I was contemplating the emergency brake light in my truck, and thinking about it the other day. When I was a kid, my first several cars didn’t have one. Instead, you were supposed to be bright enough to check the brake before you drove off. You didn’t need no stinking light for that.
Shucks, thinking about the best (push) lawn mower I ever had; you could leave it running and walk away from it. In fact, it ran until you intentionally killed it, and to do that you used a screwdriver to short out the spark plug. (I’ll never forget the day my Dad taught me how to do this. He liked to have fell on his butt laughing when I shocked myself. The jerk.) I was just a bit taller than the handle, and had to lean into it to push it. I could actually see the blades from there. I did not mow wearing shorts. OSHA would have pooped in their pants. Best lawn mower I ever had, I remember it fondly.
Oddly enough, I never got hurt, even though OSHA thinks we are all idiots. Instead, I developed competence.
I ran all kinds of farm equipment with questionable or nonexistent safety features. We went through several tractors, like the Model C Farm-All, that had no roll cage, for instance. If you flip one of those, you have seriously screwed up – so you make doggone sure you don’t flip them. This is called competence.
The first time I ever saw a ladder that had a label affixed to the top step, that said “THIS IS NOT A STEP”, it really cracked me up. I mean, I know what they were trying to say, but that step looked exactly like the one below it. It was a step. Idiots. They’d have done better saying “BE CAREFUL AND DON’T FALL” instead of “THIS IS NOT A STEP”.
I’ve owned cars and motorcycles that you could start while they were in gear. I’ve owned and ridden motorcycles that you could engage the clutch while the kickstand was down. You know what? It was never a problem. Shucks, on my (current) truck you actually have to have your foot on the brake, or the blooming thing won’t start!
They think we’re a bunch of incompetent idiots.
When I was young, we were expected to have something that seems to be in short supply these days. It was called, back then, “common sense”. Ever heard of it?
Oh, there are a few rules you should teach your kids. Here are a few off the top of my head:
- Don’t point the gun at anybody. Ever.
- Be careful around machinery of any sort.
- Never get under anything that can fall on you.
- Don’t run with sharp objects like scissors or knives.
- Be aware of who is behind you if you swing a stick. It might be me. And if you hit me, I will be annoyed.
And so on.
And let’s think about driving safety. There are all sorts of safety devices on cars these days. When I started driving, cars didn’t even have seat belts. Now they have seat belts, air bags, more air bags, 5 mph bumpers, and safety interlocks out the kazoo – and cars cost four times what they did in 1970.
Between all this safety gear, and Hollywood’s car-chase scenes in movies, you have a generation that thinks they can’t be hurt. It’s the wrong approach.
If you want a safe driver, put a 4” razor-sharp spike right in the middle of the steering wheel, pointed at the driver’s chest. I guarantee you that you will have a safe driver! (Please note that this is not a serious proposal – but it would work!)
I guess the point of this monologue is that not all risk is bad. A certain level of risk is required, to generate healthy, self-reliant, competent people. Without that controlled level of risk, you generate people who think the universe is an inherently safe place, and who grow up not understanding that there are consequences to their actions.
Therefore, allow your kids to do things, and take certain controlled risks; and let them suffer the consequences. And they will grow up to be competent, intelligent adults – as ours did.
I’m proud of that.