The Darwin Awards

Forget about ghost peppers, it’s all about detergent these days. The Tide Pod Challenge is the latest in a long line of weird things humans do because they’re bored, enjoy putting strange things in their mouths, and have completely lost their minds.

Tide Pods are pillowy little sacs of ultra-concentrated detergent that are designed to be thrown in the wash. They’re pre-measured, so not only do they save time, they also save money – no more over-scooping laundry powder, or laundry liquid, which can affect the efficiency, and longevity, of your washing machine. It’s less garbage, too. The plastic that encases the detergent is completely dissolvable, so this can also be good for the environment.

One little sac, or pod, contains enough concentrate to clean a light-to-heavy load of laundry; some come with a little spurt of bleach for extra stain removal, some have a bit of fabric softener, some have both. The pods are cute, very colourful, and smell amazing, like a clean mountain breeze, or flowers after a spring rain.

And teenagers are eating them on a dare. Not babies attracted to bright colours, not mentally challenged children unable to distinguish between the edible and inedible, not senior citizens with poor eyesight. Teenagers. Even better, they’re documenting themselves eating said laundry pods for posterity and uploading the evidence online, all in the name of fame and clicks which, hopefully, gives them a sense of accomplishment and validation before they’re carted away to the ER and scheduled for a nice, cleansing stomach pump.

Side effects of ingesting laundry concentrate include burning of the throat and lungs, seizures, loss of consciousness, and yes, death. Procter & Gamble came out with a public service announcement, essentially begging  teenagers not to eat Tide Pods. If you have to be told via PSA that eating detergent is bad, it’s too late for you. We don’t want humans with poor life choices and faulty mental wiring to spread their genes, do we? This is a positive thing, people. It’s just human evolution at work, Mother Nature finding new ways and means to weed out the stupid.

Of course teenagers know when they’re doing something dumb. I say let them. Some things can’t be taught, and some people wouldn’t listen anyway. Lessons that have been learned as consequences of stupidity are usually lasting ones. You can bet they’re never going to undertake stupid eating challenges again, mostly because of the giant hole in their esophagus, but let’s just focus on the positive, shall we?

A huge part of  humanity is obviously not going to go all in and start scarfing up laundry pods like there’s no tomorrow, because I don’t know, most of us actually want to keep living.  But then you have the outsized reactions, people panicking, with the PSAs and the finger pointing and calls to “ban Tide pods.”

It’s not time to ban Tide pods. It’s time to rediscover the principle of common sense. Keep laundry detergent away from babies and toddlers. Help your child understand consequences. Stop buying your children Unicorn frappucinos. Explain that not everything bright and beautiful is meant to be put in one’s mouth. Inform them that once upon  a time, eating a soap bar was considered punishment, not a one-way ticket to internet stardom.

Nature isn’t safe. Nature isn’t harmless. It is a jungle out there, and we can’t just keep protecting our children from everything. Children need to be allowed to make mistakes. Children need to learn how to recognize warning signs, to know what’s dangerous and what isn’t. All we can do is try and ensure they grow up with good heads on their shoulders. The failure to parent is not a good enough reason  to deny the rest of us the convenience of concentrated laundry soap.  Why do we have to be suffer? We’re not the ones eating the damn things.


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