Warning: This stick may be pointy. Keep out of eyes.
Published 6:29 pm Sunday, December 28, 2008
We bought a pocket knife the other day, having lost our trusty old one when it fell out of a coat pocket. The new one came in a box, with operating instructions.
Operating instructions. For a knife.
We don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but it seems to us that if someone can’t figure out which way the sharp, pointy end goes, he or she probably oughtn’t be handling a knife in the first place.
Of course, we shouldn’t be too full of hubris, since we did cut ourselves with the knife.
But it wasn’t because we didn’t follow directions. We simply forgot how devilishly sharp factory-new knives are these days and got careless. Technical writing presented in 16 languages could not have fixed that problem.
Sometimes we’re just stupid. Then we start bleeding and learn our lesson. It’s a good system, because we learn not to be foolish and the folks who make Band-Aids stay happily in business.
The pocket-knife instructions fall into the same category as today’s overabundance of warning labels, which come on pretty much every factory-made product anymore. Comedians of both the excellent and cut-rate variety have already thoroughly covered this idiocy. We won’t rehash what they have already hashed so well.
The argument for warnings that tell you not to use your lawn mower as an improvised hedge clipper is that the company would lose a lawsuit if someone did that and sued. Or rather did that again, we assume, since something had to alert the company to the danger in the first place.
This isn’t a problem created by lawyers. After all, big companies have fleets of lawyers they keep on retainer, like they had their own corporate school of hammerhead sharks, except the lawyers are for legal issues.
Nope, the problem lies with us as a nation. The first time we, as a society, heard about this we shook our heads over our Cheerios and went back to our papers. We need to be outraged in the real, do-something-about-it kind of way, not in the watch-Nancy-Grace-and-feel-indignant sort of way.
And so we would like to make a plea that jurors reject ridiculous lawsuits. Specifically, lawsuits in which plaintiffs claim they didn’t know doing something moronic could lead to serious injuries.
In fact, we would like to propose a new law to govern liability lawsuits. We would like it to be stipulated, in statute, that using a product for something other than its intended purpose can lead to serious problems.
No one should be able to sue the manufacturer unless he or she was using the product as intended: Sawing through a tree and your chainsaw blows its motor, throws its chain and cuts you up, that’s a valid lawsuit. Using your chainsaw to open some beanie weenies and it cuts you, that’s your own fault.
If you’re worried about the poor folks who lost a few thumbs trying to trim the yew with that lawn mower they nicknamed ‘Old Rusty,’ think of the reform as a carbon-footprint reduction.
Legal filings use reams of paper, and warning labels are also made of paper. And if we’re not careful, pretty soon they’ll have to put warning labels on the paper.