Warning labels exist for a reason. They’re there because some people will use a product incorrectly, then they’ll get hurt or end up in the hospital with some thingy rammed up their butt, and they’ll sue the manufacturer for not warning them that they shouldn’t have put that thingy in their butt. It’s a company’s way of protecting itself, and this self-protection is informed by years of first-hand accounts of misuse.
There are some warning labels, though, that society has collectively given a big, exaggerated, stroking hand gesture to, presumably accompanied by a “Pfft!” sound and a scrunched up face that looks like the physical manifestation of the sound “Pfft!”
These are those labels.
“Do Not Put Swab In Ear Canal”
Immediately after a nice shower, there’s nothing more soothing than a Q-Tip in the ear. When I was a kid, I used to swab by ears for a minute or two each, and not because I was a clean freak. I genuinely loved – LOVED! – the feeling of the cotton swab in my ear. It was like a massage for the inside of my head. It would send chills down my spine and give me goosebumps. I could have been lulled to sleep with the gentle rotating motions of a Q-Tip in my ear.
It turns out that I, and perhaps everyone on earth with access to Q-Tips, have been using them incorrectly. You’ve probably never noticed it, but right there, clear as day on the side of a box of Q-Tips, are these words: “WARNING: Do Not Put Swab In Ear Canal.”
This was so baffling that I had to look up exactly what an ear canal was just to make sure it wasn’t what I was 100% certain it is. I was correct. The ear canal is the part of your ear that a Q-Tip would normally go into. It’s not anywhere near the genitals; it’s not an important part of the heart; and it’s not a part of the ear buried so deep within your head that if you glanced it with a cotton swab you’d lose all memory of the 7th grade. It’s one of the many parts of your head you routinely shove something into without a moment of hesitation and rarely have you incurred any damage. And outside of dabbing some Neosporin on a cut or cleaning between keyboard keys, the only time a Q-Tip is used is when you shove it in the ear canal because that’s exactly what it’s used for. It’s never been marketed as anything other than a way to clean out your head.
Yet, there it is; a warning telling you that you’ve been wrong forever.
“Do Not Consume Raw Cookie Dough”
There are some things we do as a reflex without ever once thinking about negative consequences. Cookie dough is a good example. Whether you’re making it from scratch or buying it pre-made, inevitably as you plop that dough down onto a tray, you will eat hunks of it raw. You don’t even think twice about how the dough could possibly contain raw eggs which, if the dough was, say, unrefrigerated for too long, could make you sick. The flavor of raw cookie dough is so perfect, so unique, that we use it as a pre-dessert treat as we make a dessert out of it. Eating raw cookie dough is so widely accepted that we unabashedly put in our ice cream.
Even though we love it and generally push aside whatever havoc it can wreck upon us, cookie dough manufacturers know they have a responsibility to tell us that what we’re doing can hurt us. So, they put this warning on cookie dough packaging: DO NOT CONSUME RAW COOKIE DOUGH.
We’ve probably seen this warning before, possibly as we peeled away the wrapper and shoveled a spoon into the delicious brown/grey goop. We treat that warning as a dare. It’s us saying to the makers of the dough, “No. You will not stop me from having fun.” The company that makes the dough knows we’re ignoring that warning, and we know we’re ignoring the warning – but those cookies are going to take, like, 8 minutes to bake and, frankly, that level of torture was outlawed by the Geneva Convention decades ago.
“For Tobacco Use Only”
There are big lies in the world that we all acknowledge but rarely discuss because no one wants to be a buzzkill. Whenever you walk into a head shop, you see one of those lies plastered on every display case. It’s presented in the words “FOR TOBACCO USE ONLY.”
That warning has never prevented anyone from using anything in those stores – even the glow-in-the-dark posters – from being used to smoke weed. That warning is the Groucho Marx fake nose, glasses, and mustache of the warning world. It’s the most thinly veiled disguise of all the warnings out there. It’s a coy wink and a nod that protects a shop from getting shut down by the government but at the same time fools absolutely no one. Everyone knows what these items are really being used for, yet cops drive by head shops all the time, never once feeling that tingling in their balls that makes them grab their baton, kick the shop’s door down and hull everyone there to jail for selling drug paraphernalia.
At some point off in the possibly near future, after marijuana has inevitably been made legal in the United States, the true landmark moment for marijuana’s acceptance won’t be remembered as a bill signed by a politician, but the moment we, as a society, agreed to completely ignore the FOR TOBACCO USE ONLY warning.
“Do Not Blow”
I clearly remember my first encounter with this cherished old school video game tradition. I was maybe seven or eight, at my cousin’s house, where I was fully expecting to play his Nintendo. He had to finish some homework under the watchful eye of his father in the living room, so I made my way to his bedroom to play Nintendo on my own. This was the first time I had ever turned on a video game console in my life, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
I put the Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combo cartridge into the slot and hit power. All I saw was a dark screen. I fiddled with it for a few minutes before giving up and trying to find some help. I remember asking my other cousin (cousin #1’s older brother) how to turn on the console. He blew me off by saying, “I don’t know. I think he blows in it or something.” I had no idea what this meant, so I tried every conceivable variation of blowing I could. Eventually, I happened upon the magical key to getting a video game cartridge working: I blew on the exposed chip underneath. I pushed Power and the game was up and running.
This tactic somehow spread like herpes and everyone who had ever played a cartridge-based game instinctively knew what to do if they turned on their console and nothing happened. It was such a phenomenon that when Nintendo 64 games started hitting the market, Nintendo wrote a little warning on the back of the game cartridge – a warning either no one ever noticed or, if they did, they sure as hell didn’t pay attention. I’ve highlighted it in the image below.
It took three consoles for them to spell it out for us, but Nintendo finally caught wind of our blowing and told us to stop it. No one ever listened. Apparently, Nintendo didn’t want us to play their games.
Luis gave you something to actually worry about with The Horrors of Going to the Doctor for the First Time in Years and Why Summer Is Going to Kill Us All.