Friday, April 6, 2012

Buy me some soy nuts and bubble wrap...

A few days ago I went to visit a friend in the hospital who'd just had a baby. Before going, I assembled an adorable bouquet of balloons; a mylar "It's a Boy!" balloon surrounded by blue, white, and yellow latex balloons, all on baby blue ribbon shaped into cute curlicues. It was fantastic. It took up the entire back seat of my car. She didn't know I was coming. It was going to be epic.

After obtaining my visitor pass, however, I was stopped by security on my way to the elevator.

"Ma'am, you can't take those balloons up into the hospital."

I thought it was a joke.

"Um, why not?"

"Because they're latex, and this is a latex-free hospital."

I was astounded. Dumbfounded. Was I not in a HOSPITAL? I's a hospital. Rubber gloves. Bandages. BP cuffs. Right? I didn't dare tell the guy I was wearing underwear with a latex "no wedgie" feature in the legs. I am well aware that there are latex allergies, and I'm not trying to minimize the inconvenience it must cause those who suffer from them, but come ON. It's a HOSPITAL. Banning latex from a hospital is like...banning peanuts from a ballpark.

Oh. Wait.

Last year, some baseball stadiums began offering "peanut-free zones" at their parks during certain games. This is being done, of course, to offer the experience of a hometown ball game to people who might not otherwise be able to enjoy such because of their deadly allergies to peanuts.

My first reaction was a pronounced eye roll. My second reaction was an audible "ugh." Lest you mistake my disgust for insensitivity, let me clarify. Look back at my previous posts about modern society, food ingredients, and corporate control on the food supply, and then chew on this for a second:

Peanut allergies affect roughly 0.5 to 1 percent of the population and appear to be on the rise, perhaps even doubling in the last decade, according to experts. It remains unclear exactly why. Researchers are examining the idea that a child's immune system has not been properly challenged in an environment that is too clean, also known as the hygiene hypothesis.

BINGO. Overly sanitized environments + helicopter parenting + all sorts of nasty shit in our food supply = weakened immunity and allergies abounding.

Think about this. Anyone over the age of 30 can probably remember when they were in elementary school and there was that one kid who had some weird allergy and couldn't eat lunch like a normal kid. Remember him? When I was young, there was usually one kid every year who had a milk allergy. And nine times out of ten by the time we hit junior high, they'd grown out of it. I'd never even known there was such a thing as a fatal nut allergy until I was in my 20's, and even then it was a rare and newsworthy occurrence. Now it seems everyone knows someone who'll go into anaphylactic shock and die if they so much catch a whiff of dust from a peanut shell blowing down the street the next town over or who will shit out 20 feet of intestinal lining if they look at a glass of milk.

I'm being hyperbolic, of course, but my point is that our society has gotten so weak and sensitive that it borders on just plain silly. Back when little Mikey Sanchez couldn't drink milk like the rest of us, he stood out a little - and we might have even been a little jealous because he got to drink that orange-ade stuff instead of boring milk. Then the next year, Mikey was drinking milk with us, and Laurie Johnson was rocking her milk allergy. Davey O'Connor was the next year's victim. And so on and so on and yet...none of us died.

As an (adult onset) asthmatic with respiratory allergies, both of which are triggered by some airborne chemicals like cleaning agents and colognes, I can definitely attest to wishing the shit would be outlawed, and can definitely vouch for the insensitivity of some people when it comes to wearing WAY too much of the stinky stuff. I appreciate "scent-free" zones in doctors' offices and such, and the chorus I sing with has a "no scented products" rule for rehearsals and performances. I have a special cache of fragrance-free shampoo, soap, deodorant, and laundry detergent for this purpose. However, I can't demand that ballparks, shopping malls, stores, theaters, clubs, buses, and other public venues be designated as "scent free" just because the stuff bothers me (and yes, could potentially kill me if it triggers a severe enough exacerbation). I suppose I could rally for the cause, but I just prepare myself, avoid situations if I can help it, and have my inhaler handy along with a handful of Prednisone if shit gets really hairy.

None of this stuff was an issue as a kid. I didn't develop allergies or asthma until I was well into adulthood, and I'm pretty sure (and the doctors concur) that the asthma is a direct result of years of smoking. But growing up, I didn't have problems. I also didn't have parents who hovered and worried about every last thing I put my hands on. Contrarily, I had a dad who smoked thirteen packs a day, a house that most likely had lead paint on the walls and asbestos in the floor tiles, and a lawn treated with god-knows-what is in that Chemlawn spray. I was also a dirty little kid. I handled toads and wildflowers, fought tooth and nail to NOT take a bath most of the time, and was not required to go through an autoclave before dinner. Our utensils and dishes were hand-washed and air-dried. We washed our hands with bar soap, and my mother cleaned the house with Windex and Pledge. There was no antibacterial hand soap, and you killed germs with Lysol spray. In the gold can.

And we all lived to tell about it. Go figure.

Anyway, back to my original point, which is that we have gotten so ridiculous in our quest for political correctness (unless you're a member of the GOP, in which case it's perfectly fine to slam minorities in your campaign) that we've lost sight of the bigger picture. In our effort to take care of everyone, we've often inconvenienced and excluded everyone else. And the hilariously tragic irony in all of this is that in a country where we can't provide basic health care for all our citizens, we can spend a shit ton of money overhauling stadiums and hospitals to allow "protection" for a few. Yet if that money was somehow channeled into health care spending and improving the quality of our food supply, we likely wouldn't have the prevalence of allergies like we do.

Of course, that could just be my twisted logic, but it makes sense to me.

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