Ah, America: Land of the free, home of the brave, pioneer of the frivolous litigation trend. Ever since that fateful decision in 1992, consumers have had to endure endless cautionary labels on hot tea and coffee. Not only did Stella Liebeck get awarded a whopping $2.7 million dollars, but she set the stage for countless frivolous litigations, not to mention a plethora of late-night T.V. jokes. In the true spirit of McDonald's slogan, "What You Want Is What You Get", myriads of frivolous lawsuits created the need for equally ridiculous caution labels on all products available to consumers. And I do mean all.

We recently added a recumbent bike to our home. It was very easy to put together, but as I examined the packaging, and equipment, I was reminded once again of what a cerebrally soft society we have become. The first thing that caught my attention was the bubble wrap that the small computerized monitor came in. The packaging was around 3 inches by 5 inches. On the packaging was stamped the warning: "Do not leave this bag close to young children. Risk of suffocation."

If any child has a head small enough to fit inside that little bubble wrap envelope, there are more issues than any potential health hazard presented by the envelope. That being said, I'm sure we have all had a chuckle over some of the idiotic warnings that manufacturers are compelled to place on products out of fear of litigation. Americans have become litigation crazy, and apparently a side effect is that our brains have turned to mush. We have to be warned about everything.

For example, the water bottle I'm drinking from says: "Warning: cap is a small part and poses a CHOKING HAZARD, particularly for children." As opposed to the Jolly Green Giant? And why would a parent need to be warned about a choking hazard? But if that example isn't clear enough, let's look elsewhere. How about on the label of some medication: "This product may cause drowsiness. Feeling may intensify with use of alcohol. Use care when operating a car or dangerous machinery." What's wrong with that? It all seems reasonable - if you don't take into account that it is medicine for a dog.

I do get a little nervous when it comes to warning on food. There is the benign, albeit idiotic, warning label that says: "Allergy advice! Contains peanuts!". No kidding. Imagine that, on a package of salted peanuts. I don't mind the allergen warnings, because that could mean the difference between a wonderful snack or a trip to the ER with anaphylactic shock. However, it is a bit of a head scratcher to read: "This food has been prepared on the same equipment as fish or nuts". Dude, I ordered a salad!

I admit that the "do not remove" warning labels on pillows drive me to distraction. Why can't I remove it? What will happen if I do? Will some alarm go off at the police station and bring a couple of squad cars skidding to a stop at my door? Will it deflate? Self destruct? And, as a side note, why in the world do we have tag-less shirts, but not tag-less pillows?

Only slightly more bewildering are the warning labels that I can't decipher. One weekend I was at a Ladies' Retreat, and we set off Chinese lanterns. Sounds benign enough, but these Chinese lanterns were a packaging nightmare. Not only is there flammable product (the fuel unit) but it is all enclosed in ... gasp, shock... a plastic bag! These poor manufacturers probably had no idea how to put the warning labels on it. Evidently, they decided the flammable part of the package was worse than the risk of suffocation, for there is absolutely no warning regarding the dangers of a plastic bag anywhere on it.

Packaging dangers notwithstanding, deciphering the instructions and warnings were much more frustrating and puzzling. It said:

"Wishing light operating instructions". Operating instructions? I thought we were lighting Chinese lanterns, not trying to run a submarine.

"1: After the distribution of fuel to packaging Kong Cross wire in the side of the field again deduction presses The fuel-pressure lock firmly."

Yes, that is exactly how it was printed, syntax, punctuation, and all. Lovely, isn't it?

"2: A person wishing light take up a Top; Another person fuel ignited the four angle."

I think I can decipher enough of this to mean that one person holds the lantern at the top, and the other lights the fuel cell, which looked like a tea light. What the "four angle" means I still have no clue. The fuel cell was round.

"3: Wait for that the heat enough light, lanterns person lest loose A top hand, changes grips under the light to encircle. Has when the lifting force may let go releases for flying."

The interpretation of this has me worried since apparently we are about to lose a hand. Yikes! What kind of lantern is this anyway?

"4:Xu Yuan light rose slowly the sky, do not forget Wishing, oh...."

I wish someone who understood English wrote these instructions. Oh, wait, there's more. On the other side of the packaging it said:

"Notice item:"

Notice what item? The lantern? I got that already, buddy. Thanks.

"1: Should choose at the option open, calm environment released for flight. No fire ban in areas, the tall building the floor, and so on have covers under the thing to release for flight, must leave outside the airport."

Wait, we have to go to the airport? And here I thought setting of Chinese lanterns was a simple, easy process.

"2: Xu Yuan light can only be used for the distribution the special-purpose of fuel, prohibited by and burning Replace."

The creative use of wording and capitalization on this packaging seems to be the verbal equivalent of a Picasso.

"3: Xu Yuan light are on the rise, that of the flying, cannot the long time not put, and the Flight not to be append the foreign body."


"4: Children must be under the eustody of the adults use."

I shudder to think what "eustody" might be. And, I thought we were using the lanterns, not the children.

Here's the best part: The Disclaimer.


"Xu Yuan light for the fire flying because of environmental ingredient such as improper use of security incidents caused by the release of the commitment. Production enterprises, vendors, transport operators without any responsibility. you use both, then you understand and accept on behalf of the declaration."

That clears it up.

However, since this calm environment has been interrupted by distribution of flying append by "foriengn" objects by the children in my "eustody" and in my use, this declaration is released in a no fire ban area away from an airport. In other words, time to go tend to the children.