Monday, January 06, 2014

look out for the shark!

I had to chuckle.

There they were in our little beach town.  Row on row of float toys.  All looking as if someone had bagged his limit of cartoon creatures from the Disney Game Preserve.  Nemo meets Peter Pan.

The photographer in me had to take the shot.  Great colors.  Interesting shapes.  Nice light balance.  About as
cliché as a photograph at the beach could be.

But what was all of that writing on the sides of the creatures from the shallow lagoon?  It looked as if politicians had festooned the toys of innocent children with political slogans.

It was worse.  They were the tattoos of liability avoidance.  The dreaded attorneys had struck again.

Now, that conclusion would have made sense had I been standing at one of those tacky concession stands at Coney Island.  After all, The States are the capital of tort attorneys.  Not Mexico.

But take a closer look.  Both of these photographs are of the same shark (a rather apt symbol where tort lawyers are involved).  I did not count the words.  But they would easily fill a safety brochure.

Even though the shark was made in China, it has the type of warning we have become accustomed to seeing in The States.

"No protection against drowning."  If you are silly enough to believe that the flotation will come to life and save you like Willy the Orca, you were doomed long before you climbed on its back.

And then the rather startling WARNING!  "Aquatic toy -- use only under supervision."  Because we all know that toys -- especially, aquatic toys -- are inherently life-threatening, and children must be protected from them.

I did not count the number of languages that chide parents for being so reckless as to subject their children to these killers of their spawn.  (But there were enough to look like the packaging of a United Nations-distributed condom.) 

And the international symbols?  They all seem to translate to: "You buy it; it's your own fault when danger befalls your family."

This type of thing is far to easy to parody.  My fellow Americans have been living with this plague of warnings since at least the 1980s when the legal system concluded that people are absolutely incapable of thinking for themselves.

But, in Mexico?  I guess it is merely another spin-off of globalization.  Most of the outcomes have been great in world trade -- but there are obvious trade offs.

Of course, none of this matters in our little village.  A tourist dad will buy the blue shark for his three-year old son, sit the boy on top of his new steed, and push him off into the surf where he will frolic for hours.  To squeals of delight.  And an occasional jelly fish sting and sun burn.

I am surprised that the local merchants have not slapped on their own stickers:

DANGER!  Your child will have the time of his life if you buy this shark.  But look out for the crocodile.  It is known to eat the left hand of animated pirates.

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