The other day, my wife informed me that one of her favorite lamps had stopped working.  Well, actually, if I’m going to be totally truthful, she told me before Christmas, but since the lamp is replaced by a Christmas lamp, I didn’t get around to dealing with the lamp until the other day.  I discovered, as I’d suspected, that the three-way switch-bracket had shorted out and needed to be replaced.  No problem – except that I had to go to several stores to find a replacement switch, because, apparently, there’s not much of a market for replacement parts for lamps.

Once I got the part, it took less than ten minutes to replace the old switch and get the lamp back in service.  I didn’t look at the printed directions for replacement, of course, because I’ve done the task more than a few times, but when I was about to toss the package on which the directions were printed, I noticed a large “WARNING” label. I couldn’t help but wonder what I was being warned about… and if I’d made some terrible mistake.  So I read the warning.  What did it say?  It warned me to unplug the lamp before trying to replace the old switch and install the new one.

I wish I could say that was a joke, but it isn’t.  Are there people out there stupid enough to try to replace a part of an electrical appliance while it’s still plugged in?  Apparently so.  And apparently, the manufacturer was, understandably, trying to reduce the possibility of a lawsuit brought by someone either that stupid or someone extraordinarily callous and opportunistic.  As I was pondering this, putting away my tools, I happened to glance at my comparatively new step-ladder and saw the warning that told me not to stand on the very top step.

Have we dumbed down everything so much that people don’t know that electric current can kill?  Or that standing on top of a ladder is dangerous?  Whatever happened to common sense?  Or have we reached the point that no one has to take responsibility for their own actions, particularly if those actions are stupid?  Or is it that the lawyers have changed the law so much that, effectively, no one is responsible for their own acts?

Whatever the reason, we’re now inundated with warnings and cautions, and often the cautions for an ad for a drug take as much time as the commercial itself.  Look – all medicines do things to your body.  Anything you ingest can do that, and I certainly read the information on either prescription drugs or even over the counter medications, but does reading all the cautions aloud in a commercial really help… or does it merely cause most people to tune out the fact that any medication can have deadly side-effects for some people?  Those affected are usually a tiny percentage, but that doesn’t make the impact any less severe for those people, and that’s why using any drug or medication should be considered carefully.

But… that’s clearly not happening.  Prescription drug use is up, way up, and often not even because people are ill.  For example, there’s almost an epidemic of college students using ADHD medications to help them concentrate and study for exams or to write papers.  And why do they need those meds?  Because they clearly didn’t think ahead.

All the warnings in the world won’t help if people don’t think about what they’re doing; all they do is raise the bar for legal shysters… and, in a perverse way, invite even more warnings and litigation.


4 thoughts on “Responsibility”

  1. Hob says:

    I guess in a way its really a two part issue–one, legal contracts seem to almost exist in a state of interpretation rather than one of clarity between two parties and two, people are getting used to the idea of not having any values outside of valuable.

    What does this mean? Well, in the short term, the ‘Narcissistic money age’. A time where money/value itself is dictating value. Believe me, the irony of it all in the context of past empires is all the more disturbing.

  2. Wayne Kernochan says:

    I wish I could say this was new, but I can’t. One of the first words of “hacker jargon” back in the 1970s, from whence we get such gems as imho and ttfn, was rtfm — read the effing manual. Another was luser — a combination of user and — well, you get the idea. Talk to any computer help desk, and they will tell you that the first question they ask is, did you plug it in? I have to confess that I made that mistake myself, once — didn’t plug in the computer and then called the help line. I’d like to say it was because I’m getting old, but …

    Emily Litella lives … and her lawyer.

  3. Jim 2 (to avoid confusion) says:

    Have we really gotten to the point of needing warning for obvious dangers? Sadly, yes.

    Some of it is legalistic liability fears. But some of it is what I’ve described as the “nerfing” of the world. I’m a law enforcement officer. We see more and more people coming into the training academy who have never been hit or even played a contact sport. Many youth sports don’t keep score, and require more safety equipment than a lot of very dangerous occupations. People competing in “non-contact” martial arts events where more padding and protective gear than those fighting in full contact events.

    And then there’s the simple observation that common sense is anything but common… I once spent several hours trying to repair something, only to discover that that problem was the outlet was dead — and had been dead for ages. “Everybody” knew, so nobody got told…

  4. M says:

    We live in an age of delayed consequences so many people no longer make the tie between stupid behavior and bad result.

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