Safety labels (aka fixing stupid)


It has been said, “You can’t fix stupid.” Kudos to the government for trying.

“Stupid” has been around from the Garden of Eden, and its DNA still swims athletically across the gene pool. What is a government to do?

Enter, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “a U.S. government agency that protects the American public from products that may present safety hazards. This independent regulatory body focuses on consumer items that pose an unreasonable risk of fire, chemical exposure, electrical malfunction, or mechanical failure.” UNREASONABLE?

The risk isn’t unreasonable, it’s that “stupid” uses the product in an unreasonable way! It is because of “stupid” that “reasonably intelligent” has to alter his lifestyle — a punishment inflicted upon the masses resulting from ignorance of the few.

The CPSC was formed in 1972, and 18 years later, author Wendy Northcutt came to the conclusion that since there was a sufficient number of the population unable to read and follow safety labels, the Darwin Awards should be showcased, and posthumously given to those who, “ensure the long–term survival of our species by removing themselves from the gene pool in a sublimely idiotic fashion.” The awards occasionally pay homage to those that meant well, yet failed — they get an honorable mention (You can see Nancy’s website at

Because the Darwin recipients have done an outstanding job of either failing to comprehend or adhere to safety labels, we will explore some really “brilliant” exhortations (normally designed to prevent lawsuits, frivolous or otherwise).

Okay, who among us has never used a microwave? I’m guessing none. If you use one to make simple meals or reheat the old, you’re fairly normal. Now, how many of you use it to dry your pet? Come on, let’s be honest. Hopefully none of you, and if you are one that does, you apparently failed to read the appliance’s instruction to not do that very thing. Why would we want a gerbil with curly hair? If you think doing this is a “permanent solution,” I sure hope we don’t meet at the next family reunion — or beauty supply convention for that matter.

And who would have ever thought that the coffee contained within a Styrofoam cup is hot? Secondarily, will having a warning label on it prevent us from spilling it between our legs? If it will, we should likewise have warning labels on cars, telling us they may cause accidents.

Speaking of coffee, why don’t we have labels that tell us the iced variety is cold? If we expect otherwise, it could be a shock to our system. Consuming it without understanding its temperature could cause brain freeze in sensitive consumers, and our lips, pursed to receive what we thought would be scalding, could become permanently deformed midst the unnecessary wait to take it in (and you thought certain celebrities looked the way they did because of Botox injections applied by jittery plastic surgeons that imbibed an excess of label-exempt coffee).

And speaking of surgery, surely you’re familiar with Captain Hook, and probably believe the line about him losing his right wrist to a sword fight with Peter Pan, who wisely fed it to a waiting crocodile afflicted with anorexia nervosa. What you don’t know is what really happened. The truth is, Hook was fluent in Pirate-ese, but lacking in English skill — so, when he went to his local A and Sea to buy a push mower with which to cut his grass, he missed the warning label that told him not to use it to trim his hedges. We would all do well to get a clue from the pirate of fame. You want to ignore the lawn mower warning label? Suit yourself — just be prepared to say, “Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.”

Some mowers have bags, but bags are not reserved exclusively for mowers.

Any time we shop, we likely get a plastic bag or two to haul our groceries home in. Sadly, they are a potential problem for the Darwin Honorable Mentions that still walk among us. The warning labels tell us that the bags are not to be used as a toy.

Would you really give one to your six-month old to play with? Be reasonable — they can’t even read well enough to explain to you what you should already know. There is a reason you don’t find plastic bags in the toy aisle at Walmart.

The same bag that sports that warning tells us we should keep them out of reach of “babies and children.” Really? I didn’t know there was a difference — looks like the bag-makers may be eligible for Darwin too.

And sometimes referred to as, “In the bag”, West coast residents suffering midst the raging wildfires were recently told the coronavirus masks they’re using will not protect them from the resulting soot and ashes, which begs a question: Since, according to scientists, those particles are larger than COVID droplets, what is it that keeps the smaller ones in (or out)? I think I hear a monkey warming-up in the “bull” pen.

So, since government, in one form another, is repeatedly telling us about the necessity and value of coronavirus mask-usage, I nominate our next Darwin Award winner:


To be on the safe side, they should come with a warning label, conspicuously affixed on every House and Senate door, voting booth and stand-alone mailbox.

Les Linz is a resident of southern Indiana who writes the “Humor: More or Les” column. For information about Linz, visit his author page. Send comments to awoods@aimmedia

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