Although Joe can muddle through books on his own, (and has to read a short book almost every day for school,) he still likes to be read to once in a while. So, I've been reading him four chapters a night from what was my favorite book when I was his age, the greatest young adult novel of all time, Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater. The story centers on a junior high student named Leonard Neeble, who at one point is sent to a child psychologist. Just to cheese his doctor off, Leonard picks up a cigar on the way to the office and smokes it there. Not only does the doctor allow it, but convinces his parents that they should let their son do it at home too. When Leonard's mother protests that it will stunt his growth, the doctor answers, "Would you rather have him short or crazy?" Great stuff.
"What's a cigar?" Joe asked.
"It's like a giant cigarette that tastes good but smells bad," I answered.
Joe's eyes went wide. "The doctor told his parents he could SMOKE?" he asked incredulously. "The parents LET him smoke?"
I blinked for a moment, and explained that while we were always told smoking was bad for you, (I drove my grandfather up the wall by constantly bugging him to quit when I was in elementary school,) back in the 70's it was pretty much no big deal. I even remember that my parents had giant green and blue solid glass ashtrays for when company came over. Nowadays, if you smoke, you're a worse human being than someone who shoots puppies in the middle of the street. If some nutjobs get their way, a movie of this book would have an R rating because the nerds were smoking in it- without consequence, no less.
"Nanny State" is a term that has been thrown around blogs and radio shows, but to me, it's becoming more and more self evident. As I've said before, I live in a city where two chubbies are actually suing McDonalds because they supposedly did not know that eating there every day wasn't good for them. The point hit home to me as I rode up the escalator coming out of the E-train at 53/Lex. There are loudspeakers all the way up that keep relating this wonderful mantra:
"Always face forward when riding the escalator."
"Always hold the hand rail when riding the escalator."
"Never walk backwards on the escalator."
"Be sure to secure your belongings when riding the escalator."
"Do not stare at the ass of the hot chick in front of you when riding the escalator."
Think about it. Our government actually feels they need to tell people how to ride an escalator. Maybe it's just the rampant terror of lawsuits, (which is the subject for another post,) but I think this is a sign the world has reached a new level of madness. Then again, I live in a city with a mayor (Bloomberg) who says that there's no proof the air at ground zero was toxic and is the reason rescue workers are dying from respiratory problems, but if someone smokes a cigarette outdoors it will kill every man woman and child in a five-block radius- so who am I to judge?