Land of Wonders

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A friend and I are going out to dinner. I pick him up at his apartment house. On entering, I can’t help noticing a large sign, announcing at considerable length that state law requires people to know that the structure may conceivably contain substances that may conceivably cause cancer and other ailments. I notice it every time I go there, though I take no heed of its silly warning, nor does anyone else. There are signs like that all over town. I wonder how many are produced and installed each year, and how much they cost, and how many people may possibly be injured in producing, installing, and maintaining them.

Pulling into the parking lot next to the restaurant, we are gratified to see several parking spaces unoccupied. Closer inspection reveals that most of them are spaces reserved for handicapped persons. The rest are spaces reserved next to the spaces reserved for handicapped persons, in case said persons require extra room to be unloaded from their vehicles. My friend and I drive around the neighborhood for 30 minutes before finding another place to park. I wonder how much gas we consume and how many unhealthy emissions we make during that period. I wonder how many traffic accidents occur during such tours of the crowded streets. I wonder how much the handicapped spaces cost to maintain.

Finally we are seated in the restaurant, deciding what we want to order, when we notice that large parts of the menu are occupied with warnings about undercooked food and the dangers of alcohol to pregnant women. I wonder how many life-hours are wasted, every year, on making sure these warnings are properly worded and properly posted, and how much cardboard and plastic are consumed in posting them.

After dinner, we stop at the 7-11 to pick up some coffee. While pouring, we observe the large plastic warning signs affixed to the plastic counter extension that discourages us from dropping coffee on our feet and suing the store. The signs say, “California Law Provides that Disposable Paper Receptacles May Not Be Refilled.” I wonder how many Disposable Paper Receptacles end up in landfills every year. because of that law.

It’s now midnight, and we’re stopped, for the tenth time, at an intersection with a stoplight but no traffic. I wonder how much gas is consumed, and what quantity of fumes is emitted, every hour of every night, as people sit and wait for lights like this. People tell me that in Ireland, late at night, the stoplights turn to caution lights. I guess that can never happen here. We’re too concerned with health and safety.

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