Our unsafe obsession with safety

My daughter and I were riding bikes the other day when a lady I didn’t know asked me, “Where’s your helmet?” with some edge in her voice, in a way that implied I was semi-suicidal.

I’m thinking: I’m on a sidewalk with a helmeted 7-year-old girl going the speed of a brisk walk. I’m not in the X-Games doing flips on a snowmobile.

Besides, I didn’t grow up wearing bike helmets. If I had rode my Huffy to Granby Elementary wearing a purple bike helmet, I would have been laughed at and beaten up. And who knows what the boys would have done. In my childhood, wearing a bike helmet actually increased your chances of injury.

Why are we so safety-obsessed nowadays? I blame the media. But only media outlets that don’t pay me.

Like local TV news for example. The other night they broadcast their annual sensationalist “Hidden Halloween Dangers!” segment, the kind of story that, as a parent, makes you want to make sure your kids never leave your house without a Kevlar vest and Chuck Norris.

REPORTER: ... and experts say you should first examine each piece of your child’s Halloween candy for explosives before sending it on to an FBI lab for a rigorous chemical analysis.

ANCHOR: Why’s that, Kyle?

REPORTER: Because it’s likely that all of your neighbors are secretly wanting to poison your family.

The media tries to create all sorts of monsters under the bed when the only thing we really need to be afraid of is Anthony Weiner.

Society is increasingly focusing more on safety. I’m opposed to this on grounds that preventing the loss of life is very inconvenient.

After my daughter was born, my wife forced me go to one of those health department classes where they instruct you on how to make sure your child’s car seat is in the correct spot and fitted correctly.

I didn’t want to go. I already knew how to install a car seat, and where it was supposed to go. I knew it certainly wasn’t supposed to go on top of your ski rack. The state patrolman made that very clear.

But my wife insisted on the class, and since I’m opposed to celibacy, I went.

The nice lady with the county hopped into my car, showing me how the car seat should fit, positioning it, pulling straps, etc.

KREX happened to be there, filming a story on the class, but I did my best to avoid the cameras. It didn’t seem very manly. My grandpa was a tough old school mechanic, so having a female bureaucrat show me how to fix my car made me feel I was letting him down. I’m not very comfortable with my masculinity. 

What I did learn at the seminar is that car seats can expire. This is actually a thing. In fact, my 5-year-old son’s car seat expired on July 1 this year. I wanted to make sure we got our money out of it, so on June 30, I drove him around a lot before midnight.

When I was a kid, our car seats didn’t expire. That’s because we didn’t have them.

As kids, my brother and I often rode in the back of my dad’s truck. After all, there wasn’t any room up front in the cab, what with the dog and all. To be fair to my dad, we weren’t allowed to stand up if the truck was going over 50 mph. Safety first!

Nowadays, if you do so much as bring a nut-based snack to your kid’s school, a SWAT team will be called.

But back in the day, we didn’t sign waivers or have smoke-free campuses. And we lived in houses full of dangerous toxic chemicals, like radon and lead-based paint and gluten.

Somehow we survived. And all in all, I think it was a much better time. Why? Because we didn’t worry as much, and because we were blissfully unaware of danger.

But mostly because Anthony Weiner wasn’t around.

Reach Steve Beauregard at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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