I was sitting here sorting through my vast treasure trove of goofs, gaffes, errors, and random stupidities for which I am a legend in my own mind, and for no reason—as in fact there almost never is one—followed a short trail of breadcrumbs to a post received from a friend earlier in the day commenting on the fact that the sleeping medication, Ambien, has a warning on the label that it may cause drowsiness. I am always fascinated by drug commercials on TV in which the recitation of warnings and side effects takes up more time than telling you why you should buy it. It had struck me as ridiculous until I got to thinking yet again at how incredibly stupid people other than me and thee can be. Obviously the makers of Ambien go to such great lengths to tell you everything that could go wrong with its use do so to prevent someone who had used the product while piloting an aircraft and, surviving the resulting crash caused by falling asleep at the controls, then suing Ambien charging that the label did not specifically warn him/her that it might cause drowsiness.
When I worked in Chicago the first time, a co-worker was telling me how, when he worked for the Packard Motor Car Company (I know, you’re much too young to remember Packards), a woman drove into the Packard garage with a new convertible, the cloth top and collapsing/raising mechanism of which looked like a crumpled kite. The woman was outraged, demanding Packard fix the problem immediately. The shop workers could not imagine what might have caused such damage, until the woman explained that she had been driving down the highway at 60 miles an hour on a lovely spring day and decided to put the top down. It simply never occurred to her that she might have to stop the car to do it.
Recently, another woman (sorry, not picking on women, it just happened to be a woman in both these cases) sued the manufacturer of her Winnebago motor home for not specifically stating in the owner’s manual that the driver cannot engage the cruise control feature while driving down the highway and then get up to go to the kitchen area to make a sandwich. She won.
A truly tragic example of stupidity occurred when I was living in northern Wisconsin. A young man, despondent over the breakup with his girlfriend, decided to kill himself (after all, life simply is not worth living if you break up with a girlfriend). He put his father’s shotgun under his chin and pulled the trigger, blowing half his face away. But he lived, if his condition can be called life. My feelings of true shock and infinite sorrow for the young man were nonetheless tempered by the utter stupidity of the act.
Bank robbers who write hold-up notes on the back of their own checks, people who, peer into the barrel of a loaded gun to see if it needs cleaning, the man who enters a darkened room and, smelling gas, lights a match to see if he can find the source, etc.! The examples are endless. I am deeply appreciative to whomever it is who creates the annual Darwin Awards, which “salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who have accidentally removed themselves from it.” The accounts of incredible stupidity exhibited by reward recipients are mind-boggling…all the more so because they are true.
I guess part of my problem with all these blatant examples of idiocy and incompetence is that, I take a perverse pride in my own, and I resent the competition.