Thursday, February 20, 2003

A short response to Brian's most recent blog post:

We played king of the hill on piles of gravel left on vacant construction sites and when we got hurt, Mom pulled out the 48-cent bottle of Mercurochrome and then we got our butt spanked. Now it's a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose of a $49 bottle of antibiotics and then Mom calls the attorney to sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.
That portion of the email forward he posted jumped out at me because when I was a kid, another kid from my church was out playing at a vacant construction site with friends when a huge pile of sand collapsed on him. They dug him out and rushed him to the emergency room, but he'd already gone into a coma. He died a week later due to complications. That's the only time in my life so far that a peer of mine has died. It sucked.

That aside, however, I generally agree with the email Brian posted. You should consider reading it if you haven't already.

Alright, alright, so that you don't have to actually click a link and browse over, I'll post it here. You lazy bum.

Looking back, it's hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have.

My Mom used to cut chicken, chop eggs and spread mayo on the same cutting board with the same knife and no bleach, but we didn't seem to get food poisoning. My Mom used to defrost hamburger on the counter AND I used to eat it raw sometimes too, but I can't remember getting E-coli.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

Our baby cribs, toys and rooms were painted with bright colored lead based paint. We often chewed on the crib, ingesting the paint.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. We played dodge ball and sometimes the ball would really hurt.

We played with toy guns, cowboys and Indians, army, cops and robbers, and used our fingers to simulate guns when the toy ones or my BB gun was not available.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda, but we were never overweight; we were always outside playing.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Some students weren't as smart as others or didn't work hard so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade.

That generation produced some of the greatest risk-takers and problem solvers. We had the freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

Almost all of us would have rather gone swimming in the lake instead of a pristine pool (talk about boring), the term cell phone would have conjured up a phone in a jail cell, and a pager was the school PA system.

We all took gym, not PE... and risked permanent injury with a pair of high top Ked's (only worn in gym) instead of having cross-training athletic shoes with air cushion soles and built in light reflectors. I can't recall any injuries but they must have happened because they tell us how much safer we are now.

Flunking gym was not an option... even for stupid kids! I guess PE must be much harder than gym.

Every year, someone taught the whole school a lesson by running in the halls with leather soles on linoleum tile and hitting the wet spot. How much better off would we be today if we only knew we could have sued the school system. Speaking of school, we all said prayers and the pledge and staying in detention after school caught all sorts of negative attention for the next two weeks. We must have had horribly damaged psyches.

I can't understand it. Schools didn't offer 14 year olds an abortion or condoms (we wouldn't have known what either was anyway) but they did give us a couple of baby aspirin and cough syrup if we started getting the sniffles. What an archaic health system we had then. Remember school nurses? Ours wore a hat and everything.

I thought that I was supposed to accomplish something before I was allowed to be proud of myself. I just can't recall how bored we were without computers, PlayStation, Nintendo, X-box or 270 digital cable stations.

I must be repressing that memory as I try to rationalize through the denial of the dangers could have befallen us as we trekked off each day about a mile down the road to some guy's vacant 20, built forts out of branches and pieces of plywood, made trails, and fought over who got to be the Lone Ranger. What was that property owner thinking, letting us play on that lot?

He should have been locked up for not putting up a fence around the property, complete with a self-closing gate and an infrared intruder alarm.

Oh yeah.... and where was the Benadryl and sterilization kit when I got that bee sting? I could have been killed!

We played king of the hill on piles of gravel left on vacant construction sites and when we got hurt, Mom pulled out the 48-cent bottle of Mercurochrome and then we got our butt spanked. Now it's a trip to the emergency room, followed by a 10-day dose of a $49 bottle of antibiotics and then Mom calls the attorney to sue the contractor for leaving a horribly vicious pile of gravel where it was such a threat.

We didn't act up at the neighbor's house either because if we did, we got our butt spanked (physical abuse) here too ... and then we got butt spanked again when we got home.

Mom invited the door to door salesman inside for coffee, kids choked down the dust from the gravel driveway while playing with Tonka trucks (remember why Tonka trucks were made wasn't so that they could take the rough Berber in the family room), and Dad drove a car with leaded gas.

Our music had to be left inside when we went out to play and I am sure that I nearly exhausted my imagination a couple of times when we went on two week vacations.

I should probably sue the folks now for the danger they put us in when we all slept in campgrounds in the family tent

Summers were spent behind the push lawnmower and I didn't even know that mowers came with motors until I was 13 and we got one without an automatic blade-stop or an auto-drive. How sick were my parents?

Of course, my parents weren't the only psychos. I recall Donny Reynolds from next-door coming over and doing his tricks on the front stoop just before he fell off. Little did his Mom know that she could have owned our house. Instead, she picked him up and swatted him for being such a goof. It was a neighborhood run amuck.

To top it off, not a single person I knew had ever been told that they were from a dysfunctional family. How could we possibly have known that we needed to get into group therapy and anger management classes?

We were obviously so duped by so many societal ills, that we didn't even notice that the entire country wasn't taking Prozac!

How did we survive?

So, yeah. I agree with a lot of that. I believe our society has become paranoid and stupid. I hate the litigation-happy mentality that we seem to have slipped into. I hate all the ass-covering that schools, hospitals, individuals, businesses, organizations, etc. end up engaging in due to fear of litigation.

I worked as a counselor at a girl scout camp one summer a few years ago. They were so paranoid about litigation that they just cut out all sorts of activities that had I enjoyed at the same camp as a kid, and they really put limits on how counselors could interact with kids. This got in the way of a good camp experience for the kids more often than not. For instance, the girls are no longer allowed to learn how to put up tents. Knife safety courses are gone; no more whitling, no more carving sticks for marshmallows. They could hurt themselves. Girls aren't allowed to share or trade food; what if one is allergic to something the other give her?! When I was a kid and it rained at the camp, we put on our ponchos and continued with whatever we were doing. We felt good about ourselves because we were "roughing it", and it was fun. Now they force all the kids indoors; wouldn't want anyone to catch a chill.

One week when I was assigned to one of the five-year old units, one of the girls whacked another with a stick. The injured girl came crying to me. She wasn't really hurt all that badly; she just wanted to climb up on my lap for a hug and some consolation. I had to tell her no and keep her at a distance, which left her feeling all the more upset. Any sort of contact like that was distinctly against the rules, rules which had been put in place to give the camp administrators peace of mind about protecting themselves from any sort of sexual harassment litigation.

I loved the kids, but it was just depressing for me seeing how much the camp had changed in 10 years and how much it was still changing (for the worse, in my opinion). I didn't go back to be a counselor again for any of the following summers.

It's good to worry about safety. It's good to hold people, organizations, schools, etc. accountable for bad things that they are responsible for. But I think we've gone way overboard. And it pisses me off.

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