Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Nanny State, dental crowns and Readers' Digest

The church across the street

So yesterday I became a king, whereas previously I wasn't even a prince. After 4 appointments with my dentist totaling about 4 hours, two to perform a removal of everything above the root of a single bicuspid, two to cement a post to anchor an artificial “tooth," my dentist “crowned” me yesterday. She's done a good job; my prosthetic looks and feels like the real thing, and I've never before owned a twelve-hundred dollar tooth.

Besides enjoying these delightful times spent in the chair with my feet higher than my head, gazing up at that light with all its facets—like a fly's eye—and the heating grills in the ceiling, I had ample time to catch up on a few editions of Readers' Digest. I usually just read the jokes, but today I was there early so I decided to read an article by someone who had visited Mexico recently and felt compelled to compare it to Canada in one key area, namely the “nanny state” syndrome that he contends we live in here. In Mexico, according to the author, people are still allowed to bike without helmets, ride in the back of pickup trucks, work high above the street without safety gear, whereas we in Canada are so regulated and controlled by so many codes that our sense of individual adventurism has practically been drummed out of us.

Case in point: we were offered the decision on whether the basement stairs in our new home would be walled in or left open. We decided to leave the staircase open with just a handrail coming down so that the den area would seem larger. The building inspector has declared that this is unacceptable and that it needs to have—at least—spindles separated by no more than 4 inches in order to prevent falls, spaced closely enough to prevent children getting their heads caught in it. I remembered friends' children having been at our home and how they climbed up on everything from the table to the couch and jumped off and I wondered why the inspector didn't insist that none of the furniture be more than 18 inches high and have handrails around the edges!

And, of course, there are seat belt laws, a gun registry, public kitchen rules and inspections (a kitchen worker must wash hands after touching own face, etc.), speed limits, zoning bylaws, and in some cities, designated places where busking is allowed. I might add, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Is there a happy place, a moderate place, between anarchy and the nanny state? Are we at that place here in Canada, or is Mexico, or the USA or Germany? I wonder about this as I puzzle over the addition of spindles to my already-constructed staircase while tonguing my unfamiliar new dental crown. Maybe I'll drag the whole shameer closer to Mexico.
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