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Russell Wangersky: Warning: content could lead to laughter

The machine in question
The machine in question

The message is stark, and in red and all-caps on the Keurig coffee machine at work: “CAUTION SHARP NEEDLES DO NOT PUT FINGERS IN K-CUP CHAMBER.”

Russell Wangersky

If that’s not enough, another warning curves around the base of the place where you put your coffee pod, etched right into the black plastic: “CAUTION — SHARP NEEDLES.”

Why is it that people — OK, people like me — why is it that people like me suddenly want to put a finger inside to see how sharp the needles actually are?

As a rule, I don’t like needles or bleeding. In fact, you can put me down as being positively opposed to needles and bleeding.

But I guess I’m intrigued by warnings.

I ask this because of the pressure washer.

I had to buy a new pressure washer after I broke the old one. Actually, winter broke the old one, because I left it in the garage with some water inside, and science says that as water cools, it shrinks, until around 4 degrees Celsius, when it actually starts to expand. At the freezing point, the water expands by a magic nine per cent — just enough to burst some integral part of pressure washers, thereby keeping the pressure washer industry alive and well.

There was a warning about that on the old pressure washer: it actually said “AVOID FROST,” which I always do to the best of my ability, but apparently not successfully in this case, especially having not read the warning until after the pressure washer broke.

(I could fix the old pressure washer — but not without buying a special screwdriver to open the case, ordering the replacement part from far away, etc. A new pressure washer, on special, was only a few dollars more, and available right away. But I digress.)

So, the Keurig and the pressure washer.

The new pressure washer does not say “AVOID FROST.” Instead, it goes with the less confrontational “STORE INSIDE.”

But that’s only the beginning.

When I took it out of the box, the new device was practically festooned with warnings. They were attached to the machine with stickers, with zip-straps, with tape.

“WARNING: Risk of injection or injury — Do not direct discharge stream at persons.”

I have seen pressure washers strip paint — I don’t even want to imagine what high-pressure “injection” must look like.

“To reduce the risk of injury or death, user must read and understand operator’s manual.”

“Do not operate the product while under the influence of drugs, alcohol or any medication.” (I didn’t know that drunk stripping was a thing — at least, not that kind of drunk stripping.)

“Stay alert and exercise control. Watch what you are doing and use common sense. Do not operate product when you are tired. Do not rush.” They clearly do not know me.

And the list goes on.

Now, I understand that companies in the modern world have to tick off the greatest number of possible liability issues.

But warning me that electricity and water don’t mix? That unstable ladders are dangerous? That children shouldn’t play with a machine that delivers water at a nozzle pressure of 1,600 pounds per square inch? (Science also says 1,600 psi is the pressure exerted by a stiletto heel worn by a 100-pound woman, and you wouldn’t let her stand on one foot on your children, either.)

That does seem like overkill.

And “Do not abuse extension cord”? “Warm air from the motor could cause discolored spots on grass”?

Imagination is a dangerous thing, and every threat is also an opportunity.

And the Keurig needles? There are two, one on the top, one on the bottom. When you close the chamber, they puncture their way into the coffee pods.

Oh, and I checked — they’re not really all that sharp.

Neither, apparently, am I.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 30 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at rwanger@thetelegram.com — Twitter: @wangersky.

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