Somewhere on my lengthy list of unanswered questions is the query that asks “Just how far will we go to protect ourselves from ourselves?” Don’t get me wrong, there are some very necessary warnings out there, like huge letters on a tank of gasoline that read “FLAMABLE,” or flags that tell us “Road Work Ahead.” But for every good and reasonable warning are a dozen other absolutely wacky warnings that leave us shaking our head.
The thing to remember about wacky warnings is that they got there because someone, somewhere actually did what the warnings tell you not to do. So, someone somewhere tried eating that deodorant stick before the warning “Do Not Ingest” was put there, and so on and so forth. I’m convinced the need for most wacky warnings come about as dares, and are preceded by those 4 infamous little words, “Here, Hold My Beer.”
The outdoor industry is not immune to wacky warnings and offers plenty of products that bear them. The owner’s manual for a new gun I bought says “Appropriate use for this firearm means using your firearm for legal purposes.” So evidently criminals using guns to commit crimes haven’t read the owner’s manual first? “Always keep fingers and other body parts away from the muzzle” is another firearm warning. I already know there’s a hole in the end of the barrel where that thing comes out, oh now what’s it called…oh ya, the bullet, so I shouldn’t have to feel around there with my finger to find it, and I can’t imagine what other body parts the warning means. The manual for my crossbow tells me “Always THINK before you shoot.” Now why’d they have to go and open that can-a-worms?
And speaking of worms, I found “Not for human consumption” on all fish bait, whether artificial made from who-knows-what, or catfish stink bait made from blood, liver and other organic stuff. Now I may have had this fishin’ thing wrong all along. I’ve always thought the goal was to use the bait to catch fish to take home and eat, not to sit in the boat and eat the bait. Part of the fun of fishing for me has always been takin’ along a nice picnic lunch or at least snacks. I really can’ t picture myself taking a loaf of bread and making sandwiches by spreading slices of bread with stinky catfish bait. On one brand of catfish stink bait, I found the warning “Beware, dogs love this stuff.” Not sure I’d have put that on the jar if my goal was to sell that bait to fishermen to actually catch fish. And I’m not sure why I should “Beware” that my dog might love it. Should I “Beware” because all my expensive bait might disappear, and show up later that night as chunks all over the couch that now smell worse than the bait, or because the dog could grow fins and swim away down the river? One particular artificial bait made by the Berkley Company looks like crayfish packed in a pouch of liquid of some sort. It’s called “Gulp Alive” and the warning reads “Looks alive, Feels alive, Tastes alive; not for human consumption.” Now, to a good-ole’-boy out for a relaxing day on the water, that’s like dealing him all 4 aces and asking him not to play them!
On canisters of black powder used for muzzle loading guns I found this odd warning “Caution, do not eat, drink or smoke around this product.” Now a warning against smoking anywhere near gun powder is one of those things that should never have to be said, but why not eat or drink around black powder? I have to remind myself again that these warnings usually come about because of some actual event. Maybe someone somewhere was once enjoying a sandwich while loading their muzzleloader, unknowingly ingested some black powder from the air along with the sandwich, and the next morning while completing their morning constitutional blew the outhouse into the next county.
Perhaps the product I was most surprised to find warnings on were the little hand, foot and toe warmers that you stick inside your gloves or boots. The warning read “Caution, for external use only. Do not allow contents to contact eyes or mouth.” OK, I’ll take the high road here with the “external use only” warning and tell you how shocked I am that I can’t eat hand warmers! Yes there have been a few times while sitting in a deer blind when I’ve neglected to pack a snack and wished I had just a little something to nibble on, but I can honestly say I’ve never considered chomping on my hand or foot warmers. As for the rest of the warning, I can’t remember the last time my mouth or eyes got cold and I considered putting a hand or foot warmer on them.
Warnings; you gotta’ love em.’ Did you ever think you’d see the day that society would heed a warning so profoundly that a shortage of .22 rifle shells would turn into a shortage of toilet paper? By the way, I feel the need to warn you that “Reading this column will either make you pee your pants with laughter or put you to sleep, and persons needing that much toilet paper right now might want to forego reading it altogether.” Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors.
Steve Gilliland can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.