Look before you leap!

Yesterday, I received the following email forward, which has also been circulating on WhatsApp:

SUB: TRUE STORY ABOUT RACISM

I’m sure many of you watched the recent taping of The Oprah Winfrey Show where her guest was Tommy Hilfiger. On the show, she asked him if the statements about race he was accused of saying were true. Statements like “If I’d known African-Americans, Hispanics, Jewish and Asians would buy my clothes, I would not have made them so nice. I wish these people would not buy my clothes, as they are made for upper class white people.”

His answer to Oprah was a simple “YES”, where after she immediately asked him to leave her show.

There is a suggestion emerging from this incident – Don’t buy your next shirt or perfume from Tommy Hilfiger.
Let’s give him what he asked for. Let’s not buy his clothes, let’s put him in a financial state where he himself will not be able to afford the ridiculous prices he puts on his clothes. BOYCOTT TOMMY HILFIGER. Stop buying any range of their products like perfumes, cosmetics, clothes, bags, etc.
Let’s pass this message to non-white people and see the result of unity. Let’s find out if we ‘Non-Whites’ really do play such a small part in the world.

If you are against racism, please spread this message to all your like-minded friends.

I was pretty sure that this was a piece of fiction, but for some reason, I decided to find out more about this matter. I searched for Oprah Winfrey Tommy Hilfiger on Google.

Memorable Guests Follow-Ups on oprah.com says:
“For more than 10 years a vicious rumor has circulated about Oprah and clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger. When it first surfaced, Oprah went on the air to deny the rumor and to say that he’d never even been on the show, and the rumor seemed to die.

But recently it has found new life on the Internet.”

After reproducing an email forward very similar to the one I received, the text of Oprah interviewing Tommy Hilfiger has been presented, in which Tommy Hilfiger states that, prior to the ongoing interview, he has never been on The Oprah Winfrey Show and he would never say such a thing. Fortunately for him, his friends, family and people who work with him did not believe the rumour.

It is not known who started this rumour and why. It is also not known to what extent Tommy Hilfiger’s business business was affected by this rumour.

Email, WhatsApp and SMS are often used to spread true information, jokes, etc.. However, sometimes they are used to spread rumours, like the one about Tommy Hilfiger, which is totally fictitious, or like The Tale of the Arab, which has facts twisted slightly to paint a completely different picture of the truth. These rumours could have an adverse impact on the organisations or groups which they target, but damage control is possible.

However, there could be situations where ordinary people are badly affected by rumours which are spread by emails, WhatsApp and SMS. Rumour is villain in Bangalore describes how nearly 15,000 people from north-east India left Bangalore for their home states on August 15 and 16, 2012 following false rumours spread by internet and SMS. These rumours may have been started by mischief-mongers, but ‘forwarders’ may have played a role in making them spread like wild fire. The ‘forwarders’ obviously gained nothing, but nearly 15,000 innocent people suffered.

If people have the time to read an email forward or a text message, surely they can spare the few minutes needed to verify the actual facts before forwarding the same email forward or text message. Surely, they can look before they leap.

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Does the red light mean STOP or not?

spicysaturday[1]“CRRRR….USH!” Everybody in the AC Chair Car coach turned to stare at me as I nonchalantly unscrewed the cap of the mineral water bottle, confirmed that the bottle had indeed been bent out of shape, and screwed the cap back.

Just as I was about to get up from my aisle seat to walk towards the dustbin near the toilet, the lady in the window seat nervously asked me, almost in a whisper, “Why did you do that, sir? You frightened everybody!”

I replied, “Madam, I did what’s supposed to be done. Look here. The label says, “CRUSH THE BOTTLE AFTER USE.” Every such bottle is supposed to be crushed so that it cannot be reused, but has to be sent for recycling. By doing this, we ensure that the bottle is not refilled with ordinary water and sold to an unsuspecting customer.”

“They put such instructions on the bottle because they are supposed to. Nobody follows these instructions,” she insisted.

Realising there was no point in trying to convince this person, I replied, “OK, madam. I’m sorry if I caused you any inconvenience.”

She continued to look at me with a mixture of pity (for me) and concern (for herself) for a few seconds, and then returned to reading her magazine. I walked to the dustbin, disposed of the bottle and returned to my seat.

This is a common occurrence whenever I empty a mineral water bottle in a public place. Strangely, despite the explicit instruction on the label, I know of only one other person who religiously crushes used mineral water bottles after use: my cousin. Must be some kind of family idiosyncrasy!

This is one example of how many of us do not follow some simple and explicitly stated instructions, rules or laws, despite knowing fully well that they have been made for our own good.

Another example: irrespective of whether or not it is compulsory by law, every 2-wheeler rider knows that a helmet protects him/her from head injuries. Yet, it’s common to see bareheaded 2-wheeler riders of all ages and genders. I rode a 2-wheeler for the first few years of my sales career. Despite the fact that it was not compulsory at that time, I always wore a helmet. Later, as a manager, I always insisted that every member of my team wore a helmet while riding a 2-wheeler. I ensured compliance by announcing that I would not authorise monthly fuel reimbursement vouchers of those persons who did not use a helmet every working day. Most people complied willingly, but some persons complained that wearing a helmet would lead to hair loss! I told them that, firstly, this is not correct since I had myself not lost any hair despite having worn a helmet every day for a few years, and secondly, the risk of being bald is better than the risk of death or a head injury. One smart guy replied that he was not afraid of death. I told him there was no guarantee he would die if he had an accident. What if he didn’t die, but became dysfunctional? Would he like his family to go through the trauma? Then, I reminded him that, if he was not wearing a helmet when he had an accident, his accident insurance and/or health insurance claims would probably be rejected. If he died, his life insurance claim would probably be rejected. He had the sense to refrain from replying!

To quote Oprah Winfrey on the chaotic traffic in Indian cities: “What is it with the red lights? I mean, does the red light mean stop or not? Or is it just there for your entertainment, I do not get it. What is this? I mean the light is red and everybody just keeps going.”

What do you do with empty mineral water bottles?

If you know of other instructions, rules or laws that we generally do not follow, despite knowing fully well that they have been made for our own good, please share them with us.

Why do people not follow these instructions, rules and laws?

What should be done to ensure that all people follow these instructions, rules and laws?