Tuesday, May 22, 2007

You Know You're Living in the Nanny State When...

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?



Caroline said...

I think the fact that so many people call children kids shows that the nanny state has become endemic :-)

french toast girl said...

Alan Mendelson is one of my favorite books of all time. Wait till you get to the part about Level 26 and watch Joe try to levitate things with his brainwaves. THAT I want to see.

love, me

Tony LaRocca said...

Elena- what I find hysterical is what we didn't realize when we were kids: that the book is mostly a parody of the new-age thinking that was sprouting up in the 70s ("state 26" is obviously meant to be Alpha/Theta meditation- and there are biofeedback devices you can buy that will tell you when you've reached this state,) and that the inter-dimensional travel attained in the book is spoofing astral projection. I also had to explain that once upon a time sneakers were called "gym shoes," as in, "FATSO- WHERE ARE YOUR GYM SHOES?"

Rayne said...

I couldn't agree more. What really irritates me is the things they pick to be so hard ass on.
Okay, smoking is bad. Got it.
But, I am more likely to be killed by a drunk driver than second hand smoke and in our state you hardly ever get jail time for driving drunk. You may get your license suspended, but when you are caught driving drunk while it's suspended you just get your license suspended longer and another fine.
Anyway, my point is, they make a big deal out of the little things, what books kids can read, etc. and totally ignore the important stuff.

Aravis said...

I so agree.

You have to listen to that litany because of the lawsuit worries, but here's the thing: it only makes the situation worse. To warn people that they should hold the rail signifies that the company is aware that there is danger involved. So if someone lets go of the rail and falls backwards, they can sue for even more because the company knew that it could happen, and didn't personally strap them onto the damn thing.

Of course, if they had been strapped down, that's a whole different lawsuit...