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When not to resist the temptation of a ‘do not touch’ warning

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Lynne D. Schwabe Lynne D. Schwabe

Lynne D. Schwabe is the director of development for the National Youth Science Foundation. She can be reached at schwabestatejournal@gmail.com.

There is a button on my computer that the salesman told me never to push. It is there to “revert back to factory settings.”

According to him, if one were to push it, everything on the computer would just whoosh away, never to be seen again. He emphasized that I should stay as far away from that button as possible. But here’s the thing: the button is right next to the “power” button. So every time I turn on my computer, I break out into a cold sweat, hoping that I didn’t brush against the obliteration button accidentally. Life is too short for this kind of stress.

There are other “whatever you do, don’t do this” situations; most recently and tragically, the water crisis in West Virginia. Luckily, most of these situations aren’t as dire. For example, there isn’t a mother on earth that doesn’t understand why she should never say, “Don’t put beans in your nose.” We all know we must never say certain words. Like the “F” word. Dr. Freud says that we really do want to say these words, and so they just pop out of our mouths with little warning. Like the time I said the “F” word at a baby shower.

My office is at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park in South Charleston. Throughout, there are huge showerheads hanging from the ceilings at intervals labeled “Safety Shower.” There is also a large pull thing with a handle, which hangs at about eye level. The temptation is just about too much. Although so far, … I have not succumbed. I am given to idle wondering just what squirts out of the showers that will make us safe. Safe from what? I dare not ask.

Today, a breakthrough! A guy came rolling down the hall with a large tank and a huge funnel. He said he was testing the safety system. Of course, I had to watch. The system provides a high tech water bath, and water comes out of the showerheads in a very satisfying deluge (we won’t imagine what could happen if this water has a licorice smell). Makes a huge mess if the guy with the funnel isn’t there. He told me that if I saw a hazard sign with a “W” inside it, that meant not to use the water showers. Now all I can think about is what exotica I can possibly be exposed to in this building from which water can’t save me. And, what antidote should I have at the ready? Coffee? Formula 409? Hydrogen peroxide?

I also wish life had a rewind button at places like the movies, where I forgot myself and yelled, “Oh, my God, he’s already dead!” during that movie about the child who saw dead people. It made me very unpopular.

I have crossed the river of no return more times than I would like to count. I took seconds at a luncheon before everyone had been served, and then discovered to my chagrin that the hostess had one entrée allocated per guest. At that same occasion, I also experienced the “dig your own grave” phenomenon, which is (metaphors be damned) right in the deepest part of the river of no return. You know, when your attempts to justify and apologize for your gluttony just make things worse. Nobody cared that I hadn’t had anything to eat since lunchtime the day before, not one person — especially the one with a spoonful of salad and one single strawberry on her plate, with no corresponding chicken-filled crepe to go with it.

Then there are lines in the sand that just beg to be crossed. You know the lines I am talking about.

“I will never go to another movie with the words ‘sex’ and ‘city’ in the title.” I continually bargain with myself and higher powers. “I won’t buy a thing until I’ve saved $500,” or “Please just let this phone call be short and I’ll do everything on my ‘This Week To Do’ list today.”

I think this started in childhood on road trips. Remember when you and your siblings would divide the car into sections assigned to various members of the family? My sister divided the back seat in half by drawing an imaginary line. She then announced that I had to remain on my side of the car. She spent the rest of the trip pointing her finger at me and sing-songing, “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you.”

I finally smacked her. I crossed the line. I got in trouble, but it was worth it!

I am thinking about how to solve the factory reset button on my laptop. I may just have it disabled.

In terms of all that other stuff, amnesia may be the only hope. If only there were a button for that.