Saturday, 27 September 2014

Risk Averse?

When I was a child, I was told that you should never switch a light on or off with wet hands, because electricity and water don’t mix – or rather, they mix too well.  I thought this was stupid – how could the electricity possibly get out of that sealed insulated switch and connect up with the tiny amount of water on my finger?  I got no sympathy.  “Just don’t do it.”  There’s no arguing with these grown-ups.  So I didn’t, and drying my hands before operating the light became a lifelong habit.

I remembered that this morning when, after cleaning my teeth, I switched the light on to shave: with a wet finger, of course.  One day back in the early spring, I’d nicked my face shaving.  Now this is not a good idea when you’re on Warfarin.  My blood clots half as quickly as most people’s.  I’d been wet-shaving for fifty years, and cut myself maybe a dozen times, but that wasn’t the point.  So I went out and bought an electric razor.  I don’t particularly like it, and it doesn’t do the job as well, but you can’t be too careful, can you?

But a change is under way.  I emerged from the hospital a fortnight ago clutching a raft of advice and prohibitions, some of which were about driving.  Depending on which leaflet you read and who you listened to, the recommendations varied bewilderingly.  I had to wait for six weeks before I could get behind the wheel; four weeks; two weeks; and “not until I felt ready.”  A couple of days ago I felt ready, so I thought what the heck and nipped up to Waitrose.  I seem to have survived.

So I may have been overly risk-averse for much of my life.  On the other hand, I did walk away in 1965 from a promising career in a glass shop to join a rock ‘n’ roll band.  But that was an emotional decision, not a rational one.


  1. If the group had been Mick Jagger's combo I could have said "people who work in glass shops shouldn't throw Stones". I'll get my coat. Glad you've made it to Waitrose en voiture.

  2. Exploring alternative realities is always fun, Rog. On the other hand, if that one had come true I certainly wouldn't have been writing this blog, and so you wouldn't have had the chance to suggest it. So it all worked out for the best.

  3. I can remember our father trying to explain electricity to me by treating me to tiny electric shocks in his workshop - which probably explains quite a lot! But I did learn a bit about batteries which has been no use at all to me in later life.

  4. When we were children, quite a lot of light switches were made of metal. And I did once get a shock from one. I didn't have wet hands at the time, which was probably just as well.

  5. Good point, Z, I remember those too. What were the designers thinking of?? It does reinforce my point, that learned behaviour can persist long after it's ceased to be useful, though.