I can’t say that I mean to be obnoxious. Honestly, 99% of the time, I’m not really obnoxious. Yes I can be pedantic, but I try hard not to be obnoxious. However, the other day, I found myself torn between being obnoxious or not passing on relevant (to my mind) information. Obnoxious won out.
I pulled into the parking lot at Zizi’s day care center and saw a dad taking his infant daughter out of a car seat in the back of his extended cab pickup truck.
I immediately had flashbacks to almost a decade ago when my colleague, Flaura Winston, began doing her research on pediatric traffic injury. One of her first major papers was describing how dangerous it was for kids seated in the rear of compact extended cab pickup trucks during collisions. According to this study, children in the rear seat of compact extended-cab pickups are nearly five times as likely to be injured as children seated in the back seat of other vehicles.
So I’m thinking to myself, does this dad know this? Should I tell him or should I just shut the fuck up? If I come up to him out of the blue, then I’m some obnoxious as fuck parent getting all up in his Kool-aid. Yet, if I say nothing, then I feel guilty wondering whether he knows that his vehicle choice is very risky for his little daughter. And what if he gets into an accident? Would he rather have known about the risk? I’m sure that the person who sold him the truck didn’t share that bit of information. What to do, what to do?
In the end, I opted for obnoxious. I came up to him as we were both walking back to our cars upon exiting the center.
“Sir,” I began, “let me apologize in advance if anything I say seems really obnoxious because I don’t mean for it to be. But my name is Liana and I’m a pediatrician. I used to work at CHOP with one of the researchers who did most of the recent work on child traffic injury prevention. And what I remember really well was her study that showed how dangerous extended cab trucks were for kids, even when they were in car seats. They were much more likely to get hurt or killed than in similar crashes in other cars.”
By now he’s kinda looking at me like I’m a Jehovah’s Witness coming to spread the word.
“Well I need this truck for work,” he explained.
“Absolutely,” I nodded, trying so hard not to appear to be a lunatic. “I wasn’t telling you this to make you go out and sell your truck. No, no no. I just didn’t know if you knew about the higher risk and I thought it might be good for you to just have the information. When I was in practice, I always believed in giving parents information so that they could make the best decisions for their families. That’s all I wanted to do here. Again, I’m sorry if I seemed rude or obnoxious. Have a good day.”
He watched me walk away with a weird look on his face. It wasn’t anger, but it certainly wasn’t happiness that I stopped to share that little tidbit of information with him either. I drove away feeling alternately like I hadn’t done anything wrong and like I was the biggest jerk on the face of the planet. In the end, I don’t think I did anything irretrievable, but I’m not sure I made the right choice.
When I run the situation through the Liana filter, the question becomes, if I were driving a car that is risky to my child in an accident would I want to know? Simple answer: yes. But the more complicated question is who would I want to be the one to tell me? My pediatrician wouldn’t tell me because s/he doesn’t even know what type of car I drive. My friends/family probably wouldn’t know about the risks unless it was featured on Eyewitness News. So is it OK that a random stranger with special knowledge comes and gives me this information? Or is it just plain obnoxious?