I’ve heard it said that with all the sad and sobering happenings in the world today, it’s often hard to find anything to smile about.
Well, I have to differ with the melancholy folks who think there’s little to laugh at. Every day, while browsing through the newspaper, I come across items that have me chuckling while I shake my head at the antics of my fellow humans. From wacky warnings to silly safety studies, from ridiculous research to the latest answer for those too busy to pray, there is no end of strange stuff that shows up in print.
For instance, this year’s winners of the Fourteenth Annual Wacky Warning Label Contest once again demonstrate how far manufacturers have gone in trying to anticipate how some folks might misuse their products.
Among the finalists in the contest are ballpoint pen makers who are now warning users to avoid chewing on pen caps. Their concern is that the cap might obstruct breathing if swallowed. The warning is apparently unnecessary for pen users in France, Spain and Germany, since the cap warning is only found on the product sold in English-speaking countries.
Another finalist in the contest is the maker of a dust mask who has included on his product the alert that “This mask does not supply oxygen.”
A spa maker has thoughtfully placed a prominent label on his hot tub that reads, “Avoid drowning. Remove safety cover from spa when in use.”
In addition to the Wacky Warning Labels, I recently read about some actions taken by community leaders in the name of safety.
Among these were more than one hundred local government councils who conducted formal tests on their cemeteries’ gravestones to see how susceptible they are to toppling over and hurting people.
Then there is the report last year about a circus clown performing in Liverpool was ordered not to wear his classic oversized shoes. Authorities feared he would trip and injure someone.
While making a recent adventure documentary, the BBC ordered Sir Robin Knox-Johnston — the first person to sail single-handedly and nonstop around the world — not to light a portable stove unless a safety advisor was available to supervise.
Another area where humor can often be found is in the news from the scientific world.
I read a report by two scientists from Britain’s University of Oxford. Their three-year study, which cost the equivalent of $500,000, determined that ducks may be even more comfortable standing under a sprinkler than paddling around in a pond. The lead researcher concluded that “ducks basically just like water.”
And a study carried out by a prominent pediatrics professor from the University of Cincinnati concluded that “the more often teenage girls ‘tart’ themselves up in online presentations, the greater the sexual interest they provoke.”
One recent newspaper entry left me wondering about how some people have allowed “busyness” to shut out their religious life.
The piece noted that a new Information Age Prayer web site now offers a service for people too busy to speak to God themselves. The site provides a daily service of invocations “using voice-synthesizing software” for Catholics, Protestants, Jews or Muslims. There is a modest monthly fee to start each day “reciting” the Lord’s Prayer. Hail Mary’s cost less than a dollar a day for ten. And, for Muslim prayers, the computer’s speakers point toward Mecca.
No matter how sober the world’s news, there’s always something in the newspaper that can bring a smile.