Reading Is Dangerous!

turkeyMy early recollections of the dangers of reading center around sunburn. I would lie out on a beach towel in the backyard and get so engrossed in Nancy Drew or some other thrilling story that I would forget the time. Then, lobster-like I would come inside the house suffering.

As I grew, however, the perils of reading became even greater. Three stories illustrate my point.

When I was in high school, I was a page at my local library. For some reason that totally escapes me, I was enthralled with the Jalna series, one of those sprawling historical sagas, by Mazo de la Roche. I remember one afternoon leaving the library with the newest book in hand and wanting to get home quickly so I could continue the story.

What happened is that I backed straight into the brick side of the library. My father couldn’t understand it. “The library wasn’t moving,” he said to me. “How could you just deliberately hit it?” I don’t remember what my answer was, but it certainly wasn’t that reading was dangerous. Yet that’s what the real reason was. In my haste to read, I’d become a hazard in my car.

Story two happened years later and concerns forgetting my children because I immersed in Edwin of the Iron Shoes, the first Sharon McCone mystery by Marcia Muller. I remember looking at my watch, absolutely panicking because I was really late picking up my daughters from school, and leaving the house.

Standing in my garage with no purse and no keys, I realized I’d just locked myself out with no way of getting back in. Having read millions of suspense and mysteries, I knew what I had to do: Break into my own house. I scouted for the smallest window I thought I could climb through and using a hammer from the garage, broke it. Yes, I was late picking up the kids, I had a broken window to repair, and I again realized that reading is a dangerous business. It had turned me to the dark side in a moment of panic.

The last story is commonplace, so commonplace that my husband only has to come home, sniff the air, and realize what happened. Cooking is one of the victims of reading. I can have perfectly good intentions and still ruin a meal. What’s funny is that I like to cook and look for new recipes to try.

But put a book in my hand at the same time, and disaster occurs. I remember reading one of Mary Balogh’s early books, possibly either An Unacceptable Offer or The Obedient Bride—or maybe it was Anne Stuart’s Lord Satan’s Bride—putting a chicken to bake in the oven, only to find, many pages later, the ghost of the black, crispy chicken was not happy. Nor was my husband who had to stop by Colonel Chicken’s to buy us dinner. Just another example of the dangerous activity of reading.

I could give example after example. But the real question is if reading is dangerous for you.  If so, how? Your confessions are safe with me.

- Pat Henshaw

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19 Responses to “Reading Is Dangerous!”

  1. Ash says:

    I once managed to burn water whilst reading. My mother had told me to boil some rice. I put some water on and while I was waiting for it to boil I sat on the counter next to the stove and started reading my book. I got so engrossed that I not only lost track of time but also managed to turn off my sense of smell. all the water evaporated and the fire started to scorch the metal pot. my mother came to investigate the god awful smell from another room only to find me sitting right next to the source completely oblivious.
    In my defense I was reading Harry Potter for the very first time :P

  2. Leigh says:

    I don’t know if reading has been exactly dangerous for me. But there are things in my life that definitely would have been different.

    Typically my biggest arguments with my mother centered around me wanting to read, and her wanting me to do something else like clean. Even once I started putting things away, like my books on my bookshelf the draw of reading was almost irresistible. She would find me sitting in the floor with a book in my hand. She didn’t accept that I just wanted to re-read this tiny section as a valid excuse.

  3. maggie b. says:

    I am the queen of timers. When I have something important to do (like pick the kids up at school, get dinner out of the oven, etc.) I set the timer in the kitchen. That way a loud annoying beeping noise interupts my reading and brings me back to my life when needed. The times I’ve burned things its because the kids or another household task has distracted me.

    I do read while I cook. I’ll be browning meat or stirring the pot with a book in one hand and a spon in the other. I figured this was normal – how can you just stand there and watch the meat or soup??

    My danger zone with reading is the pool. I have dropped plenty of books into water over the years as I sit with the kids at the pool. Or gotten them soaked in the swim bag from wet suits. Or had a child splash all over them. Or get food on them. The things that have happened to my books while we are out having fun is legion.

  4. The first reading-related danger I can remember is missing the bus home from elementary school because I was too engrossed in the book I was reading while waiting. So I did the obvious thing; took the bus that went by the library, got off there. Thankfully, my mother was also a big reader and was actually proud of me for both reading and for knowing the right thing to do when I missed the bus.

  5. lauren says:

    I will admit that reading has become a passion for me only within the last 12 years or so. But danger has found me nonetheless. As with knitting I must finish a row before I will move or be disturbed, finishing a chapter or 2 or 3 or 4. I don’t answer phones…doors…or acknowledge much whilst reading or knitting. Dinner has been known to be at 9pm or not at all, laundry unfinished and arriving late to appointments. I will admit that I have improved a bit and plan my reading and knitting a bit better as to not cause as much ruckus, but now that I have no kids or job to worry about its difficult.

  6. dick says:

    I haven’t been in danger…well, not exactly…but I’ve developed some ancillary abilities while doing it. I’ve learned to read and listen to my wife at the same time. When she irritably asks me what she just said , I can repeat her words back almost verbatim. I don’t really comprehend them though, until I say them back to her, and that irritates her, perhaps justifiably, even more.

    • Leigh says:

      dick: I haven’t been in danger…well, not exactly…but I’ve developed some ancillary abilities while doing it.I’ve learned to read and listen to my wife at the same time.When she irritably asks me what she just said , I can repeat her words back almost verbatim.I don’t really comprehend them though, until I say them back to her, and that irritates her, perhaps justifiably, even more.

      Priceless. . . at least you do respond. While my dad wasn’t a reader it was impossible to get his attention while he was watching television – even the commercials.

  7. Kathy says:

    I had a scary encounter with a dog because of my reading when I was 11 or so. I was supposed to be in bed asleep but was instead reading with a flashlight sitting on the windowsill. At a particularly suspenseful part I dropped the flashlight out of the window. So I did the TSTL heroine thing and decided to rescue the flashlight. I had to search for the blasted thing in the dark, and then just as my hand closed around it, I hear behind me a growl. A neighbor’s dog thought I was a burglar and had come to investigate. I have never run so fast in all my life with that dog chasing me all the way to my back door. It has a happy ending – rescued flashlight, no bite on my bum, and the parents slept through all the ruckus. Other incidents happened, but that one resulted in no more reading in the window with a flashlight.

  8. JFTEE-Auburn says:

    It was 1973 and I was taking the train from Amsterdam to Koblenz, Germany, for my brother’s wedding. I was reading Leon Uris’s Exodus and oblivious to everything else. I didn’t realize I had missed the stop in Koblenz until I gazed out the window and nothing looked familiar. I had gone several stops passed where I should have gotten off. I called my brother, but of course he didn’t answer because this was pre-cell-phone days and he had driven the hour long drive to Koblenz to pick me up and then waited for an hour or so. Thinking I wasn’t coming he drove home. His round trip is about 4 hours so by this time I am on another train back to Koblenz and, with no cell phone, we aren’t able to connect. Then I show up about eight hours later needing a ride. He sends his best man to pick me up and I actually made the wedding with a couple of hours to spare. I was sure to get off at the right stop this time, if only because I had finished the book.

    I ended up marrying a lovely man who is more obsessive about his reading than I am. So when something happens, or doesn’t happen, as it should he just gives a knowing smile or little laugh. He actually taught me not to feel guilty about leaving things undone while I read “just one more chapter; or two.”

  9. PatH AAR says:

    Thank you, thank you, all of you who answered! It’s nice to know that in this age of media, media, media, that there are other crazy readers out there. I feel like I’m in great company after reading your responses.

  10. ell says:

    Funny stuff….although a little less funny when I do the same thing. I read at night, before bed, and that usually works for me. Every once in a while though, I will pick up the book equivalent of cocaine, and with every chapter, think “Ok, just one more.” Of course, I end up reading all night -
    the next morning is never pretty.

  11. Cooking and reading never work well together! I burn food all the time and its because of books and my inability to put them down! And when I was working, I was always running terribly late. I would wake early, get dressed, and then read for the little bit of time before I had to leave. Yeah, that never worked out. The funny thing is, I worked at a bookstore! The perfect place for my addiction. I’d read on my lunch breaks, too, but I’d eat in the backroom of the store so at least I wasn’t far and my co-workers could chase me back onto the sales floor!

  12. BecH says:

    Well, I can say, as your kid, I was not scarred by Story #2 :) I don’t even remember! But, again as your kid, I can say that reading is dangerous. Mostly for me because I always want to squeeze another page or two in, even if I have to go somewhere. I have learned to walk and read but have run into various objects and accidentally stepped off curbs, etc.. The Kindle has helped with the peripheral viewability though!! I think, hands down, the most dangerous part of reading for me is not getting enough sleep! I am constantly saying, oh just one more chapter before lights out! This has led to many, many sleep-deprived days!!

  13. Heather says:

    I walked off the back of a treadmill at the gym while reading. I nearly sprained my ankle, and I DID sprain my dignity pretty badly….

  14. Michelle says:

    I had a similar experience to Ash when I was a kid only I was boiling tea. I was sitting in the living room right next to the kitchen waiting for it to boil so I could turn it off. Awhile later my mom came in and all of the water/tea had boiled out of the pot with the tea bags stuck to the bottom. I tuned out the smell and the noise and I was still reading :) When I saw the story on the news a few years ago about a busdriver caught on video reading while driving, all I wanted to know was what book she was reading! Must have been good.

  15. marilyn s. says:

    When I was 15 I was waiting for the bathtub to fill and I went into my bedroom to get my clothes out and saw the book I was reading, a sunfire historical, Marilee, on the bed. I picked it up intending only to read a couple of paragraphs and ended up reading a chapter and flooding the bathroom and part of the hallway carpet instead. I never did that again!!

  16. MaryC says:

    While reading has been the cause of many sleepless nights, it’s never been dangerous for me – but that’s because of my older sister! Our mother would make me go along when said sister Jane went to the library as a safety precaution. Jane would start reading a book on the walk home and not pay attention when crossing streets.

  17. [...] Have you ever found reading to be dangerous? (Um, not that I can think of…) [...]

  18. Judith says:

    6th grade. I was reading Gone with the Wind, on my bike, riding to school (did it all the time without incident until then…). But Atlanta was burning, and I rode right into a parked car, fell off my bike, skinned my elbow, tore my uniform, and BROKE THE BOOK! I cried. Then I got back on the bike, rode to school, and taped up the book. And promptly got in trouble for reading outside material in class. Sigh. Reading got me in a lot of trouble in elementary school. :-)

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