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If yourre drunk, dont go near the stairs

'Nothin' funnier than people,' a 90-some-year-old Lakeview lawyer used to tell me.

He was right, of course, but it has taken me another two decades of living to appreciate the simple beauty of his observation.

I think this came into focus for me this past week somewhere between the story about the lady who sued everybody connected with the 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' - because she'd been trampled while rushing for a seat - and the recall of the Bikepro baby walker because, when it rolled to the precipice of a staircase and the front wheels went over the edge, the walker would (stay with me now) fall down the stairs!

In the Oprah case, Tanya Milner was seeking $50,000 in damages from the folks who produce the popular talk show after she fell down a flight of stairs, suffered some permanent injuries and is now unable to handle her 'usual duties and affairs of life' and 'will in the future continue to suffer pain and suffering and disability.'

The suit gave no details on Milner's injuries, and her lawyer declined to comment.

In other falling-down-stairs news (although, honestly, this is not really about stairs), Bikepro Inc. of Pico Rivera, Calif., was voluntarily recalling about 50,000 baby walkers because, according to one news source, they 'are not designed to stop at the edge of a step.'

'Babies using these baby walkers could be seriously injured or killed if they fall down stairs,' stated the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

No injuries have been reported, said the commission, adding that 'this recall is being conducted to prevent the possibility of injury.'

Let's pause for a moment here and take stock. As much as I like to embrace lopsided, controversial, lost-cause-type issues, I'm really not in favor of women getting trampled in television studios or of babies falling down stairs. So, don't even try to suggest I am, OK?

But we need to discuss the subject of personal responsibility.

Who knew that baby walker technology had progressed to the point that we consumers expect, when a walker with a baby in it comes to the edge of a flight of stairs, it won't - repeat, will not - fall down said stairs?

Is this a great country or what? Apparently, all the other makers of baby walkers have perfected the won't-fall-down-the-stairs technology so, when the first wheel or two drops over the edge, it stops. Let's go back to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission release. Way back in 1997, it says, the CPSC and the baby walker industry worked out a voluntary standard to address falls down stairs, and 'new walkers that meet the voluntary standard have special features that stop the walker at the top step.'

Again, let me reiterate, I am all for baby walker safety. I heartily endorse these standards. But we have similar safety standards in cars, for example. These include seatbelts, airbags and brakes that magically bring your car to a stop on a frozen road. But if you get into your car drunk out of your head and drive like an idiot, those features may not save you.

And if they don't, you know who's fault it will be? That's right, yours.

What's that, you say, there really isn't much of a drunken baby problem right now? True, but all babies are, in a sense, little drunken idiots who, once they get their little puffy-diaper butts in the seat of a walker, don't really drive all that well.

Maybe - and I'm just thinking out loud here - it's the responsibility of parents to keep babies in baby walkers away from stairs. That would be one way to keep them from falling down stairs, huh?

Sure, that new and improved technology is great (just like airbags and anti-lock brakes are great), and every baby walker should meet the voluntary standard, but let's try to keep in mind that those things don't take away our responsibility to do what's right, as parents and as consumers.

I'm unable to resist the temptation to dredge up this bizarre case from 2003 in which a man in Australia sued a football club 'for allowing him to get too drunk at a president's lunch.' See, this bloke consumed 'excessive amounts of liquor' supplied by the club and promptly fell down a flight of stairs and severely injured himself.'

Well, maybe this is all about falling down stairs, but note I am not for a second suggesting that the woman at 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' was drunk. For all I know, she was sober as a judge, I simply don't know.

What I do know is, when I am drunk I've made really bad decisions. And it's almost always my fault, no matter how much I want to sue somebody.

Former managing editor of the Lake Oswego Review, Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.