Re-post from Aug., 15 2005: Warning labels and Mexico
I was vacuuming today and noticed that the bottom of the vacuum cleaner had a notice sticker and a warning label. It was a good thing cause I almost lost a toe while vacuuming. The warning label was the only thing that saved it. Well, not really, but it got me thinking about how many things in this country have warning labels (http://www.mlaw.org/wwl/) compared to other places. On my recent trip to Mexico, it was obvious how different we are as Americans when it comes to safety precautions and liability issues. There must have been hundreds of places, and thousands of things we saw that couldn’t have even operated in the US because of safety concerns.
For example, we went swimming in a 50-meter (Corrected: ~20 meters) deep senote, which is a sinkhole that links to a series of caves and are usually filled with water. Walking down the slippery wet rock tunnel and path to the water, we looked over the unguarded and rail-less vista points down to the water every 10 meters or so. This was an unusual and wonderful place. There were signs that said no jumping, but that was about it. Once down at the water, people were jumping in all over the place off the rocks. There were no signs at the bottom. Jumping into 70 degree water on a blistering day from 4 meters up off of some slippery wet stone stairs is something I will never forget. It was simply awesome.
I can’t say it was completely unregulated, because there was a guard on duty, but the only time he blew his whistle was to stop someone from grabbing the ancient roots that hang down into he water. His job was to protect the senote, not the stupid tourists. I think the wildness and lack of rules and safety apparatus was one of the reasons this place remained so special and amazing. If Ik-Kil was in the US you know admission would be upward of $30-$40 compared to $4. It would be rubberized, lifeguarded, railed off, and turned into a water park with the liability insurance to match. In other words, it would suck. But in Mexico where these places could retain their charm and character, they remained unique and awe inspiring.
Everything on our trip to Mexico was pretty much in the same open air, unregulated state, including the roads (except for the 15 different signs for speed bumps, or topes, which were everywhere). But I’ll tell you, we never saw anyone get hurt. Common sense, responsibility and good judgment seem to be a trait of the Mayan and Mexican locals. The only person we heard of getting hurt at any of these “dangerous” places was at another senote near a ruin, where the guide said that some drunk tourist who couldn’t swim fell in and drowned while his friends watched over 2 years ago.
It seems like the place I came back to is full of retarded infants who have no self-control or common sense compared to the simple nature of southern Mexico. Everything from plastic bags, to mattresses, to vacuum cleaners have to have warning labels on them to keep the manufactures from being sued by some jackass who can’t keep from suffocating on his potato chip bag while vacuuming his bed.
I like the fact that my perspective changed enough on this trip to notice this quark of American society. I guess that’s one of the nice things about traveling, and probably the most rewarding.
*Warning: this message contained suggestions of events, which may be dangerous. The author does not recommend doing them unless in Mexico and claims no liability for your own stupid actions.