People the world over are governed by rules and regulations – far too many in my humble opinion. The ones that irk me the most are those aimed at protecting us from our own actions – like the mandatory seatbelt law, or, in many states, the mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists. I know, I know – many of these laws save lives. But I believe folks ought to have the right to act unwisely in matters affecting only themselves. The Bill of Rights should have had a clause to the affect that people have the right to be dumb about their own welfare if they choose.
The rigidity and pettiness with which some rules are carried out often annoys and sometimes amuses me. I feel like shouting “Chill out!” when I find myself in one of these situations, but I do nothing of the kind. It doesn’t pay to take issue with what you perceive as someone else’s problem (I say “perceive” because, hey, maybe I’m way off base here. I’m just telling it as I see it.)
Case in point: Some years ago I was in the library in another county looking for a new mystery. I was thrilled to find the latest book by one of my favorite authors on the return cart. The books had clearly been checked in, and the librarian was shelving them. I excitedly reached for the book only to be told that to be fair to other patrons I must wait until it was on the shelf. If I stretched my imagination, perhaps I could have found some sense in this but, I kid you not, the only other person perusing shelves was at least twenty feet away. I watched speechlessly as the librarian carefully placed the book on the shelf after which, my hand in sync with hers, I just as carefully took it off. While I found the incident irksome, I had to laugh at the bizarreness of it.
More recently I found a tiny kitten in our barn with its back legs turned back and tried to find help for it. Unable to reach the Henry County shelter, I tried calling a group that supposedly cares for animals (I won’t say which one.) “The poor kitty,” the person at the other end of the phone said in soft commiserating tones.” I wish we could help but we can’t help animals outside our district.” The poor thing’s legs were mangled and it was crying pitifully but “rules are rules.” I was not amused by this.
There are regulations that make you feel dumb. Last summer when my finger got infected by a blackberry thorn, the doctor in the emergency room decided to have it x-rayed. Fine. I jumped off the table and headed for the door. “Just a moment,” said the nurse. “We have to take you over in the wheelchair.” I felt stupid being wheeled to the radiation suite. When was the last time an infected finger made you dizzy or pass out? I did manage to find humor in that whole scenario.
Then there are regulations that can scare the heck out of you. My daughter had a baby two weeks ago. I rushed to the hospital to be there for the birth. I ran up to labor and delivery and frantically asked which room my daughter was in. “I’m sorry. You can’t go back,” I was told. “It’s a regulation.” My voice escalated. “I’m her mom! Has she had the baby?” “I’m sorry. We can’t tell you that,” she countered. Seeing my distress, she told me that everything was okay and I could go back in ten minutes. I have a fertile imagination, and I knew in that instant that my daughter had hemorrhaged and lost her uterus or that the baby had a serious birth defect. Imagine my relief when I was finally allowed into the room and found my daughter blissfully nursing her perfect newborn.
Some order in life is beneficial and even necessary. Laws and regulations are instituted to keep us safe. But let’s use a little common sense when making new restrictions and interpreting those already in place. In the meantime, keeping your sense of humor is a good antidote to frustration.