I’ve got a great idea for a kids’ toy. Get a plastic ring, a little smaller than a hula hoop, and put it on the ground. Mark off about 20 or 25 feet and put down another ring. Those are the targets. One of your kids stands at one ring and one at the other. Each kid, in turn, takes a large, sharp, heavy, metal-tipped plastic arrow with aerodynamic fins. They throw these arrows at the targets and keep score based on the number of times the arrow plants itself inside the target. Points are also awarded based on how close the arrow gets to the target. It’s like a game of lethal horseshoes. We could call the game Lawn Impalers.
Wait! Is it just possible that this game might be dangerous to kids? Is it possible that kids throwing sharp metal-tipped Lawn Impalers at each other might result in injury, might make the kid and not the plastic ring the target? Is it even (ALERT— LEGAL TERMS) reasonably foreseeable that kids might misuse these Lawn Impalers and throw them at pets and each other? Nah, that’s not possible.
Wait a minute, they did do that. Some corporate genius made a game called Lawn Darts and manufactured it until common sense and litigation pulled it from the shelves.
I'm sure there were similar problems in the past, but it seems like we are currently facing a Tsunami of Stupid and it's not going to ebb any time soon.
I was in a local quick-mart the other day and, on the counter next to the cash register, I saw a miniature metal stock car. It looked a lot like the popular brand of toy collectable metal cars. The wheels on the car even spin like real wheels.
Out of curiosity I picked one up, looked at the label and saw that it was not a toy; it was a refillable butane lighter for the stock car racing, auto lover and arson fan in us all. I flipped the car over, pushed down the lighter button and a bright blue flame, hot and intense enough to scar steel, shot up from the body of the lighter.
What do you think the corporate sales and manufacturing conference on this great idea sounded like? “Hey guys, I have an idea. Dads love racing. Let’s make a pocket lighter that looks like a really hot stock car.”
“How hot, Bob?”
“Bright colors, cool models, spinning wheels; dads can carry them in their pockets and roll them across their desks at work. All the guys will want one. We can make them in different body styles and put the car numbers of the hot drivers on them. We can make them butane and refillable. Dads can collect all of them.”
“Isn’t butane a hot, welding torch-like flame?”
“Sure, Jim, what’s your point?”
“If we make this thing look like one of those toy replica cars isn’t it possible that some kids will get their hands on it and set something on fire or burn themselves?”
“Do I look stupid, Jim? I had the guys in the legal section check out the proposal. Our corporate attorney, you guys know Leon Panhandler don’t you? Anyway, Leon said that we would have to clearly label the lighter for adult use and put the lighters near the cash register and sell them only to adults. We can put a strong warning on a removable strip of tape.”
“Once we ship them to the vendors they can put them where they want and sell them to whoever they want."
"Not our problem, Jim."
"It can be."
"I had the accountants run the numbers. We'll make enough money to easily cover any lawsuit."
"But it looks like a toy, Bob.”
“Take a look around, Jim. Everyone is doing it. On my way to work I stopped in a couple of stores and saw lighters that looked like toy guns, a shiny silver tomahawk, a bullet on a key chain, more cars and a cute little golf bag. Everybody is in the flammable adult toy market. You don’t want us to get left behind do you, Jim? This is business.”
“Of course not, Bob. I just see dad going home and putting his lighter down on the table and little Johnny picking it up and playing with it, tugging on it, pushing the button, and setting his house or himself on fire. The lighter, attractive to kids because it looks like a toy, seems like a dangerous potential for problems.”
“I’m not worried about it, Jim. Did I mention I ran it through legal and the bean counters?"
"One more problem, Bob.”
“Jim, you're getting to be a real buzz-kill. This is a team. Are you a team player?"
"Then what's the problem now?”
“Where are we gonna get these made?”
“China, of course.”
“What about lead in the paint?”
“Damn, Jim, that could be a problem. Some kid could get ahold of this and get exposed to lead paint.”
“Yeah, Bob, that's what we need to worry about.”
Madison Avenue and Corporate America do not have a lock on this problem. Toy-shaped lighters struck me as just a small indication of the Tsunami of Stupid sweeping the country. Some of the indications are more serious and have the potential for greater consequences.
During the ongoing Secret Service Scandal I asked the rhetorical question: Wasn't there one person in the room with enough common sense to say, “For godsake, a public fight with a hooker is not a good idea. Pay her what she wants and get her out of here.”
I had the same question when Ford ignored the Pinto problem and the GOP handlers took Sarah Palin shopping for clothes. Wasn't there one person smart enough to say, “Guys, taking her to designer stores and spending $100,000 will make bad press. Let's take her to Macys or Target and invite the press along. She can throw the rags away after the election if she doesn't like them."
"Too late, the shopping trip is scheduled. But if we win, we can have her tag along on a GSA trip and she can shop in Vegas or Hawaii.”