January 23, 2018
Carnivals and e-commerce web-sites
Now that I'm a father I look forward to the end of summer and the beginning of fall because in summer kids dive off railroad trestles into three feet of water, play tag with B.B. guns and see if 30 feet of surgical tubing can launch a water balloon from your backyard to the convent across the street. I can tell you from personal experience, amazingly, it can.

But the most dangerous thing America's kids do is go to one of these traveling carnivals. If you don't know what a traveling carnival is, it's a traveling band of recently paroled child pornographers, borderline psychotics, fired gym teachers and assorted other tattooed neer-do-wells, who show up on the edge of town and, for a fee, will risk your children's lives on mechanical contraptions optimistically known as thrill rides.

Every year it seems I read stories about kids flying off Tilt-a-Whirls into snow-cone stands, teenagers being catapulted off the Zipper into that ring-toss game no one ever wins or about a top heavy woman prematurely leaving the Octopus because the 80 year old safety bar snapped and launched her into a row of port-a-potties last cleaned during the Johnson administration.

You might find it unconscionable for these carnivals to be so unconcerned with safety but from a cold, hard business point of view, they were going to be leaving town on Monday anyway. By the time word gets around that little Tommy Johnson got amoebic dysentery just from standing near the cotton candy machine the carnival is three states away. And Tommy Johnson's parents could find an atheist working at the Vatican before they'll find a lawyer who would sue a business operating out of a Winnebago.

What's my point? Lots of these e-businesses and web-sites remind me of a traveling Carnival. You don't know who these web companies are or where they are going to be next week. How do you know they're not operating out of a Winnebago? Maybe I'm crazy but I feel more comfortable giving a 16 year old store clerk my credit card than typing my Visa number into a box on a website.

I could be stuck in the past or maybe I just have bad memories of throwing up on the Tilt-a-Whirl. But for me, e-business is the corn dog on a stick of American commerce; a sharp piece of wood inside a deep-fried meat by-product is not something I need...especially when we still have stores.

And for you parents, the worrying doesn't end with summer. There's Halloween and bobbing for apples coming up where some very competitive kids can stay under water too long. I've done that too.