Sep 10 2008
In the post Is Safer Always Better? I argued that modern Western Civilization, especially American civilization, has become obsessed with safety to the point of absurdity. I think I now have definitive proof. Johnson & Johnson has produced, for the benefit of single mothers and tort lawyers everywhere, a booklet on how to walk safely:
Apparently this was distributed to all J&J employees, perhaps in the hope that no one would sue for slipping on the immaculately maintained non-slip flooring. Let’s peruse, shall we? (click on any image for a bigger version)
Step 1: Watch your step! Humans are not naturally adept at level changes, because we evolved in the savanna, where it’s flat. Also, there are no stray power cords there.
Step 2: Height can hurt. As any mountain biker, knows, “going down is more dangerous than going up.” This is why there are non-slip treads on mountains.
Step 3: Health Helps! This man is exercising his arms so that he may walk safer. Also, you should not walk when you are stressed — after a bad day at work, it’s best to call a friend to come pick you up in a wheelchair.
Step 4: Don’t Do It! This one is really very reasonable, I think. There really could be a crocodile hiding in the grass. You know, in the savanna.
Step 4 again: Yes, there really are multiple pages on each one of these topics. Likewise, the authors felt it was important to discuss jumping down versus across. Sesame Street couldn’t have said it better.
Step 5: Wear the right shoes. In particular, wearing shoes at all is recommended. But I disagree — here’s to all our barefoot heroes!
Step 6: Hold on. Don’t ever carry something with more than one hand. That’s why we evolved with two: one to drag the zebra carcass, the other for the handrail.
Step 7: Fix it. It has long been known that the restroom needs to be closed with a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign until evaporation has made it safe to enter. Further, OSHA has now taken an interest in hazards in other phases, and is recommending labels on all objects in the workplace, with the standardized wording of “Caution: Solid Matter.”
The booklet concludes with the discussion “How Likely Are You To Fall?” on pages 38 and 39. Yes, that was 40 pages on how to walk. Whenever I’m feeling that the fall of Communism has the left the world with a shortage of absurdity, I like to imagine the production meetings for this book.
As an antidote, I present to you here a typical Southeast-Asian sidewalk, this one from Penang, Malaysia:
Note the many objects in the way of the sidewalk, which is bordered by huge gaping open sewers. Huge gaping open unsigned sewers! Nary a strip of caution tape in sight! Further, I assure you that just offscreen there are cars and pedestrians dancing senselessly, and a lack of good footwear. How do these people survive?
Actually, I find walking down the street in developing countries somewhat difficult, so don’t think I’m advocating for the open sewers approach. It’s just that– well, there’s got to be a balance here somewhere.