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There are rules

By Merrill Ogden - | Oct 13, 2021

A lot of the public debate these days seems to be about personal freedom. There are lots of questions about where the line should be drawn on various issues between government control and individual freedoms. As a people, we generally don’t like being told what to do.

All this controversy has brought to my mind some thoughts I had a few years ago while at the Grand Canyon. I may have told some of this here before, but I think that there’s some relevance for the here and now.

As part of a vacation stop while traveling between the Phoenix area and back home to Sanpete, we stayed overnight in a cabin at Bright Angel Point at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

During the visit, I found myself in the public restroom at Bright Angel Lodge. I can hear many of you saying right now: “Too much information, too much information!” But in order to make my point here, I have to start at a low point. So hear me out.

When I see a sign, I generally read it. It’s a natural thing for me to do. So, when I saw a sign on the wall in a restroom stall above a modern, flush toilet at the Grand Canyon, I read it. Here is what I read: “Caution – Reclaimed Wastewater – Do Not Drink.

I re-read the sign and wondered if I was missing something. I looked around to see if I was not seeing a water tap or some other source of water other than the toilet bowl. Nope, the sign really meant the toilet water.

Then, I wondered something else. Could they mean that service animals shouldn’t drink the water? I had seen in the news that some scientists in Hungary have determined that dogs can understand human speech better than we think. But, I haven’t heard of dogs that can read.

I also have learned that miniature horses are now authorized through federal guidelines to be used as service animals. Guide horses live much longer than dogs and evidently are becoming more popular as service animals. I had a hard time visualizing a little horse in the restroom. And though I’ve seen some horses do tricks of counting by tapping their hooves, I’ve never seen a horse that can read.

Anyway, my two main thoughts about the don’t drink the toilet water rule finally boiled down to the following two conclusions: 1) It’s a good rule, and 2) Does it really need to be a rule? (In other words, do we really need to be told not to drink toilet water?)

We are constantly subjected to “rules” in our lives. Rules, cautions and suggestions are important in life. We sometimes rebel against them.

My oldest son, when he was a kid, would sometimes say, “Don’t tell me what to do. I’m an American!” Many have adopted that motto. We love our freedom in this country and don’t like being told what to do. Parents have to deal with the free spirits of little Americans.

Coincidentally with my being at the Grand Canyon, I received a “snap chat” on my phone from a Snow College co-ed friend. I happened to be her church leader at the time.

What she sent was a picture of a package of Pillsbury refrigerated cookie dough. She had circled the words from the package: “Don’t Eat Raw Cookie Dough,” and then she put a caption on the picture which read: “Don’t Tell Me What to Do!”

I started a collection of “Don’t Tell Me What to Do” pictures. They’re mostly facetious and meant to be humorous. I took a picture of the restroom toilet water sign and put the caption on it of, “Don’t Tell Me What to Do.” (The message there is, I’ll drink toilet water if I want to. I’m an American!)

So during our short visit at the Grand Canyon, I encountered lots of rules. Here are a few of the rule signs: “Don’t feed the squirrels. Don’t feed the deer. Don’t feed the… (fill in the blank). Stay on the trail. Don’t climb this ladder. Don’t enter, dangerous area. Stand uphill on the trail from passing mules. Don’t throw coins.”

The list goes on and on. I took pictures of the signs and captioned them all with, “Don’t Tell Me What To Do!”

All right. I know that most rules are meant to keep people safe and keep our society organized. Most rules make sense. Some are basic – like indicating what water is safe for drinking.

Think about driving and highway rules. What if we took the attitude of “Don’t tell me what to do” when it comes to driving on the proper side of the road. The wisdom of the rule and the consequences of not following the rule would soon be apparent to the disobedient.

A less basic highway rule is the speed limit rule. Some of us struggle with this one, as there is often not an immediate consequence. Some of us just plain don’t want to be told what to do when there’s a long, straight ribbon of highway stretched out in front of us.

Sanpeters are free spirits in lots of ways. I saw a bumper sticker a while back that read, “Keep Sanpete Weird.” Some of us here don’t have to try very hard to keep that “rule.”

Even though we Sanpeters like to be “free,” we’re pretty good at rule keeping. We understand the reasons for most of the rules.

We know that if you try to hand feed a strange squirrel, you’re likely to get bit. And we know that squirrels may have a disease. We know that we should get out of the way on the safe side of a high, canyon trail when a bunch of mules come along. And, I like to think that we know not to drink water out of a toilet. — Merrill


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