I have pondered the possibility that my turn to buy the farm might well occur when I am driving on a narrow two-lane track in the outback and meet up with a heavily loaded logging truck that swings out of a curve, catches an edge, as we old downhill skiers say, and dumps its cargo of raw forest products in my lap.
I suspect that much the same thought may have occurred to other motorists in the remote reaches of this rural state. Accepting the premise that no one gets out of this world alive, we alternately fear on the one hand that our departure will be a spectacular flameout that will be the talk of the town for weeks, and on the other hand that it won’t.
We envision all sorts of departures, but I doubt many of us have contemplated going out as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg fears a percentage of the good burghers of his city might, which is to say prematurely toes-up after swilling one too many sugary supersize soft drinks.
The mayor has provided grist for television’s late-night comedians in his drive to have soft drinks of more than 16 ounces banned in city restaurants, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas. He hopes to rein in what he described as an epidemic of obesity and related diseases, such as heart problems and diabetes, and their impact on rising health care costs. The city health department will propose the ban as an amendment to its health code at a June 12 meeting, allowing three months of public comment before voting on enactment.
Oddly, the ban — which would not apply to convenience and grocery stores — would allow patrons in the affected establishments to game the system by purchasing as many drinks and refills, up to 16 ounces each, as desired.
In the past five years, the Bloomberg administration has required restaurants to post menu calorie counts, banned trans fats from restaurants and prepared foods and outlawed sugary drinks in vending machines in schools and city-owned buildings.
“We have an obligation to warn you when things aren’t good for your health,’’ Bloomberg told MSNBC last week.
Some New Yorkers applaud Bloomberg’s latest proposition. Others see it as a nanny state infringement on their liberties. The soft drink industry, as you might expect, simply believes Hizzoner is out to lunch on this one.
Americans are used to such periodic food fights. For years, margarine was touted as a healthy substitute for artery-clogging butter. Then one day scientists cautioned us to shun margarine and certain processed foods containing trans-fatty acids, which they suggested could be responsible for thousands of heart disease-related deaths each year. Keep slathering fake butter on our toast, we were warned, and getting wiped out by the aforementioned pulp truck from hell will be the least of our worries.
Before the margarine scare came a warning that cranberry sauce could cause cancer in humans. Further study showed that this might be true — provided consumers were to eat approximately a barrel of it each day for the rest of their lives.
If the excessive use of salt in our food doesn’t get us, the chemically enhanced hot dogs at the ballpark will, we‘ve been told. Wash and peel an apple before you eat it and you could still get done in by the pesticides that were applied to the fruit during the growing season. Sniff for too long the pleasant aroma of bread being baked as you pass by the local bakery and your medulla oblongata could seize up. And so forth.
Closer to home, we are periodically admonished not to eat the fish from certain bodies of water because they are feared to be up to their gills in mercury contamination. We are warned of the dangers of insidious radon gas allegedly lurking in some basements and drinking water systems and cautioned that we eat genetically altered veggies at our peril.
Meanwhile, governments whine about how our gasoline-powered toys are polluting the atmosphere and pickling our brains in carbon monoxide as we inhale the toxic air.
As one group of scientists and researchers announces the crisis du jour and another group disputes the findings, the role of the rest of us in the grand plan seemingly is that of human lab rat, albeit one swift enough on the uptake to get the implied message: Don’t eat food, drink liquids or breathe air and things should work out just fine.
BDN columnist Kent Ward lives in Limestone. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.