Stupidity Should Be Painful
by Pat Carbonell
I had that on a mini-bumper sticker hidden on the base of my computer monitor at my last job. I was a process engineer in a factory that stuffed printed circuit boards for industrial applications - we didn't build anything of our own, we built boards for other companies.
I will never, ever, ever fly in a King Air or Beechcraft airplane. We built parts for their avionics packages - the instruments that tell the pilot when he's out of fuel or flying upside down? Yeah, those.
A big part of my job was taking the design drawings and parts lists and so forth from the customer and turning them into step-by-step instructions for our assemblers to build them - after the automated equipment I programmed got done with it's part. That was fun. I like programming machines. I know they're idiots, they are very set in their ways, and as long as I respect and understand how they do things, I can make them do just about anything. Doing those step-by-step instructions for the humans, however.....
Anyway, what brought all this to mind was the warning label on a package of Maximum Strength Midol I just bought (yes, I read labels - they pass the time when you're on the can and are occasionally funny). This one said, under the heading of "Ask your doctor before using if:" .... "you have painful urination from an enlarged prostate gland". Umm, this is Midol - heap big women's medicine. We don't have prostate glands. What the hell dumb male is taking Midol?!
So that got me started reading the warning labels on stuff around the house, such as the box of Memorex CD-R's, where the capacity and warranty info is in English, French and Spanish, but the handling instructions are in pictures: don't pour liquids on them, don't burn them, don't touch the recording surface with your fingers, don't write on them with a pencil, and hell if I can figure out the last one. You'd think if I can read the warranty in three languages, I might be able to read the warnings in English?
Let's take a look at the instruction manual for my counter-top electric mixer. First page lists the Important Safeguards. "To protect against the risk of electrical shock, do not put mixer, its cord or plug in water or other liquid." Hmmm, this one appears not only in The List, but in two other places in the book, with a box around it! I've got just one question: is there anyone in this country who hasn't seen some TV show or movie with a radio-in-the-bathtub death scene? Okay, here's another one: "Keep hands, hair, clothing, ... away from beaters during operation...". Duh. "Remove beaters from mixer before washing." Well, if I can't put the mixer in the sink, I guess I'll have to. "Do not use appliance for other than intended use." Okay, so I can't use it as a substitute outboard motor... bummer.
Why do drive-through ATM keypads have Braille on the buttons? I mean, come on, I just got done explaining to my mother that she can't drive the car, she's blind (she didn't take that real well - she's decided she'll walk to the train station, instead).
Consumer stupidity is the reason why I won't be selling any of my therapuetic oil blends this summer, until I can get liability insurance. Why? Because no matter how big the warning is that says "DO NOT DRINK!", sure as shit some idiot's going to try drinking it, or they'll leave it where their little tyke can get it, and it will be all my fault. Which really sucks, 'cause I make some great blends - one for aches and pains, one for stuffy sinuses, another for preventing stretch marks, a salve for sunburn. All good stuff, all natural oils and butters, good for the body and the earth... as long as it's used the way it should be.
So, the other mini-bumper sticker I had at work was plastered to the front of my CPU tower where everyone could see it. It said "Don't make me get my flying monkeys!" Sometimes I do wish I could be a bad witch.