What You Don't Know Will Hurt You

YOUR TURN

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If ever there was an expression which was dead wrong, it's this one: What you don't know won't hurt you.

Wrong, wrong, wrong! And I can prove it.

As a starter, consider this: One of the world's greatest scientists, Marie Curie, died of the results of her research on radioactive materials, research which won her not just one, but two Nobel prizes. Sadly, she was unaware of the dangers of radiation, until it was too late. According to the Grolier Encyclopedia, her death of leukemia on July 4, 1934, was "undoubtedly caused by prolonged exposure to radiation."

My claim that the saying "what you don't know won't hurt you" is dead wrong, based on a personal experience.

One day while I was stationed in the embassy in Pakistan, I off-loaded a large cargo aircraft with its cargo tied down in four stacks.

Oddly enough, someone had tied down three 80-pound wooden crates, each of them barely the size of a DVD player, in an unusual way, one piece between each of the four stacks. They were addressed to the ambassador, to be turned over to the Pakistani government.

The three crates were classified as secret, which meant they had to pass from hand to hand and be signed for each time.

I tore off the bottom manifest in the stack of manifests for the three pieces of cargo, signed it, and gave it to the loadmaster. I carried two of the crates down to my jeep, one on either side of my head, finding them remarkably heavy, for such small pieces of cargo.

Then I made a trip down with the third crate, stacked them all on the passenger seat of my jeep, and kept a close eye on them while my men unloaded the rest of the cargo.

Later that day, I carried two of the crates up two flights of stairs into the embassy, again on either side of my head, and then went back, carried the other one up, stacked all three crates neatly on top of one another for the Marine security guard, and tore off the bottom manifest for him to sign, so I would have a receipt.

At that moment, a red-bordered Special Handling label fell out of the stack of manifests. I picked it up and read: WARNING! DO NOT PLACE CRATES WITHIN 20 FEET OF EACH OTHER!

You can imagine how fast those crates were moved away from one another! And I suppose you can also guess what was in them without my having to tell you.

I went to the embassy doctor, an Air Force captain. His medic read my dosimeter, a small device we wore during the Cold War to measure exposure to radiation. They didn't tell me the results but they sure looked grim.

The doctor asked me how I felt. I told him I felt fine. He gave me some pills, Lomotil and Donatal, one for diarrhea and the other for nausea. Then he told me, rather ominously I thought, to come back when I started having problems.

And I did! I was a loose goose for a long, long time, and keeping food down was not easy, but being young and healthy, I recovered without the need for anything other than those pills. A whole lot of those pills!

So what happened to cause the screw up?

Some lazy %$#@! must have torn off the TOP copy of the manifests instead of the bottom one, thereby tearing loose the Special Handling label.

Then, to compound his idiocy, he stuck the Special Handling label in the middle of the stack of manifests.

So, please! Don't tell me that what you don't know won't hurt you.

I carried two crates of who-knows-what on either side of my head. Then I sat in my jeep for a 40-minute drive into the city with three crates that were not supposed to be within twenty feet of each other, stacked together, just two feet from my right hip.

Might as well not bother to tell someone he's about to step on a six -foot rattlesnake!

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