My Sunday newspaper devotes a full page entitled The (almost) Back Page to stories that may not make big headlines but nonetheless may be interesting.
Now and then some of the stories make me curious enough to learn more, like a recent Sunday’s collection.
And sometimes, when I learn more, I like to share.
Let’s Hand An Eight-Year-Old The Car Keys
Gastonia, NC – population around 77,000 people – is located about a half-hour east of Charlotte, NC:
TripAdvisor’s Things To Do In Gastonia, NC list includes Carothers Funeral Home at #10 out of 38, which may tell us something about Gastonia, though I’m not sure what.
Fortunately, the funeral home’s services were not required for consequences of this event:
A mother and her eight-year-old son were visiting relatives in Gastonia one evening in late May. For reasons unexplained, Mom handed the kid her car keys and told him to go start the car.
Now, based on my observations, most parents are reluctant to hand over their car keys to kids twice that age – 16-year-olds – even when they’ve completed driver training and gotten their driver license.
But here’s Mom, willingly handing her keys to and eight-year-old and telling him to start the car?
So he did.
And he drove away.
With his one-year-old sibling in the back seat, whom Mom had left in the car while she was visiting the relatives.
The eight-year-old drove the car two miles home, and apparently decided, “Nah, let’s keep going.”
And he did.
In the meantime, Mom (who didn’t want to be identified) discovered the missing car and children and had called 911. Deputies spotted the car and got the eight-year-old to stop. They gave him a roadside sobriety test, cuffed him and read him his rights.
OK, I’m kidding about the last part.
It should have been Mom who was cuffed and charged, and according to the WSOC-TV story, perhaps she will be:
“Police said the 8-year-old isn’t facing charges, but that his mother could be investigated by the Department of Social Services for possible neglect.”
Gosh, tell an eight-year-old to start the car? Leave the one-year-old in the car while you’re in the relatives’ house? What did she do with her five-year-old?
Drop her off at Cavendish Brewing Company, which is #16 on the TripAdvisor List?
“Here’s $10, sweetie, you have a couple of brewskies while Mommy visits with Aunt Erna.”
Let’s Get Within 10 Feet Of A Bison
Ahhh…Yellowstone National Park:
So beautiful, and so many great things to do: Hiking, biking, riding horses…
…photography, camping, picnicking, touring…
And some things not to do – including this:
Let’s talk logistics here.
Like the woman in the first story, this event also happened at the end of May and this woman is also unidentified, except as age 25 and from Ohio.
This woman was within 10 feet of the bison when she was gored and then tossed 10 feet. She sustained a puncture would and other injuries, and park emergency medical providers responded and transported her via ambulance to a hospital in Idaho.
As of May 31, “The incident remains under investigation, and there is no additional information to share.”
Well, there is this one piece of information:
I’m sure the woman was relieved to hear this.
Let’s talk more logistics.
First, it’s not like staying away from Yellowstone’s wild animals is a big secret – signs abound throughout the park. This one includes a picture of the very same animal the gored woman should have avoided:
Second, park regulations require visitors to “Stay more than 25 yards (23 m) away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes, and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves.”
Third, why would anyone with any sense approach a bison?
For an opportunity like this?
This incident happened a few years ago. The woman taking the selfie had a child with her and, according to the National Park Service,
“They heard the bison’s footsteps moving toward them and started to run, but the bison caught the mother on the right side, lifted her up and tossed her with its head.”
“The family said they read the warnings in both the park literature and the signage, but saw other people close to the bison, so they thought it would be OK.”
“OK” – like handing your car keys to an eight-year-old.
Well, here’s hoping the Ohio woman will put her photo op to good use:
Let’s See If These Robots Work Better
Than Elon Musk’s Self-Driving Cars
Again, from late May.
This story isn’t about dumb people, but about what may be a dumb idea:
I read “robots” and I think this:
C-P3O from Star Wars, right?
Heck, I don’t want to wait until I’m “elderly” – I want a C-P3O right now!
Instead, the robots look like this:
I’m pretty sure this thing isn’t going to bring me wine.
According to The Verge:
“The state of New York will distribute robot companions to the homes of more than 800 older adults.”
“The scheme is being organized by the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA), and is intended to help address the growing problem of social isolation among the elderly.”
The article goes on to clarify that “growing problem”:
“An estimated 14 million Americans over the age of 65 currently live alone, and this figure is projected to increase over the next decade as the boomer generation ages. Studies have suggested that long-term loneliness is as damaging to an individual’s health as smoking.”
The robot, called ElliQ, was built by Israeli firm Intuition Robotics and, says this article:
“…will remind [seniors] to take their medication, help contact loved ones, book an Uber ride and even engage in small talk and crack jokes.”
That all sounds great, though I can see it possibly going south in some situations:
ElliQ: Good morning, Sam. How are you today?
Sam: Oh, I’m fine. Hey, ElliQ – knock, knock.
ElliQ: Did you say…“Knock, knock”?
Sam: Yeah! It’s a joke. I say, “Knock, knock” and you say, “Who’s there?” OK? So, knock, knock.
Sam: ElliQ? Knock, knock?
ElliQ: Who’s there?
ElliQ: The Nobel Prize was awarded in 2015 to two researchers for the drug ivermectin. Sam, have you taken your drugs this morning?
I’m not saying companion robots for the elderly aren’t a good idea – perhaps they are.
What I’m questioning is the New York State Office for the Aging distributing more than 800 of the robots, an investment of “$700,000 in the pilot program,” according to the New York Post.
By definition, a pilot program is “a small-scale preliminary study conducted to evaluate feasibility, duration, cost, adverse events, and improve upon the study design prior to performance of a full-scale research project.”
Distributing more than 800 ElliQ doesn’t sound “small-scale” to me.
Nor does $700,000.
For what is, after all, an experiment.
Maybe before New York spent $700,000 taxpayer dollars – state and possibly federal tax dollars – couldn’t they have experimented with giving just one or two or a half-dozen ElliQ to the elderly, to ascertain that these things actually work?
Work better than, say…Elon Musk’s self-driving Teslas?