Friday, April 19, 2024

THE LOWDOWN: Pitching marbles and other hazards


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Sometimes I wonder if I killed my brother Ted. Or rather, contributed to his death since it wasn’t a direct act as with Bill and Joe.
Bill was swimming in the big water tank at Vaucluse. I was throwing pebbles at him.
We Hoads weren’t much into dangerous pastimes like pitching marbles which can get a head brassed up at a $600 000 inquiry. We preferred throwing things. In the backyard at Fontabelle someone in the group would suddenly shout: “Cork-sticking time!” Whereupon there would erupt an orgy of rushing around and hurling random objects at each other. Jackie nearly lost an eye, but that was par for the course.
Unfortunately for Bill, my supply of pebbles ran out. Finding a chunk of concrete with sharp edges, I figured: “Why not? It’s bound to miss.”
He sank like the proverbial stone as it crashed into his skull. With scarlet billows spreading, I lit out for the hills.
In Joe’s case, I was equally blameless. We were playing “dodging” in the passage-way. I would let fly darts at him; he was supposed to dodge. Only he dodged the wrong way. When the dart slammed into his right temple and stuck fast, I again hit the high road, creeping back hours later when the absence of hearse and undertaker suggested he hadn’t died.
Ted’s was a different story. He had a serious medical condition. Not being a computer man, he would phone and ask me to look up the possible side effects of any new drug the doctor prescribed. By the time I got past “nausea, vomiting and impotence” (listed as possible side effects for all drugs), I could already hear the medicine thudding into his garbage pail.
Let’s place the blame here squarely on the legal profession. They sue for such ridiculous nonsense, like a lady spilling coffee in her lap and claiming damages because it was too hot, that overkill warnings abound.
Tools and appliances come with ten pages of cautions, which no one reads, and two paragraphs on how to use them. Most products carry the message: “WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
Some warnings are relevant; others only remotely so. Today I propose we put some in perspective. Why keep warning about sandflies when there are lions on the loose?
Case in point, Mark Twain once noted how everyone rushed to sell him insurance when he was travelling on a train. Yet, when he checked the statistics, far more people die in their beds than on trains. Insurance for lying in bed is what we really need. Better yet, sleep in the “gallory”.
Here are a few random comments on warnings, in my opinion, overdone and underdone:
Hurricanes, overdone. The panic/hysteria campaign has not worked. We need to manage hurricanes sensibly. Conduct house to house assessments and advise residents if to vacate to suitable shelters. It is nonsense to try to make all or most of our structures hurricane-proof. Build cheap and, if it blows, rebuild.
Lepto warnings, underdone. Hurricanes have caused less than 40 deaths in the last 100 years, none in the last 50. Lepto deaths average 8.2 per year. Dengue warnings are also underdone.
HIV/AIDS, “wrap it up”, overkill. No one listens any more.
Dangerous driving, underdone. More deaths in Latin America and the Caribbean are due to vehicular accidents than to any other cause, including AIDS. What are we doing?
Noise, dangerously underdone. Noise pollution is a killer. Why no legislation as yet?
Diesel fumes, serious cancer risk. Yet thousands “jump behind de truck” in a confined atmosphere, jog on the highway. No warnings.
Cigarettes, pointless campaign if youths are everywhere smoking marijuana, said to be 20 times more likely to cause lung cancer and lower IQ.
Marble pitching, timely warning. Retired judge Frederick Waterman probably recalls how many of his contemporaries graduated to the adult “down taw, nuh brush” version in Harry’s Nitery.   
By the way, Al Gilkes failed to mention that Waterman’s “you are up here, they are down there” comment couldn’t apply to our headmaster. John Hammond was shorter than many second formers.
You get my drift. Oft-repeated in your face warnings quickly lose their impact while deadly killers aren’t being tackled. Wheel and come again, people!
• Richard Hoad is a farmer and social commentator.


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