Safety Last

I was in Montreal again last week. Now Montreal, as a city, is off its rocker. The direction everyone refers to as "north" is almost due west. For instance. The stop signs say "ARRET." (Stop signs in France say "STOP".) But the main thing I noticed, as always, was the bus lanes. These are restricted to busses only, and the way they enforce this is that the bus lanes go the OPPOSITE DIRECTION from regular traffic. So, say you're on a bridge, there are three lanes on your side of the divider; two going your way and one with a bus coming head-on every minute or so.

This seems like a good way to have a lot of lethal head-on collisions, but the thing is, it works. Nobody cuts into that lane because they'll get squashed like a bug. It's not safe.

The American obsession with safety is, quite honestly, bullshit. This isn't news to anyone. But it annoys me because safety and freedom are, most of the time, diametrically opposed. Most of the safety issues are brought up with children. Bicycle helmets, childproof caps, soft corners on the furniture. And people always say, "Well, if even one child's life is saved. . ." Well, then children should be in protective gear 24 hours a day. They could fall out of bed and crack their skulls. Screw bicycle helmets, I fell out of TREES and JUNGLE GYMS on my head. Onto cement in some cases. Everyone I know did, and we're mostly fine.

Well, not everyone. There was a child I knew whose mother was very safety-oriented. She stopped the barbecues at the Greenacres Picnic- not that any child HAD run into a grill full of burning coals, but they COULD have. She objected to the traffic in front of her house (which had lower property taxes because it was a busy street, which she knew was a busy street when she moved there) because they "might hit my child." Well MOVE or teach your child to stay out of the street. Her child was not permitted to go on class trips. Her child didn't climb trees. Her child was, as a result, a sissy.

I know, that's not a PC phrase. But, at least through age 18, he saw the world through the eyes of a frightened rabbit. Things seemed to hurt him more than they hurt other children, and he whined about it when they did.

My sister didn't childproof her house when she had kids- I mean, she put the toxic stuff where the kids couldn't get to it and she WATCHES them, but she didn't put foam rubber on the corners of the tables and whatnot. When I asked her about it, she said, "Well, they're going to have to learn sometime. "

It's true. I think we're doing our best to raise a generation of sissies. Children whine; grownups sue. I think we should have one sticker on every object sold: ladders, chainsaws, forks and keyboards. "DO NOT USE FOOLISHLY."

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