Life's rules go way beyond the law
by John Norberg, humor columnist s

Life is full of rules. Some of them become important. They are made into laws and violating them can get you arrested.

Most rules, though, are stuff we already know about, without even knowing.

Don't criticize your mother-in-law's cooking. This is a rule no one needs to tell you. You don't have to look it up in a state statute book.

You don't have to hire a lawyer if you break this rule. You'll be in greater need of a funeral director.

Don't play basketball near a greenhouse. You know that. Don't stand behind a horse and make threatening noises. Don't see how far you can drive a car with the gas tank on empty.

Don't think your teacher has never heard that excuse. She used it herself 20 years ago. It didn't work then, either.

Don't paint your house on a hot day. Don't paint your house on a cold day. Don't paint your house on a beautiful day when you could be off having fun.

You know all these things.

Our grandson, Jake Nordland, came across one of these unwritten, well-known rules the other day. Jake will be 3 years old tomorrow.

To be honest, I can't remember when I was 3 years old. I've seen photographs of myself from that time - black and white and blurry. I've heard stories about when I was 3 - taking a saw to the dining room table. They never let you forget that kind of stuff.

But to my knowledge, I never wanted to play in the sewer.

Don't play in the sewer. It's one of those rules know to everyone- except maybe some 3-year-olds.

The other day, walking down the street, Jake ask his aunt - our youngest daughter, Beth - about a grate in the gutter.

"That's the sewer," Beth said. "You can't go near the sewer."

To a 3-year-old, "can't" translates into "must."

"I want to play in the sewer. I want to play in the sewer," Jake said again and again until Beth finally dealt with it.

"When you're 18," she said, "we'll let you play in the sewer."

This was fine with Jake. And ever since he's been telling most everyone he meets that when he's 18,his family is going to let him play in the sewer.

Sometimes we try to explain. Sometimes it's not worth trying.

We probably should have also told Jake he couldn't dial 911 until he turned 18.

It's another one of those rules in life.

In truth, this wasn't his fault. He didn't know what he was doing. The 911 number was programmed into a speed dial system. He hit the right buttons and hung up. A few seconds later, the phone rang. You know who it was.

"This is a pretty common thing," says Jack Chase, 911 director.

When they go to schools to explain 911, they always say don't call unless it's an emergency. But there's always some child who only believes by trying." I think it's a curiosity," Chase says.

Police are always sent when someone calls 911, even I the caller says everything is actually OK. All situations need to be checked.

When the sheriff's deputy arrived to answer Jake's call, the adults felt pretty guilty. Actually, they felt like crawling into the sewer.

The deputy was great. He talked to Jake for a while.

As for what Jake said to the deputy, I have no idea. But I have a good guess.

And I'll bet the deputy is wondering what kind of family would tell a kid they're going to let him play in the sewer.

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