Monday, November 1, 2010

Mean handshakes, toddler criminals and watching your own tail

I'm the innocent bystander
Somehow I got stuck
Between the rock and the hard place
And I'm down on my luck

—Warren Zevon, "Lawyers, Guns and Money"

On back-to-back days this week, I came across articles with the following headlines:

4-Year-Old Can Be Sued, Judge Rules in Bike Case
Candidate Files Criminal Complaint Over Firm Handshake

Then, last night, a 5-year-old girl dressed as a lion for Halloween told my wife, "My mom says that you shouldn't have candles in your pumpkin, because my tail is flammable."

To which my wife replied, "You're going to have to watch your own tail."

Indeed. I really wish that people would watch their own tails.

What kind of society do we live in that can sue a toddler for negligence on a bike, in which a politician can gripe over a grip-and-grin, or in which a kindergartener is allowed to scold an adult for having a votive candle burning inside a gourd?

Now, in the case of the elderly woman who got hit by the runaway cyclist and broke her hip — yes, it sucks. If you're a political candidate, and you get kung-fu gripped, sorry, that's part of the territory. If you're out on Halloween night and you're in a flammable outfit, by all means, please stay away from open flames.

Stuff happens. Sometimes awful stuff. No one should expect to be entitled to a risk-free life, and there is no way to legislate or adjudicate every single bad thing that occurs. According to a book by Harvey A. Silverglate that's next on my reading list, the average person commits Three Felonies a Day without even knowing it. Every year, more laws and more byzantine rules about every aspect of our lives go into the books...and our ability to take personal responsibility and manage happenstance seems to erode.

And, as a result, I suspect that the young lady in the lion suit has a promising career ahead of her as a personal-injury lawyer. Or if she works on her grip strength, maybe even a politician.


  1. Personal responsibility. Accountability. Human Kindness. Where has it all gone? We can't "rule" ourselves into good behavior. Have we become so lazy that we assume "rules" will protect us? Watch your own tail. I love it and I wish people would.

  2. Unfortunately, I think the answer to your second question is "yes."

    I wish I had a clue as to how to answer your first question. We are trying to bring up our own kids to know that they're ultimately responsible for themselves, & that no one can do a better job of looking out for their best interests than they can.

  3. Your wife and I would get along well. Awesome stat "3 felonies/day" - I can only imagine how many I committed in college if that's average.

  4. Haha, Jamie -- yeah, there were nights I surely racked up 3 felonies an hour back in the day!

  5. Hm... I was going to say this post should be REQUIRED reading for every humanoid, but that would mean passing a law which would defeat the whole purpose. Hm... : )

    If your wife keeps telling it like it is, she could put Oprah and Dr. Phil outta biz. Tell her to keep at it.

    Not sure what my OTHER two felonies were today, but reading your post was definitely the most enjoyable-- keep up the good work!

  6. Thanks for commenting and the kind words, Mark. We'll keep the felonies on the down low.