“You’ll shoot your eye out!”

The following is an adaptation of a speech I gave several years ago in my Toastmasters club. I found it in an old folder, and it still amused me. I thought I would share.

What’s the Matter with Kids Today? It was a question raised in song in the musical Bye-Bye Birdie. It’s a question that has been raised by older generations for decades. We find ourselves looking at our youth and wondering why they seem to lack common sense. We ask how they have become so entitled, with no sense of responsibility. If you ask me, the problem doesn’t originate with the children. They have not evolved into senseless creatures all by themselves. Today’s children are victims of society. As a society, we no longer appear to value this asset. We have made it too simple to do something stupid and either blame someone else or claim that we didn’t know any better. Law makers vindicate people who spill scalding hot coffee themselves then sue, and the only thing that doesn’t come with a warning label is your crazy Aunt Earlene.

The aforementioned McDonald’s lawsuit was so outrageous that it made the news all over the U.S. You might think that something so ridiculous would cause us to take a long hard look at ourselves, but I’m not sure that discouraged others from filing silly lawsuits. In fact, it may have encouraged it. The Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch listed several similar cases.

One homeowner sued the owners of a local business saying that their dust was trespassing on her property.  Of course, once it was established that dust had no legs and could not intentionally trespass, the case was dismissed.

Another woman, a housekeeper, stole what she thought was a decorative candle from a house that she was cleaning. During dinner with friends, she lit the “candle.” It turned out to be a firecracker and caused a small explosion. She later sued her client for leaving the firecracker laying around the house without a warning on it.

A woman leaving the hospital in a wheel chair was pushed into a parking gate. She sustained minor head injuries and sued, not the person who pushed her into the gate, but the manufacturer of the gate.  If you’re going to sue in a situation like that, at least get your priorities straight! The jury rightfully found that the gate maker was not at fault.

Even those convicted of crimes themselves continue to blame others for their problems. In Michigan, a prisoner sued the state because prison food was causing a flatulence problem. The Attorney General’s office estimated that frivolous prisoner lawsuits like that one waste several million dollars in state tax dollars every year.

Maybe they need more warning signs posted in those prison cafeterias. After all, nearly everything else in the US comes with some kind warning. Vacuum cleaners include such directions as: “Do not pick up anything smoking or burning” and “Do not immerse in water.”  Did someone wake up one day and decide to use their Hoover to clean out the pool? Why does the little packet of silicon in your new shoe box read “Do not eat?” Some brilliant individual one day mistook it for a snack. Now, steps must be taken to warn others and avoid prosecution. Once upon a time, there was a site called Wackywarnigns.com which gave several other examples like these. A Laundromat washer bore this sign: “High Speed Spins – Do not put a person in this washer.”  It’s a good thing that label is posted. That way the multi-taskers would know better than to wash their laundry and their children in the same machine. A warning on a flushable toilet brush cautioned, “Do not use for personal hygiene.” Apparently Swiffer brand wet wipes should also include this warning, because my principal’s kid did exactly that when he accidentally left the box on the back of the toilet. Kudos to him. Rather than sue, he suggested his son pay more attention to the “home care” label the next time.

Here are a two more serious warnings:  A fuel Tank Cap warns, “Never use a lit match or open flame to check fuel level.”  A&W soda labels state: Warning: Contents under pressure. Cap may blow off causing eye or other serious injury. As a middle school teacher, I can see that happening as a result of a “double dog dare” in the lunch room. “Dude, I bet you can’t open that bottle with your eye!” Still, I ask you, is it really the root beer’s fault that middle school kids are crazy?

Why should children think for themselves or try to solve a problem by using common sense when we don’t expect adults to? If you have a youngster in your life, talk to them about what they watch on TV so they don’t turn play time into an episode of Myth Busters gone wrong.  Help them learn about safety and making smart choices.  Teach them to be responsible for there own mistakes. Don’t help your toddler dial a lawyer when he burns his tongue on his Hamburger Happy Meal.  Teach him to think first and blow on it next time.

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