You just couldn’t help yourself, could you? You read the headline and went right on down the page. You had to see for yourself why you shouldn’t read this column.
Was I going to discuss something off-color? Was my topic going to be highly controversial? Could reading this column somehow endanger you? You just had to know. You couldn’t follow a simple direction and move on to the next story in our magazine.
I’m not surprised. People seem to get some bizarre pleasure out of breaking the rules. Admit it. You like thinking you’ve pulled something off when you’re speeding on I-71 and you see the highway patrol car just in time to put on the brakes and cruise by at an innocent 64 mph. It’s a stupid game, but we all play it — if only occasionally.
We’re also a species that’s curious by nature. What’s inside that envelope marked “private and confidential” sitting on your business partner’s desk? Will the IRS actually come after you if you fail to file a corporate tax return this year? What information will I really lose if I drag a magnet over the side of my computer hard drive?
Sure, natural curiosity can lead to some valuable discoveries. Where would we be if Ben Franklin hadn’t gone out in a rain storm to fly that notorious kite with the key attached to the string? But most often, curiosity just gets us into trouble.
Most rules exist to protect you — and those around you. Granted, some warnings shouldn’t be necessary, like the one emblazoned inside a plastic toy skillet my daughters play with: “CAUTION: This is a TOY. DO NOT place on kitchen range.” Well, duh. But corporations have to cater to the lowest common denominator and some dimwit must’ve done this once (and successfully sued), so the rest of us must endure the seemingly ridiculous warning.
Which brings me to my next point. If you’re still reading this, despite my direction not to, perhaps you’re one of those people who thinks the rules don’t apply to you. Surely when the sign along the curb says ‘”No parking,” that doesn’t mean I can’t just leave the hazard lights on and my car unattended for a moment while I run inside the store to get a newspaper. Yes, actually, it does mean that.
And this time, the rule was for you, too. Perhaps the reason I told you not to read this column was simply because I had nothing worthwhile to say on anything business related this month. I didn’t want you to waste your time.
But then, that’s your punishment for choosing to ignore my warning. Perhaps next time you’ll follow my instructions (but my money says you won’t). Nancy Byron ([email protected]) is editor of SBN Magazine in Columbus.