Warning Signs 

It's Wacky Warning-label Time.

Right behind Thanksgiving, the holiday that has all the Christmas food without any of the Christmas hassle, this is my favorite time of year. It's Wacky Warning-label Time, thanks to the good folks at Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch (MLAW).

This year's winner: A label on a CD player, which states: "Do not use the Ultradisc 2000 as a projectile in a catapult."

I did a little research, and I found out that the Ultradisc 2000 isn't some little thing like a Walkman. It's a high-end CD player, full of delicate little parts. Apparently, it's no longer being made. Back in the day, new ones went for about $2,500, and used ones still go for upwards of a thousand bucks. I couldn't find a picture of one, but I'm pretty sure it's a boxy thing and not a particularly good piece of catapult ammo. Something tells me there was never a real problem with people launching these CD players. So why the warning? Well, there's this little extra on the label: Such use could "cause personal injury as well as damage to the transport mechanism, and will void the warranty."

Now I get it. If something goes wrong with your fancy Ultradisc 2000, the technician is going to take one look at the thing, say he found a whole bunch of catapult marks on it, and refuse to fix it under the warranty.

The runner-up in the Wacky Warning-labels contest was this one, from a manufactured fireplace log: "Caution -- Risk of Fire."

I think this pretty much settles it: Americans can't be trusted with fire anymore. All over the country, there are laws that forbid condo and apartment dwellers from having outdoor grills. That's because there's always some knucklehead who'll find a way to burn down the whole dang complex. It happened a few years ago, when a man took a hot log out of his fireplace and put it outside on his wood balcony. Next thing anybody knew, flames were shooting 100 feet up in the air, and there was a whole parking lot full of people in their pajamas just crying up a storm.

As I explained a few weeks ago, people in Northern California are outlawing fireplaces because they stink. They stink because the locals burn something called "piss fir."

Now we know that the people who make fake logs don't even trust people to set them on fire. One manufacturer boasts that its fake log is colorful and "a delight any night of the week." Another one of its fake logs will let you "relax with the soothing natural snap and pop sound of a wood fire." But when you get the things home, you find out that you'd better not set that sumbitch on fire. Something bad might happen. You needn't worry, though. If you're unhappy with your fake log, this particular company will allow you to return the "unopened/undamaged product." Then they'll cheerfully refund the purchase price, less shipping and handling. Oh, and you'll owe 'em a processing fee.

I call that ingenious: Sell a product, tell people they'd better not use it, then charge 'em to send it back.

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