If It Says, “Don’t,” Somebody Did

Dear Aidelem,

If you see a rule, pretty much any rule, and the rules says, “Never do that,” it means someone did. The opposite is true too. If the rule says, “Always, always do this thing,” somebody didn’t.

Knowing this makes warning labels much more interesting.

Photo by Mike Mozart https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/


It’s not just labels. Here’s a sign I found after a quick internet search.

Photo by David Pisnoy on Unsplash

Somebody actually paid to have that sign custom made. Why? Because people were picking flowers?

no tresspass
Photo by Trinity Kubassek from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/adult-art-caution-cold-350614/

Do you think she’s the first one to stand and the wrong side of that fence? Or the last? If the rule exists somebody already broke it.  If the rule is publicly posted, people still are.

Photo by Mike Mozart https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/

This one is more a warning than a rule, but they still wouldn’t buy a sign and take the time to set it up if people didn’t keep getting hurt.

And of course, the grand-daddy of them all.




The purpose of a rule is not to stop a thing from happening. The whole reason the rule exists is because it is ALREADY HAPPENING. Nobody made a rule that said, “Stop jumping on the moon. You’re kicking up moon dust and it’s wrecking the delicate machinery.” You know why? Because no one’s doing it. But there is a rule in many houses that says, “Don’t jump on the bed.” You know why? Because…


Maybe they fell and hurt themselves. Maybe they broke something. Maybe the noise mildly annoyed someone with enough power to do something about it. I don’t know. But I do know, for sure and certain, somebody jumped on the bed.

(It was me, btw.)

But the instant we actually go to the moon, and there’s delicate machinery all over the place and dust getting into everything, you better expect there’s going to be a little moon sign posted next to the little moon path that says, “Stay on the path, CARL. You’re kicking up dust that’s wrecking the machinery and we’re all going to die, CARL. We brought a trampoline 384,400 km out of a gravity well and through the vacuum of space JUST FOR YOU, CARL.”

Once you learn to pay attention, rules start to teach you what people are actually like. Not how we seem to ourselves. Not the faces we show other people. How we actually are.

Sometimes we make mistakes so stupid and silly that the entire planet laughs at us for a day. Sometimes we go places we don’t belong, even though we know full well we shouldn’t be there. And every single day, on every single road, there is a person who wants to get somewhere faster, someone who really needs to get somewhere faster, and they need to be reminded that everyone else matters too. (Remember this the day you get pulled over for speeding. That cop is doing you a favor. Say thank you.)

On the other hand, we are not all as dumb as the person who decided to iron their shirt while they were wearing it. Even that person was only that kind of dumb once. (I hope.) Which means following the rule isn’t worthy of applause. It just means you weren’t the dumb one today. In the words of the amazing Chris Rock, “What do you want, a cookie?!”

Rules and morality aren’t the same thing. Took me way too long to figure that one out. Go be better than me.






If It Says, “Don’t,” Somebody Did

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