Humans Are Nasty

A waiter once sneezed on my plate as he handed it to me. It was embarrassing for him (I’m sure), disgusting to me, and hilarious to my friends.

It’s a classic tye of dilemma, and one that people face quite frequently; someone experiences (sees, hears, smells etc.) something they do not like (e.g. snot, dog poop, farts, Glee) with no opportunity to protect their offended senses.

To the best of my knowledge, health regulations do not permit sneezing on food. I’m fairly certain this is neither approved nor recommended. Yet, what repercussions match the terrible crime that poor waiter committed? Jail time? A stiff fine? A negligible fine? A spanking?

To me, this hits at the core of internet regulation debates. Like everything else humans produce, the internet has a knack for bothering some while amusing others. Sometimes, it sneezes on your dinner.

These things happen. People sneeze. People drop things. People fart and poop (if they’re healthy) and have sex (if they can). We don’t always want to see/hear/smell these things (sometimes, we REALLY don’t want to), but it would endanger our species if we banned them.

In order to draw a closer parrallel to issues of internet regulation, we must add a few layers of offense. What if the waiter had done more than sneeze on my food. What if he’d sneezed on my kid’s food? (I don’t have a kid, but play along.) What if, in his frustration and embarrassment, he’d rattled off George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”? What if, while he was trying to recover, a stack of pornographic photos fell out of his pocket? What if the donkey in those photos didn’t seem to be having any fun?

Now that my poor kid’s vocabulary and imagination have been expanded, what action can we as a society take to assure no one else’s innocence is stolen in so crude a manner? Should we never take our children out to eat? That’s the type of solution some free speech advocates propose: “If you don’t want your kids to accidentally (or intentionally) see donkey penis, don’t let them use the internet,” or the even less realistic “constantly monitor your children” — wisdom which comes only from the mouths of we the childless.

In the “real” world (as though the internet were not part of our world), we use outlandish innovations such as doors, curtains, and walls to guard our darkest deeds from public eyes. I have a friend who even runs the faucet while she’s on the toilet so no one can hear her urinate.

Though the terminology and opportunities are newer and more numerous, the nature of the problems remains the same; people don’t want to know and/or be known in various ways.  Perhaps it’s just an issue of mindset, but there must be better advice than “get over it” out there somewhere. When it comes to protecting children, certainly we can create doors and walls on the internet beyond the laughable “Are You Over 18 – yes/no” dialogue button.

Of course, that’s where I’m stumped, and I suppose that’s where the rest of the world is currently stumped when it comes to internet regulation.

Anyone have any ideas?


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