Sunday, August 31, 2008

This crib'll kill you

Not even remotely being flip. I don't understand how companies can willingly, openly sell products that have caused a child's death. Corporate greed, apathy, blah blah blah, come up with your own lame excuse. There is no excuse. A sleeping child should not be at risk of dying because, oh, they moved the wrong way. That is so appalling on so many levels that there almost aren't words for it.

I speak, of course, of those Simplicity 3-in-1 and 4-in-1 convertible bassinets that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has tried -- and failed -- to get recalled after a six-month-old girl in Kansas was strangled in one last week. According to the Associated Press, a four-month-old girl in Missouri also died in one last September. The commission can't get them recalled because SFCA Inc., which took over Simplicity in April after a previous recall of 1 million cribs (and other babies dying) put it out of business, refuses to go along with this recall. See, they didn't make and sell the product, so they can't be held responsible for it, even though they're clearly happy to profit from it by leaving it on the shelves. The Washington Post explains that since SFCA only bought Simplicity's assets, not the full company, it avoids that company's liabilities. Which, I guess, is a perfectly legal way to be a weasel. (Read the Post article here.)

So what's happening is, the commission told six major retailers -- that would be Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Kmart, Big Lots, Target and J.C. Penney -- to pull the cribs from their shelves. And if you buy it somewhere else? Then what?

Above you can see the commission's lovely demonstration of how a child could die in these things. I flat out don't understand 1. why anyone would think this sort of design would be safe, and 2. why companies wouldn't try harder to keep this sort of danger off the shelves in the first place. Why oh why is any old crap acceptable to market to parents? Are children really considered this disposable in this society? "Ah well, what's one or two kids"? 

Do SFCA employees use these cribs for their own kids? Or do they know better?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sound of silence

The toy I was most afraid of was a drum set.

Because who wouldn't be? Bang bang bang. Boom boom boom. It's music, the giver of the drum would say, and I would smile and cover my ears.

But no, the little one already has his very own drum and it's pretty mellow. It's a pseudo-colonial all-wooden drum and drumstick, probably wants a fife and a flag to go with it. Offers a nice little boom boom boom. I encourage the little one to play it. Sometimes I bang on it to see if he'll dance.

The toys I don't like to listen to are every single electronic toy he owns. Like the magical counting toolbench that sings. "La la la, I am a toolbench, ABCs and 123s are fun, I am going to sing this over and over because your kid keeps pulling the lever, la la la." Or the big NASCAR steering wheel that turns to the sound of electric guitars and a child's voice going "vroom, vroom." Not to mention the months spent listening to all the toys that played tinny, kiddie versions of classical pieces. There is no way something that annoying is making him smarter. "It's music time!" some of the toys proclaim, as though the fact that there was music playing was not some sort of a clue. 

And why is every song a toy plays clearly something in the public domain, and therefore free? Like the infinite variations on "Bingo." Or "I've Been Working on the Railroad." "Turkey in the Straw"? C'mon, you're making the toys out of cheapie plastic, you can't afford to hire someone to write some fresh music?

Because clearly you spent money on voice talent. The people singing these songs (well, not so much the kid going "vroom, vroom") sound pretty good. Unnaturally cheery, but good. I wonder if a gig like this is a step up, career-wise, or down? "Well, I didn't make 'Idol,' but I'm providing the voice for this toy phone with little pictures of farm animals on it. The kid can call the farm animals on the phone ... hey, where are you going?"

There is an upside, of course. Batteries do run out. Maybe the little one won't notice if we don't replace them. Like in that toolbench, for example.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Who smokes in their bathing suit, anyway?

We brought the little one to his very first beach last week. He of course loved it. At first he thought the beach was for eating, then seemed a little dubious about having sand poured on his legs. Then he figured out the beach was for crawling on. And off he went. Which is when I noticed the 12-pack's worth of cigarette butts jammed into the sand all around us. Also the empty soda bottles. And otherwise unidentifiable bits of plastic. And the little one noticed all of that too! What a smart kid. I resorted to chasing down the garbage before he could get to it, then throwing it further away from him. Then he'd crawl right toward it and I'd have to do it all over again. I'm just going to hope that the germs on all that crap were baked out by the sun.

Why not just throw it all out, you ask? Fair question. We were all the way down the beach, near the water, and it would have been tough to maneuver. Also, the real reason: I hate throwing out other people's trash. Hate it. Never do it. I don't want to be that guy: the one self-righteous enough to tsk-tskingly clean up after other people's messes. (The same person who cleans out the office microwave or dumps out the old coffee grinds after everyone else conveniently forgets to do it.) Who expects thanks for it, or at least respect, but never gets it because no one likes being reminded of their moral inferiority. And touching trash is icky.

I have a really, really hard time believing the town (Point Pleasant, if you're wondering) doesn't have sanitation people go through in the morning to neaten up the sand a little. Though granted that wouldn't do much if people are continuously using the sand as their own personal ashtray throughout the day. Which brings me to my real point ...

Stupid bennies. I say this as a former South Jerseyan. People come in from out of town, and I don't know, I guess they figure it's just Jersey anyway and already trashed (I make no excuses for the Turnpike, but take an exit once in a while and see what the rest of the state looks like, bub), so they can make idiots of themselves and leave their crap everywhere and clog up the roads on their merry way out of town. Really, you need to tell people not to stub out their cancer sticks in the sand where kids are playing? This needs to be specifically spelled out in writing somewhere? ("Dear bennies, remember not to poison the kids. Thank you.")

It's almost enough to make me nostalgic for the beach in winter -- when there's nobody else on it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Highchair of Deathwatch, redux

Yet another diner, yet another chair with a completely busted latch on the belt. We resorted to pushing the kid right up against the table to keep him from leaping out. This time I asked (nicely) why all of their highchairs were broken, and the maitre d' (or whatever a maitre d' is called at a diner) explained that people break them all the time by yanking the two pieces of the latch apart to get their kid out. So there you have it: Mystery solved. It's not that the restaurants don't care about the safety of your kid. It's that other parents don't care about the safety of your kid!

Which begs the question: Can't someone design chairs with latches that are less prone to breakage?