Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Crocs are Dangerous!

Warning: There is no need to read the following post. It is merely my latest rant against poor risk assessment and the "nanny state" mindset.

Here's a quote from Dave Lacosse, whose job it is to oversee the escalators on DC's Metro system (there are 588 of them, by the way, more than any other US transit system): "Would I wear them? No. And I tell my children not to wear them either."

Lacosse is referring to Crocs, the rubber clogs that everyone seems to be traipsing around in these days. (I even have a pair, I am more than slightly embarrassed to admit...)

What's so bad about Crocs? It turns out that there have been incidents all over the world, including here in DC, where small children have gotten their feet caught in escalators. The common thread in these incidents? The kids were wearing Crocs, which are popular in part because of their flexibility and grip. (It certainly isn't their fashion sense!) Crocs, it seems, are particularly susceptible to wedging in and getting caught in the teeth at the tops and bottoms of escalators, as well as in between escalator steps and sides. These entrapments have resulted in toe nails, and at least in one case in Singapore an entire toe, being ripped off.

Now, don't get me wrong...I am pro-kid! I just want to argue against an overreaction here, which of course is understandable when coming from loving parents and lawsuit-wary public officials. The notion of letting our Crocs gather dust because of these escalator incidents is implicitly based on the following two-step process: (1) Identify a risk. (2) Eliminate that risk completely from our lives.

Here's my question to those tempted to jump on the "ditch the Crocs" bandwagon. Where is the wisdom in letting your children, say, play organized sports at a young age? There is, after all, the not-so-trivial risk of blunt trauma and muscular-skeletal injury. I say if Crocs go, then cleats ought to go as well...and wouldn't that be a blow to childhood...

~Steve

Monday, September 17, 2007

"I'm OK...Just a Little Tired"

Famous last words before Steve almost fainted Saturday afternoon. For real. You see we had spent the day biking on the C&O Canal (from Little Orleans to the Paw Paw Tunnel) and had scheduled a Roman Bath at the Berkeley Springs State Park. Sounds great...and it was great until the woman knocked on the door of the bathhouse and told us that our time was up. After soaking in a 102 degree mineral bath for around 45 minutes Steve got out and looked a little odd. I asked him if he was ok and thought he was joking around with me when he started slumping over the brass railing (used to assist you with stepping into this 750 gallon tile tub)...I started to think he wasn't joking as I saw his face (his lips especially) turn sheet white. I then slapped him in the face (for lack of a better solution) to get his attention and to keep him from tumbling head-first over the rail and into the tub. I had him sit in a plastic chair and put his head between his legs to get blood to his head...as I stood there in disbelief.

Apparently this is not an abnormal phenomenon...it turns out that hot baths can lower your blood pressure. Your capillaries dilate to bring more blood to your skin to be cooled by the external environment (the brain is trying to regulate body temperature) and this, in turn, takes blood away from your internal organs. Voila' your brain doesn't have enough blood (and therefore enough oxygen) and you feel lightheaded or even faint.

The moral of the story? You know how they say "never swim alone"?...perhaps this should be true for Roman baths, hot tubs and saunas as well. Your body's quest for homeostasis (biological balance) may at times put you in a precarious position. Was the fainting itself dangerous? Probably not...but visions of Steve falling over that railing and maybe hitting his head on the tile floor (or worse) are a quick reminder of how fragile we are. On the other hand, the body's ability to respond to changes in the environment shows how amazingly we are put together...that our body knows how to adjust so readily.

In any case, sorry for the slap, Steve....I'm glad it got your attention but I'll reserve that action for fainting spells only...or maybe for when you're "ok...just a little tired!"

~Desi