Warning: Reading this blog might be hazardous to your (mental) health
By David Menzies for MSN Autos
One of the Christmas gifts I picked up for Junior last month was a new whiz-bang sled for tobogganing. Actually, it’s something called Whiteout made by the fine folks at Laval, Quebec-based Pelican. Whiteout is a nifty inflatable saucer. (Please be patient – there’s an automotive angle to this rant in the paragraphs ahead.)
As I began to inflate the saucer, I noticed a preponderance of warnings that had been permanently etched upon the sled. Some of the more notable cautions included:
- “This product has been specifically designed for use on snow. It is not a floatation device and should not be used in or on water.”
- “Do not tow with any vehicle. This is not a towable device.”
- “Never leave children unsupervised when sliding and provide competent adult supervision.”
- “The wearing of a safety helmet and protective goggles is strongly recommended.”
- And my favourite warning: “Product will develop high speed under certain snow conditions. Product has no brakes or steering mechanism and excessive speed can cause loss of control and serious injury.”
Can you imagine? The saucer might actually “develop high speed under certain snow conditions”? I really hope so – that’s why I forked-out 50 bucks for the thing after all.
Here’s your automotive angle by the way: I blame such silly over-protectiveness on Stella Liebeck who had a bad experience driving and drinking coffee.
Liebeck was the 79-year-old Albuquerque woman who spilled McDonald’s coffee upon her thighs some 20 years ago. Apparently, her car didn’t have cup-holders or she chose not to use them. Whatever. The thing is, she had wedged that cup of McJava between her thighs, which, of course, turned out to be a terrible idea when it toppled over and its contents slammed into Liebeck’s thighs.
The next thing you know, Liebeck is in court suing McDonald’s because the Golden Arches had the temerity to sell her hot coffee that was – wait for it – hot. In addition to being awarded $160,000 in compensatory damages, scorched Sheila also scored $2.7-million in punitive damages. After all, how dare McDonald’s sell coffee above room temperature!
The decision was later appealed, but Leibeck did eventually walk away with a six-figure settlement. And so it is today one will come across a jar of peanuts at the supermarket with a notation affixed to the jar stating: “Warning: May Contain Nuts.”
After the toboggan run, I took in a rousing game of shinny being played at the World Junior Hockey Championship. A thought occurred to me: if ice hockey didn’t exist, it could never be invented today. Not a chance ... not in our liability-averse, bubble-wrapped, helicopter mama society. I mean, just think of it – vulcanized rubber, carbon fibre sticks, hard wooden boards, body-checking, and most dire of all, slippery ICE!
In fact, maybe if cars didn’t exist today they’d be considered too dangerous to invent too.
Bottom line: thank God hockey and the automobile existed prior to Sheila Liebeck spilling that cup of McDonald’s coffee on her oh-so-sensitive thighs...