Friday, December 14, 2007

Read at your own Peril

As four of my hard-working, industrious, early-rising calculus students sit in my tutorials to get help with their homework, the clock reads 6:15am.

One of them is telling another, "These problems really aren't too bad."

I immediately reply, "but you're saying it IS bad, but just LESS bad than worse things."

"Yeah, I guess so. But I guess anything less than death is not TOO bad."

Another student quickly chimed in, "I can think of SEVERAL things less than death."

"Like problem 34!" said another.

Oh, I love the taste of math in the morning!

I did start thinking, however, that perhaps calculus should carry a warning label, much like cigarettes, alcohol, and superhero costumes.

Incidentally, I read an article yesterday describing the wackiest warning labels. There's even a website full of them. The winner, chosen by an anti-lawsuit group, was found on a John Deere skid-loader tractor, reading, "Avoid Death." Great! I'll try to do that. I guess that means no doing calculus while driving that tractor.

The other candidates were:

  • Found on an iron-on T-shirt transfer decal: "Do not iron while wearing shirt."
  • Found on a storage pouch on baby stroller: "Do not child in bag."
  • Found on a letter opener: "Safety goggles recommended."
  • Found on a Tide Bleach pen: "The Vanishing Fabric Marker should not be used as a writing instrument for signing checks or any legal documents."
  • Found on a phone book: "Do not use this book while operating a moving vehicle."
  • Found on a cell phone box: "Do not dry out in the microwave."
  • On a waverunner's fuel cap: "Do not use a lit match or open flame to check fuel level."
  • Found on Apple's website: "Do not eat iPod shuffle."
  • Found on a Razor scooter: "This product moves when used."
  • Found on household cleaner: "Read all instructions prior to use. If you cannot read, do not use product."
  • Found on Vet pills for a dog: "This drug may cause drowsiness. Use caution when operating a car or dangerous machinery."
  • On a chainsaw: "Do not hold the wrong end of the chainsaw."
  • On a blow dryer: "Do not use while sleeping."
  • On a life-vest: "This is NOT a life-saving device."
  • On champagne bottle: "Remove label before placing in microwave."
  • On bottle of peanuts: "This product contains nuts."
  • On Liquid Plummer bottle: "Do not reuse this bottle to store beverages."
  • On a Toilet Plunger: "Do not use near power lines."
  • On a box of hair dye: "Do not use as an ice cream topping."
  • On eye drops: "Use before expiration date."
  • On Bayer Aspirin: "Do not use if allergic to Aspirin."
  • On a bottle of Nytol Sleep Aid: "May cause drowsiness."
  • On Christmas lights: "For indoor or outdoor use only."
  • On a box of matches: "Contents may catch fire."
  • On a road sign: "Do not hit this sign."
  • On McDonald's Happy Meal toy bag: "This bag is not a toy.
  • On child's Superman cosutme: "Cape does not enable wearer to fly."
This list goes on and on and on . . . .

The intent of specifically defining ridiculous scenarios is to curtail frivolous lawsuits, which is precisely why McDonald's now prints "Caution: Hot Coffee" around the rim of its hot coffee. Some might argue that the labels themselves give people ideas of what to do, but the sad reality is that the labels exist because someone ACTUALLY did the very thing the labels warn against--and SUED because they were not explicitly instructed NOT to do that-AND WON!!!!!!!

I think one new warning label can effectively replace all other labels:

"Don't be an idiot!"

But then, why are we trying to protect idiots. Why not let natural selection run its course? It's because idiots have more rights than the rest of us. The courts pander to the lemmings. We are effectively trying to legislate common sense, which is like trying to beat someone until their attitude improves.

I'm serious, though, about that calculus textbook warning. Don't say I didn't warn you!

No comments: