Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

CAUTION: EXCESSIVE EXPOSURE TO CAUTION WILL ROT YOUR BRAIN

January 4, 2008 - 11:25am -- Carol Diehl

My hope for the New Year is that in 2008 people will give up saying “Take care” as a form of farewell. May it fall into permanent disuse. Really, even “Have a nice day,” which we used to hate for its insipidity, is beginning to look pretty good. And while we’re at it, let’s also get rid of the word “safe” in our goodbyes, as in “Have a safe trip.” Someone once said that to me as I prepared to drive from Great Barrington to Housatonic, a “trip” of six miles, which I think is more like a jaunt, but nobody says, “Have a safe jaunt.” At holiday time the food coop printed HAVE A SAFE AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING on the bottom of each and every receipt. What’s unsafe about Thanksgiving? Are they afraid that we’re all going choke on turkey bones? Or that proximity to neurotic relatives will cause mental illness? “Drive carefully” bugs me too. I see myself gleefully making a U-turn at 80 across the median strip on the Mass Pike and then thinking, “Oh shit! I forgot to drive carefully. If only someone had reminded me...”

We’re the safest society that has ever lived, but the Culture of Fear invades even our homes, with reminders of impending doom everywhere—on each and every window screen in my house, is an unremovable (believe me, I’ve tried) label that says, in English and Spanish: WARNING: SCREEN WILL NOT KEEP CHILD FROM FALLING OUT WINDOW. Do I really want to think about the untimely demise of small beings every time I go to look outside? My hair dryer comes with a tag marked DO NOT REMOVE! that not only says WARN CHILDREN OF THE RISK OF DEATH BY ELECTRIC SHOCK! but adds that I must refrain—duh!—from using it while bathing.

Meanwhile, where are the warnings we really need, such as NOT HAVING HEALTH INSURANCE MAY BE HARMFUL TO YOUR HEALTH or DANGER: EXCESSIVELY LONG POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS MAY CAUSE ENNUI or the one that should be posted above every voting booth: FAILURE TO THINK WHILE VOTING MAY RESULT IN ELECTION OF STUPID OFFICIALS.

I’d end this post by exhorting you to do something risky—RUN! Don’t walk!—but since I’d be courting lawsuits if I did, I’ll simply sign off with: peace, so long, take it easy, have fun, cheers, see you later, Godspeed, sayonara, toodle-loo…and wherever you’re going, I hope you have a rollicking trip and a totally awesome day.
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