Risk Management

Risk taking, like athleticism, is apparently not part of my genetic makeup. For as long as I can remember, I have looked askance at my daredevil peers and assessed their feats with the observation, “Well, that’s stupid.” Perhaps my criticism is rooted in the jealousy I feel when I see people accomplish things that I cannot do myself. But I prefer to think that my risk aversion is due to a practical appreciation of consequences. That stage you’ve heard of when teenagers supposedly think they are immortal? I never experienced it. Rather, I was keenly aware that serious injury and death lurk on the other side of “Hey, watch this!”

I remember the day I saw my friend’s older sister with a cast on her arm. Sue was a few years older than us at an age when such a difference seemed like a deep and unknowable chasm of time. She was proudly offering her white, plaster cast for signatures. “How did it happen?” I wanted to know. Apparently she had been at the playground just a block over and had made a failed attempt to jump from her perch atop the jungle gym to the distant monkey bars. I looked up to the sky and envisioned the scene, recalling the layout of the playground and noting the wide span that made such an act highly inadvisable, and all I could think was, “Well, that’s stupid.” Read More

You’ll Probably Need Stitches


Those points are supposed to go down toward the ground.

The house in which I grew up had aluminum downspouts that descended from our gutters and curved away from the foundation atop beveled cinder block.  They channeled rainwater adequately, but they were prone to rust and had sharp edges at their openings.  Not much of a hazard for most people, but if you were an eight-year-old boy running around the perimeter of your house at top speed, they could be dangerous.  I was surprised to discover this fact one summer afternoon, and I was further stunned when my bloody leg failed to elicit any sympathy from my mother but  instead earned me a reprimand.

“Well, if you hadn’t been running around the house instead of watching where you’re going, this wouldn’t have happened,” I recall my mother scolding me as she tended to my injury.  She probably tempered her criticism with compassion, but only her cool rebuke remained in my memory.  Somewhere among my developing dendrites and synapses I stowed away the lone nugget of wisdom I managed to cull from the experience:  If you’re hurt, don’t tell Mom.  It was a maxim that was destined to lead me astray. Read More

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