Fearful Frenzy in a World of Unlikely Doom

These days, death lurks behind gas pumps, inside water bottles, and under throw pillows.


Life is hard. And now it's just a little harder for some Oregonians who, for the first time ever, are pumping their own gas. Yes, people in 48 states have filled their tanks while giving their windshields a dirty-water bath for years, but this option just arrived for residents of certain counties in the Beaver State. (New Jersey remains the sole holdout.)

Hilarity ensued when TV station KTVL polled its followers on Facebook about the newly relaxed law. The comments instantly filled with warnings of attacks on motorists by passing transients, predictions of fiery demise, and recollections of near-death experiences on those apparently rare occasions when Oregonians had ventured across a state line.

But are the rest of us really that different when it comes to groundless fears of new or restored freedoms?

A few days before Oregonians lost their minds over the dangers of self-serve gas stations, social media went equally nuts over a New York Times story about wealthy dilettantes spending small fortunes on unfiltered, untreated, and unsterilized "raw" spring water.

I'll never cease to be amazed at the creative ways people find to separate themselves from their money. Even still, the reactions were over the top. The words giardia, typhoid, and dysentery appeared with regular frequency, cited as inevitable fates awaiting these foolish consumers.

"Almost everything conceivable that can make you sick can be found in water," Bill Marler, who bills himself as a "food-poisoning attorney," told Business Insider.

Sure, it can be—unless the source is pretty reliable, like my well and those of over 15 million American households, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Lots of people drink "unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized" water without ill effect (and without miraculous effect either, for that matter).

The source has to be clean, of course, and that's not always the case, which is why water treatment became a thing. But those peddling "raw water" to moneyed customers can probably afford to find something as drinkable as my well water.

Also plumbing the well of unlikely perils was last year's criminal conviction of California resident Mike Tang for violating a state law that bans placing a child "in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered." He had his 8-year-old kid walk home a mile along a familiar route.

Speaking as a former latchkey kid, I "may" have been "endangered" any of the times I walked home from school along a busy street, cut through a construction site on the way, decided whether to buy Pixy Stix with the money my father had given me for a haircut, met up with friends for innocent mischief, and then returned home to an empty apartment to do homework. "May be endangered" is so broad as to cover most daily activities.

Speaking of hypothetical perils, we're all apparently poised to meet our makers if we waver from requiring government permission slips for people tasked with beautifying the world around us. Without occupational licensing, "any person without any formal education would be able to practice cosmetology, putting consumers at risk of injuries, burns, infections, and the spread of diseases, such as hepatitis and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus (MRSA), due to unsanitary practices." At least, so says Bridget Sharpe of the Professional Beauty Association in response to proposals to reform the licensing laws that the Bureau of Labor Statistics says now ensnare one-quarter of American jobs.

But that pales in comparison to the doom forecast by the interior designer who told Florida lawmakers that by considering eliminating occupational licensing for her trade, "what you're basically doing is contributing to 88,000 deaths every year" from infections spread by incompetently chosen fabrics. She must have been persuasive, since a recent report from the Institute for Justice reveals that Florida remains one of only three states, plus D.C., to require a license for such employment.

Those of us in the other 47 states are too hard at work shoveling bodies from the Great Décor Die-Off of 2018 to take notice. But we're running out of fuel for the bulldozers. Is there anybody out there who can safely pump our gas?

NEXT: How Ponchos Got More Authentic After Commerce Came to Chiapas

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  1. Listening to a liberal MAY cause a dangerous increase in blood pressure.
    Listening to a liberal MAY cause an actual heart attack.
    Can we ban liberals?
    Same thing for government regulations.

    1. Careful--starting to sound like a snowflake.

    2. Okay, pet peeve, and I'm not entirely alone among libertarian types about this. Many of we libertarians consider ourselves liberal in the best and original sense of the word and fundamentally distinct from progressives - authoritarians who can not in any meaningful sense be considered liberal. Those SJW's who shout down speakers on college campuses and attack those who are not in lockstep with their "progressive" agendas and those activists who want to regulate every conceivable expect of our lives, from our sex lives to the size of our sodas - how can anyone call them liberal with a straight face? They are liberals in the same way that The Donald is a conservative. They are all reactionary bullies whose agendas merely differ on certain topics. I'm sorry, I refuse to give up the word liberal.

      1. I tried not giving up on the word liberal... But then I gave up. It's meaning in popular usage is so changed in most peoples mind it's better to just consider it the same as progressive/statist anymore. I mean sure we could TRY to bring back faggot to its original usage too, but is that a battle worth fighting??? Not really!

        Just roll with it and start trash talking liberals, it's soooooo much easier!

  2. Well excuse me for wanting an expensive and self-infantilizing false sense of security.

  3. The rule was particularly infuriating because all the pump-jockeys did was pump the gas. You need to pay, you need to go in and see the clerk. I *almost* wouldn't have minded the pump-jockey if it meant full service. It didn't.

    1. Full service? Only if pump jockeys of both genders are sexual orientations were mandated at each gas station!

      1. both genders

        You must be from Shitlord Central if you can ignore the other 25 genders so casually.

        1. Yup ? Mark22 has quite obviously NEVER heard of ambiguous genitalia, huh? Oh!

        2. Isn't the whole insertion of the gas nozzle into a car's orifice a blatant example of the patriarchy?

          Obviously 24 of the genders should not be put in this role, or you may doom their psyche's to an eternity in uhhh... well... Texas?

    2. Some stations I went to in Oregon were full service still. I know what you're talking about at other ones too though. I've run across both when driving through there. I remember when most stations offered full service when I was a kid still. I'm too much of a tight wad so I would never pay for it regularly, but I probably would once in awhile when it was extra cold out or something if more places offered it.

  4. Which states require occupational licensing for legislators? I would be in favor of a law requiring 1200 class hours of history, economics, political philosophy, constitutional law, math, logic, science, engineering, in fact, any subject upon which legislation may touch as a prerequisite for holding office. Let them spend 5 years or so in school and if they still want to be politicians after learning what a horrible job politicians do at running other people's lives then they're obviously mental defectives and should be institutionalized as a danger to themselves and others

    1. Uhhh, no... I would guess they almost always have more than enough time in a university.

      No one should be allowed to work in any public sector role, elected or unelected, until they've spent at least 20 years working in a non-government related for-profit private sector job.

      1. Why not require both? I mean if we're going full bore with over regulation, it can't hurt! Maybe a ton of them would "drop out" of their idea of being politicians half way through the program!

  5. What seemingly harmless events can now be fatal if they occur during sex?

    A paper cut? Recent dental work? Fluorescent lighting!

    1. Fluorescent lighting can actually give some people seizures.

      Which was why it was really fun for a relative of mine with that exact problem when Obama mandated them.

  6. I live in one of the rural counties in Eastern Oregon that now pumps our own gas. Let me correct the record: I have never heard anyone in rural Oregon complain or say anything negative about pumping our own gas. There are many...MANY stupid people in Portland and western Oregon. They are the ones who are freaking out - and they still aren't allowed to pump their own gas. This article cites a KTVL facebook survey. KTVL is based in Medford and serves the Bend area - these areas also aren't allowed to pump their own gas. So let the record show - metropolitan Oregons are lazy and inept to a shocking degree. Those in Eastern Oregon are fine. In fact, here's a little secret...a lot of stations have allowed us to pump gas for years against the will of the State.

  7. Let me get this straight: even in Portland and in New Jersey, the far more dangerous job of changing a flat tire is still allowed to be done by the individual motorist (assuming one knows how to change a tire)? My goodness, when will their legislatures stop this madness? Surely, a licensed tire changer (two years Associates Degree) should be required.

  8. Joke about Florida interior design licensing all you want, but hospitals here can't treat gunshot victims for all of the interior design injuries which occur on Friday and Saturday night.

  9. So what's the bigger risk: ignorant and incompetent motorists allowed to pump their own gas or ignorant and incompetent voters allowed to punch their own ballots?

    1. I've been told that hanging chads can cause serious problems if ingested. We will need a voting expert to accompany each voter into the booth in all future elections.

  10. a state law that bans placing a child "in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered."

    Wouldn't that include almost all sports?

    1. That would include literally everything and doesn't require almost any imagination to get to that point.

      1. Where's the blindfold for the children? We're going to watch CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX NEWS, MSNBC, C-SPAN1, C-SPAN 2, or NPR. Who knows what evil thoughts might be presented? Think of the children!

  11. met up with friends for innocent mischief

    We need modern renditions of Peck's Bad Boy. Tuccille is just the man!

  12. A while back I was in Oregon and needed gas. There was 1 guy trying to pump gas for about 10 cars. I was really annoyed having to wait.
    The more life become easy and safe, the more people are afraid of silly things. I think we have a part of the brain that is designed to worry and it will worry even if there is nothing to worry about. It is pretty useful if you are camping but absurd when you think people will die from the wrong interior design (how could they even say that with a straight face?). Of course many such claims of potential harm are simply people getting special protection from competition.

    1. I think that's totally true. Our minds create a scale of how horrible things are based off of the worst things that have ever happened to us, and then adjust everything else accordingly.

      This is how you end up with people freaking out over "First World Problems" that are basically nothing. Fortunately my BS meter got set high by a few things in life, so I'm as calm and cool as Sean Connery era James Bond with even pretty messed up stuff. Most people are just pussies because they've never had to deal with any real problems.

  13. a state law that bans placing a child "in a situation where his or her person or health may be endangered"

    You know what situation involves a child's person or health being endangered...?

    1. Hitler!

      No, wait, wrong joke.

      Here's the right answer.

      1. I'm not sure if Hitler is always a correct answer or never a correct answer in these sorts of thing, but it's definitely one of those.

      1. As someone living in a country that grants its citizens the privilege of free speech, you have a responsibility to not spread misinformation, BUCS.

        1. As someone living in a country that grants its citizens the privilege of free speech, you have a responsibility to not step on a joke/

    2. Anyway, the correct answer is "arresting the child's parents for letting them walk home from school".

      1. When I have kids, I'm definitely going to let them do crazy shit that is totally normal, basically just to troll the cops. If I ever get messed with I'm going to sue the shit out of them to make a point. Fuck the (literal) nanny state!

  14. Water is rarely sterilized. Using chlorine, UV radiation, iodine, or bromine is disinfection.

    Well =/ spring.

  15. I once drank spring water in the Mark Twain National Forest. Best damn water I've ever had.

    1. Yep. A pint of Everclear and a couple ounces of Crystal Light and I'm good for a week of backpacking thanks to those tasty tasty springs.

    2. One of my grandmas lived on some acreage when I was a kid. The first time I tried the water there I thought it tasted weird... But then I kind of grew to like it. It was like, water, and stuff... But it had flavor! What madness! Probably 1000x better for you than city water, what with the extra minerals and such like in there.

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