The holiday season is a great time to reconnect with family and friends, reflect on the past year, and eat some delicious food. But it also comes with a unique set of dangers that could lead to serious injuries. Some of the more common holiday injuries are the result of car accidents due to bad visibility and adverse road conditions, but the season also carries the possibility of some unexpected incidents. Who knew, for example, that gift wrap was the cause of thousands of injuries each year? And shopping for gifts at the mall can even lead to injuries. It’s no surprise that George Costanza’s father swore off the holidays altogether in deciding to celebrate Festivus after he accosted a man shopping for the same gift. As Frank describes it, “As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.” And when you consider the complete list of bizarre holiday injuries, Frank’s frustration becomes even more understandable.
Here at GJEL, we take injuries very seriously. But for the purpose of this blog post, we thought it would be fun to step back and look at some of the more humorous holiday mishaps. For more, see our blog post on the most common holiday injuries.
Thanksgiving Parade of Horror
Each year, thousands of families nationwide gather around the television to enjoy traditions like watching football and/or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Watching the former, you’ve got to expect to see some serious athletic injuries. But parade-related injuries are likely much more surprising. But then again, when you send gigantic helium-stuffed plastic monsters on a crusade over the streets of New York City, you’ve got to prepare for the worst.
Lampposts have been a consistent worry for Thanksgiving parade floats. In 2005, for example, a M&M candy balloon hit a lamppost, knocking it over into a crowd of people. Two women sustained minor head injuries. The next year, the M&M float was replaced with a salute to Broadway musicals.
On a more serious note, in 1997, a Cat in the Hat balloon knocked over a lamppost, which fractured a woman’s skull, left her in a coma for over a month, and caused permanent brain damage. The woman’s family sued the city, Macy’s, and the lamppost manufacturer for nearly $400 million on compensatory and punitive damages. In 2001, the city settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum.
Shop Til You Drop
Every year, the media becomes obsessed with stories about mall mishaps resulting from overcrowded stores, consumer stampedes, and disputes between customers. 2008 was the most dangerous consumer holiday in recent memory, as a Wal-Mart employee was killed on Black Friday as consumers flooded the store. Two shoppers also injured by the mob later filed a $2 million lawsuit against New York’s Nassau County Police Department for its insufficient crowd control. Wal-Mart was also criticized for its lack of security monitoring the crowds. The event inspired Wal-Mart to abandon the moniker “Black Friday” in favor the more innocuous “The Event,” though if you ask me, the new nickname sounds much more ominous.
A scuffle in a Palm Desert, California Toys “R” Us that same year proved that accidents aren’t the worst of our problems when it comes to holiday injuries. An argument spiraled way out of control when two men took out their guns and began firing at each other. Both were killed. Toys “R” Us was careful separate the event from Black Friday itself. “We are outraged by the act of violence that occurred,” the company said in a statement. “Our understanding is that this act seems to have been the result of a personal dispute between the individuals involved. Therefore, it would be inaccurate to associate the events of today with Black Friday.”
This is a real thing, and it affects everyone. We’ve all received gifts that are simply impossible to open without an axe, blow torch, or divine miracle. But what results in annoyance for most, leads to minor (and even serious) injuries for others. In 2008, a British study found that difficult packaging put 60,000 people in emergency rooms each year due to cuts, sprains, bruises, and muscle extensions. A 2004 report by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found that 6,500 Americans go to the hospital each year trying to open gifts.
Wrap rage has become something of a pop phenomenon. In 2006, Consumer Reports Magazine launched the “Oyster Awards,” attempting to pinpoint “America’s hardest-to-open packages.” The magazine tested 237 nominations to determine the country’s most frustrating product packaging. That same year, Stephen Colbert highlighted the emerging problem on his “Report.” Colbert pulled out a calculator to determine the number of Americans injured each year based on England’s data, but hit a wall when he could not release the calculator from walls of plastic.
Seinfeld immortalized a problem associated with distracted driving when Kramer crashed his car because he was staring at a shirtless Sue Ellen Mishke. Of course, there are many problems associated with distracted driving, but during the holiday season, elaborate (and some might say gaudy) Christmas light decorations are often cited as a cause. This issue became especially contentious in 2005, when Ohio’s Carson Williams coated his home with 25,000 lights, shining bright and set to music. (The songs were Frosty the Snowman, God Bless the USA, and Wizards of Winter.)
For a week, Williams’ display received national media attention, and attracted hoards of viewers, who lined the streets trying to sneak a peak. But the attention grew dangerous when this traffic led to a car accident outside Williams’ house. In response, the Dayton Sheriff’s office asked Williams to shut down the $10,000 Christmas display. Williams complied, but the incident didn’t stop him from creating new elaborate Christmas displays in 2006 and 2007, photos of which can be seen here.
Over in Germany, one man sustained holiday injuries even after the holidays were all over. Hoping to get rid of his Christmas tree, the man threw it out the window. Unfortunately, he became tangled with the tree and flew out of the window with it, falling 22 feet from his third-story apartment. He was later rushed to the hospital in critical condition with a severe head injury after witnesses saw the fall.
Police spokesman Willy Thevessen summed the injury up perfectly when he said “There’s a TV advert showing people having fun throwing their old Christmas trees out the window…But you’re not supposed to jump out with them.”
Have a great holiday season! But remember to be safe.
Photo credit: juliejigsaw