Saturday, December 17, 2011

Danger Danger Danger!

I have an obsession with Harley Davidson motorcycles.  Kevin does too.  What can I say?  They're beautiful machines.  They represent fine automotive craftmanship and they're made in the USA.  There is an enormous tradition behind them.  Kevin and I have been known to go to dealerships to walk around admiring the bikes and even indulge in some of the related merchandise.

Do you know I have never ridden on a motorcycle and don't want to?  I'm really rather afraid to do so.

Do you also know that motorcyclists suffer an injury once every 7000 hours of riding and yet horseback riding has an injury rate of one serious accident once every 350 hours?  My choice of hobby is not terribly logical is it?

I suppose that it makes somewhat logical sense that I should be afraid of riding a motorcycle.  There is a story behind it .One day in high school I was driving home from school and cut across a side road.   There was a motorcycle lying on road and someone was covering a body with a blanket.  It's hard to get a picture like that out of your mind.
 
Even if my motorcycle fear isn't totally baseless, I do find it interesting that humans will perceive so many activities as dangerous while ignoring even worse dangers.
 
For example, a coworker of mine had just head about a horrific elevator accident in New York City where a woman was crushed to death after an elevator shot up quickly while she was boarding it. Coworker said she wanted to take the stairs for the rest of her life.  You never know when something as innocent as an elevator could end your life on a moment's notice.
 
"Or," I told her, "You could ride the elevator and arrive at the bottom floor safely, which is statistically likely, and then go home in your car and be killed in a crash, which is also statistically likely, and more statistically likely than dying in an elevator.
 
How many other situations do we perceive as dangerous, while we indulge daily in occupations that are far more dangerous?

Think of the dangers we are perpetually imagining for our children.  Parents fear that every adult in the world that they don't know is a threat.  Everywhere you go, strangers are out to kidnap and molest your children.  They are going to poison your children's Halloween candy just for the enjoyment of killing mass numbers of children in one night.  They are going to murder your children for fun. 

The most likely person to abduct a child is a non-custodial parent, but children have visits with their non-custodial parents every weekend.  The people most likely to molest a child are people they know well such as relatives and family friends, but holidays and celebrations with extended families and friends continue on.  The person most likely to kill or beat a child is its mother.  How many mothers sometimes feel the need to spend every waking moment with their children?

We pack up our kids in giant vehicles and drive them everywhere because we are afraid of the people on the street.  Yet the car is exactly the place where our children are most likely to be maimed or killed.  Statistically speaking, the suburban assault vehicle has the highest death rates for children, while the safest cars have proven to be mid-size to large import cars (and let me emphasize the word cars in that sentence).  How many adults have that "bigger is better" mentality?

Isn't it funny how we are always terrified of whatever bacterial infection du jour comes around (avian flu, swine flu, SARS, MRSA etc.) when our chances of getting them are really quite small?  We say we will do anything to avoid contracting a deadly disease, but we continue to sit on the couch, eat crappy food, refuse to wear sunscreen, smoke cigarettes, drink heavily, and do any number of health habits that are guaranteed to add up and kill us horribly.  We can't let our kids eat Halloween candy from "strangers" but we allow them to eat McDonalds, and pizza, and cupcakes to their hearts content.  It's too dangerous for kids to play outside, but they're somehow safe sitting on their butts playing video games all day?

If I said that I don't want to walk down my street anymore because there are several second and third level apartments on the street and I don't want to be hit by a falling piano, you would think I was nuts.  I argue that's what it seems like our society has come to.  Why do we fear unlikely freak accidents and rare diseases while we actively pursue a lifestyle that is guaranteed to kill us unpleasantly? We pass this lifestyle onto our children and send them into an adulthood filled with obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.  Just how much damage to we have to do to ourselves before we realize that we have been worrying about the wrong things?

Do yourself a favor.  Get some exercise today.  Eat breakfast.  Eat some food that came from a farm and not a factory.  Floss your teeth.  Go to bed a little earlier.  Go easy on the booze. Get rid of the ciggies.  There are no guarantees ever that you won't be hit with that falling piano, but it's amazing how much damage to yourself that you can control.

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