This Dave Barry column was originally published Sunday, August 13, 1995
TODAY'S TOPIC IS: Automotive Safety
Automobiles are a mixed blessing. On the one hand, they provide us with benefits that were undreamed-of in the "horse-and-buggy" days. For example, any time we get hungry, we can simply hop into the car, pull up to the drive-through window of a fast-food restaurant, purchase a tasty hot meal, spill our coffee on our thighs and sue a major corporation for millions of dollars.
On the other (or "left") hand, automobiles can be very dangerous. The modern car is a complex and powerful machine; if we do not treat it with proper respect, it could put a radio antenna way up our nose. This actually happened to a man in Gresham, Ore., according to a news item from The Portland Oregonian that was sent to me by many alert readers. The article states that the man, who wound up in the hospital, doesn't know exactly how it happened; he was talking with some friends, then turned to leave, and "the next thing he knew the antenna on his 1984 Fiero was up his nose." The article states that the antenna "pierced his nasal membrane, his sinus membrane and entered his brain cavity, where it destroyed his pituitary gland."
The question is: What are we, as a nation, going to do about this problem? The practical solution, of course, is for the government to order a mandatory recall of all cars ever made, so that they can be refitted with antennas made from a safer, softer, less-penetrating material, such as cheese. Until this can be done, the public should be made aware of the danger via public-service TV spots featuring graphic filmed demonstrations showing exactly what can happen when automobile antennas are rammed way up the noses of actual Tobacco Institute scientists.
Also, everybody should wear nose plugs. I think this is a good idea anyway, because let's face it, nostrils are disgusting. I mean, think about it: Right in the middle of your face, plainly visible to everybody, are these holes, leading directly into one of the grossest areas of your entire body, with ugly little hairs and God knows what else festering in there and poking out at the least opportune times, so that you'll be giving a crucial business presentation, thinking that you're really impressing some prospective clients, when in fact the reason they're all watching you so intently is that they have a betting pool going on how long it will take you to realize that you're sporting a booger the size of a cocktail olive.
In the words of the late Winston Churchill: "We will know that we have evolved into a truly civilized society when we start wearing little underpants on our noses."
Speaking of underpants, another automotive safety issue is raised by a report from the Fort Myers, Fla., News-Press, written by Denes Husty and sent in by alert reader Elaine Belling. This report states that police, responding to an early- morning burglar alarm, saw a man running away from a lingerie store. The man jumped into his car and drove off, but according to a police spokesperson, his car was so full of assorted women's underwear that "apparently some of it got wrapped around his head or the steering wheel, causing him to lose control." The car smashed into a palm tree; the man then jumped out and dove into a lake, pursued by a police dog, which he attempted to drown. Three officers then jumped in and apprehended the man, who was charged with various offenses, including -- and I wish to stress that I am not making any of this up -- "attempting to kill a police dog."
What lesson can we, as motorists, learn from this incident? We can learn that if we are the type of individual -- and here I am thinking of Sen. Bob Packwood -- who for whatever reason is likely to be driving with women's lingerie wrapped around our head, then we should make it our business to drive in areas that do not contain palm trees.
Our final automotive safety issue comes from a St. Petersburg Times article, written by Roger Clendening II and alertly sent in by Luann Prosek, concerning a young man whose car would not start because the catalytic converter had clogged up. (In case you are unfamiliar with automotive terminology, I should explain that a "catalytic converter" is apparently some kind of thing in a car.)
The man, who was late for his job at a Sears auto center, wanted to fix the converter by drilling a hole in it, but he couldn't find a drill. So, as a trained automotive professional, he decided to make the hole by shooting the converter with a .22-caliber rifle. This repair technique worked flawlessly, in the sense that the man got out of the hospital the very same day. Apparently the bullet hit a bolt, and the man wound up with metal fragments in his thigh. The emergency-room doctor advised the man to leave the fragments in there, but when the man got home he decided (I am still not making any of this up) to remove them himself, using a knife and a pair of tweezers. He told The Times that this operation was successful. He also said that his car started, although two days later the engine blew up.
But that is not the point. The point is that if you, after shooting your car for whatever reason (and I can think of many), find that your body contains metal fragments, you know where to go for prompt, no-nonsense treatment: Your local Sears auto center. They can also give you a good deal on batteries, tires and brain surgery. Happy motoring, and take that brassiere off your head.
©1995 Dave Barry
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