Danny Tyree, 9/21/2011 [Archive]

Restaurant Playgrounds :The Sordid Truth

Restaurant Playgrounds: The Sordid Truth

Tyrades!By Danny Tyree

Remember when "vacation slides" meant boring your friends with grainy photos of Yellowstone?

Fast forward to 2011 and the case of Dr. Erin Carr-Jordan, who is a mother of four and an Arizona State University instructor. After a stomach-turning experience at one fast-food restaurant playground, she devoted much of her six-state vacation to cotton-swabbing eatery playgrounds and sending the samples to microbiology labs for scrutiny.

The dirt clumps, matted hair, rotting food and discarded bandages she found yielded pathogens that can cause diarrhea, abscesses, meningitis and more. Carr-Jordan idealistically launched a campaign to remedy the situation.

She soon found that the industry, regulators and society have let the issue slip between the cracks. (Yes, the ISSUE slipped between the cracks, along with fecal matter, mucous and who knows what else.) She encountered countless officials and agencies who claimed to have no jurisdiction over the situation. States and localities probably have bureaus supervising how much trans fat you can have in ELBOW GREASE, but no one thought of regulating playgrounds. And the feds won't intervene unless invited.

In essence, they WASHED THEIR HANDS of the whole sanitation matter.

Can you say "irony?"


Ahem. First, that was a rhetorical question. Second, you didn't have to answer it like a drive-thru speaker.

Carr-Jordan redoubled her efforts to do something nationwide about the hospital bills, school absences and lost work-time that come with playground filth. One would think that she had found a "mom and apple pie" cause that everyone could rally around, but naysaying comments abound on the Internet. Any concern for hygiene at all is derided as turning kids into sissies. One guy exclaimed, "What we don't know can't hurt us." I'll bet you're darn near invulnerable, Einstein.

The campaign is further complicated because conditions vary from chain to chain and from location to location. This could lead to some disturbing bragging rights: "Better than our restaurant at the last exit and gaining ground on Better Than A Poke In The Eye With A Sharp Stick."

Another complication: it's not necessarily restaurant staffers who clean the playgrounds. The job is often farmed out to off-premises cleaning companies. It does not inspire confidence when the companies sport names such as Blue Moon Cleaning or Halley's Comet Cleaning or when the posted cleaning schedule begins "Hear ye, hear ye..."

To their credit, most of the restaurants have precautions against KIDNAPPING. Of course parents still muse, "Hmmm...if the kidnapper's HMO has better coverage for diarrhea, abscesses and meningitis....Nahhhh..."

Seriously, the situation calls for a measured response of reasonable steps. Cleaning should be regular, thorough and verifiable. Parents should occasionally keep little Typhoid Mary home. Parents should stress the importance of proper hand washing.

We don't need more foot-dragging, with the kids left to twist slowly in the upchuck fumes. Nor do we need germaphobes overreacting and coming down feet first on the fast-food industry.

Because if the restrictions are too onerous, the restaurants will likely take the easy way out and just close the playgrounds.

That would be a mistake. Even acknowledging the risks, travel-weary tykes need a little vigorous physical activity and free-form imaginative fun.

In short, let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

PLEASE tell me that liquid is bathwater. Ewwwwww!

© 2011 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at tyreetyrades@aol.com and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades". Danny's' weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info on using columns, please email Sales at sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829.

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