we discovered sex many years later. Many years later.

And we survived. We survived that and we survived not being buckled in and we survived roller coasters and Ferris Wheels that had no safety bars. We made it even though we jumped off of bridges into the ocean and ate sugared cereal every morning and spent a lot of time on playgrounds that were made of metal and steel and not the plastic crap they use today. When was the last time you saw a merry-go-round? Monkey bars? See saws? It's all gone, all existing just as memories of days when we weren't afraid of our own shadows, when kids didn't have to be dressed up in body armor to play a game of kickball, when our parents let us watch scary movies and tv shows that featured lots of guns. We used to be able to have snowball fights on the school grounds, play dodge ball with all the enthusiasm of warriors and gladiators, call a kid a "stupid head" without being suspended, carry pocket knives and take aspirins in school.

I know, I know. The safety rules are there for a reason. The ratings system and the censor board exist because we've created a society where they have to exist. We've lived, we've learned and we've adjusted the gameplay accordingly. I just wonder if we're not raising a generation of wimps who, later in life, won't be able to do anything without consulting a Big Book of Warnings. Maybe humans will evolve to such a point that babies will come out of the womb with helmets and elbow pads on. And I wonder what these kids will do when they are the adults running the world and are faced with enemies who don't care about the rules, regulations and warning labels. After all, you can't fight your enemy if all the guns and swords and dangerous items have been put under lock and key for your own good.

My motto? Let them eat meat. Really. Let them eat a medium-to-rare steak once in a while. Figuratively speaking, of course. I think tonight we'll all gather around the tv and watch Terminator 3 together. Watching a gratuitously violent chase scene is no match for coasting down a steep hill with no helmet on, but it's as close as we can get without being called irresponsible parents.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference rare steaks and safety gear:

» Yep... from The Bejus Pundit
I'm with MICHELE all the way on this one: "My motto? Let them eat meat. Really. Let them eat a medium-to-rare steak once in a while. Figuratively speaking, of course. I think tonight we'll all gather around the tv and... [Read More]

» Sneak-a-Sac! from suburban blight
Hello, and welcome to this totally unexpected mid afternoon edition of the Cul-de-Sac. I'm calling this one a Sneak-a-Sac, since I totally managed to sneak this one in between wifely/motherly type duties. I hope you enjoy it! This is... [Read More]

» Tilting At Blandsville from Michael J. Totten
When I was a teenager in sleepy Salem, Oregon my friends and I (who are still my friends today) stirred up trouble to break the ennui. We rigged up complicated traps for cars in our residential neighborhood. They involving fishing... [Read More]

» The More Frightened We Become from d-42.com: the electronic home of Josh Cohen
Michele of A Small Victory wonders... Sometimes I wonder if we are too safety conscious. Have we taken all the spontaneity and thrill out of living? It seems the more the government wants to babysit us, the more frightened we... [Read More]

» lol. from Sit Down and Relax Weblog
When I was a child - this would be the 60's - my mother engaged in behavior that would today cause men in white coats from the Center for Disease Control to come barging in the door with arrest warrants.... [Read More]


So true and it reminded me of my own painful experience of why a Schwinn with chopper handle bars and a banana seat is not the optimal configuration for recreating Evel Knievel jumping Snake Rive Canyon.

"Maybe humans will evolve to such a point that babies will come out of the womb with helmets and elbow pads on."

Unfortunately, this overprotective insanity is more likely to lead to boneless, skinless humans, totally reliant on outside help to survive even the slightest bump, bruise, or bacteria. Witness the (alleged) huge increases in asthma and food allergies in the last few decades.

Helloooo, genetic engineering...

Here, here.

Most schools here in California no longer allow the kids to play kickball.

"The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to
fill the world with fools."
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

"Our Coffee Served Hot"
-- McDonalds


I wouldn't recommend T-3, though. I think that's easily the lamest Arnold movie in 20 years.

The plastic playground brought up a recent unfortunate development.

When I was 11 years old my entire town banded together and built and enormous playground at one of our elementary schools. With the assistance of professionals, townspeople did the hammering, carrying of wood, tightening of bolts etc for 4 days until one of the greatest playgrounds I have ever seen was erected. The children of the elementary schools did all of the painting.

When I went home this holiday, I saw the playground was being ripped down to be replaced with a plastic fantastic one because of "safety" reasons. It nearly broke my heart.

Semi-decent skit on MAD TV this past weekend. A family is watching home movies taken when the mother was pregnant with the third child. She smokes & drinks. She gives her first two children plastic bags to play with. She also slathers them in baby oil when they go out in the sun. She throws the newborn on the dashboard as they drive away from the hospital. And with many more of the same.
The semi-decent part of it was she kept saying "They didn't tell us _____ was harmful." Captures the mindset of someone who is used to being taken care of by a nanny state.

James, T3 wasn't that great, but...worse than "Jingle All the Way"? Worse than "Kindergarten Cop"? Worse than that one with Emma Thompson where Arnold gets pregnant, that's obviously so metaphysically awful I blocked the name out of my memory?

I even contributed to Der Governator's campaign, but I can't say I ever remember anyone claiming he was a great actor, or even that most of his movies were very good. OTOH, when he leaves office he'll be old enough to do Conan the King, and there's no cheese quite like the original cheese. :-)

My good friend once told me of how her dad would store the Mayonnaise in the cupboard. AFTER it was opened. He didn't like it cold.
I think we got away with allot of stuff like that (defrosting meats in the sink all day etc.) because bacteria wasn't so virulent as now. And I believe it's because we've become so sanitized!
No antibacteria soap in MY house.
The rest of the stuff is sad. Scabs were a rite of passage in my day and I have quite a few scars.
Now all those bumps to my head could explain allot now, though ;)

It goes along with all the "nobody loses" games the kids have to play these days. Well, in real life, people still lose. If you suck at your job, you're going to get fired. If you do not try, if you do not strive to be the best, and sometimes even if you do, you will get screwed in life.

They have lost all ability to deal with defeat.

Oh, man, Joe... My blue Schwinn banana seat chopper bars bicycle got stolen my first week in my new town in ninth grade. Probably part of the reason I hated that town so much. Left it as soon as I could after high school.

Let me tell you, though, falling onto the bars, even if you're a girl, hurts like hell.

My family likes to remind me that if the child safety laws in place these days had been around when I was growing up, I'd have been riding in a booster seat up through my first year of high school.

Somehow, I managed to survive without one.

If you raise your children the way you were raised, they will be so far ahead of all these wimps that are protected from reality.

It's all about making sure we conform to the lowest common denominator.

I agree about the insanity of the nanny state in which we now live. I fear that kids of tomorrow will be afraid of their own shadows. It's a natural impulse to want to protect one's children but like anthing else in life, well-intended protection can be taken too far. At its extreme, protection can turn into something just as ugly and dangerous as the things from which protection was originally desired.

One of the things I loved about auto racing was that we were insulated from all the crazy legal shenanigans that go on in the rest of society. When you walk through the pit gate and sign that release form, you know that it's possible bad things could happen. You do everything you can to prevent it, and someone getting hurt is rare, but in the end it's our choice to participate and we have to live with the consequences.

crap, guess i'm a bad father...my 10 year old eats rare steak, play paintball with the big boys without pads (we do wear helmets) and even plays in the river barefoot...

oh yeah, i even bought him a REALLY sharp pocket knife - he just doesn't get to take it to school...

now if i could just convince my wife that it is not that dangerous to wrangle rattlesnakes...

I know, this sounds weird, but this all causes me to recall a thought I often have: third world dictatorships offer more freedom than first-world democracies (so long as you're politcally and religiously apathetic).

Some of the things I loved most about Uzbekistan were: smoking anywhere I wanted (and I'm not even much of a smoker), drinking at lunch peeing in the park (as someone once told me: "You're a man, you can pee wherever you want), and never wearing a seatbelt.

I don't really advocate any of the above, but it was nice to know that nobody would get bent out of shape if saw fit to light up around kids or do a bottle with a friend for dinner.

the spelling might be missing an "L"
But you ain't missin a thing

semper fi

....ever have a pop-a-wheelie go wrong and bruise your tailbone? I blame the purple banana seat and 3 foot sissy bar. They never warned me!
The chopper handle bars probably saved my life, though.

The only reason I cut meat and vegetables on different sides of the board is because my wife is a vegetarian.

I've had this little write-up on my site for over a year now...

How Did We Survive?

My brothers and I used to "borrow" shopping carts from the market, and ride them down hills in Philly. Needless to say no helmets or seatbelts there. Also squeezed inside a big old truck tire and rolled down the hill. Fun!

Hey, the USDA has banned chitlins... er, tripas...
um, innards. Go see here:


You mean you're not supposed to cut chicken and veggies on the same board with the same knife?

I blame the local media outlets in this country, which love to run breathless stories about a local 2nd grader who fell off the monkey bars, or an older woman who fell down at the library, or some idiot who went driving at night w/o his lights on and mysteriously drove into a lake. The consequence is to make the rare and bizarre seem common and threatening, and causes government officials to get all puffed up and determined to "save" and "protect" people. Garrison Keilor has a great line about the media: "If you watch the local news, you know less about the world than if you drink gin straight from the bottle."

1.) Anything antibacterial or antibiotic is evil. We're pushing bacterial evolution up to ludicrous speed and ending up with bacteria that are resistant to anything we can come up with. Penicillin is rapidly becoming completely useless.

2.) George Carlin had a great story about how he swam in the Hudson river as a kid and, as a result, didn't have to worry about polio. People obsessed with cleanliness aren't doing their kids any favors -- kids are like doves, keep their cages too clean and they'll die because they never built up any immunities at all.

3.) I fell off the monkey bars and broke my arm in third grade, but I never would have said they should be removed. It's a broken arm, it heals just fine.

In modern society, "fun" has no value.
By that I mean this: if (real example) kids and their parents spend 30+ years using a hill for sledding, and have literally millions of hours of fun doing it, the first time a kid gets killed in a freak accident there the hill is still closed and trees planted on it.
The risk of one more dead kid trumps millions of hours of fun, and the potential of millions of hours more.
Apply as needed to fireworks, etc.