Health v. hubris--a lesson in not taking ourselves too seriously.

Author:Collins, Richard F.
Position:President's Message

Rick's the name, health inspection's the game. Okay. I get a little carried away since viewing Larry the Cable Guy, Health Inspector.

It all started when a new friend asked me what I did for a living. Initially, I was not in the mood for conversation about my profession, so I said, "I'm a sanitarian." She said, "You're a sanitarium? Just joking!" She was an Emory law student. She laughed and said, "Yer the health inspector?" I was puzzled. How many law students include "yer" in their vocabulary? Then I got it. "Yer referrin' to the movie, Larry the Cable Guy, Health Inspector?"

Well, we began discussing that movie. She had visions of lawsuits in her head. I wanted her to understand the actual work performed daily by environmental health professionals. Was I insulted and offended by the sophomoric display of potty humor and ridiculous circumstances? Yes. However, I had laughed at the movie--a lot in fact.

As a budding litigator, she dreamed of lucrative awards she might win as a result of mass food poisonings. Mercifully she did not seem bothered by the movie's politically incorrect jokes punctuated by flatulence. But then she began saying the movie story was so dumb that no one would believe it. Chunkin' and dumpin' might be actionable in a lawsuit, but a lab rat planted in lettuce was just silly and stupid, she claimed. Intentionally contaminated water making everyone in a four-star restaurant become simultaneously flatulent as a prelude to mass diarrhea--that, she said, was the stuff of fraternity legends. She rattled off a few famous tort cases involving a human finger and a rat tail mixed up with something like marshmallow. It was nothing like the movie.

As an environmental health professional, I felt it was my duty to set this legal beagle straight. As Larry says, "my mojo operandi" was happening. I began to recite the hazards and dangers that sanitarians face daily. Why, I said, just the other day a slew of people were poisoned when a restaurant in China used the wrong recipe to cook snails. Seems the snails were infested with eelworms. Eighty-seven people got sick with meningitis from eating raw or undercooked snails. Sixteen people became critically ill; others suffered severe headaches and found it difficult to walk or sit down; and there was a lot of fever, nausea and vomiting. A Beijing news agency, Xinhua Media, reported the story on August 25, 2006. The owner of the Shuguoyanyi Restaurant, Qu Chuangang, said all 390 employees...

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