SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - My assignment to the column writers this week was to craft a column around the idea of rules - rules that seem nonsensical or weird or maybe even that do the opposite of what they were intended to do.
Of course, it is also possible to write about rules for which their reason for existing has evaporated into the mists of the past.
You don't have to think too hard to come up with those.
One strict rule I remember from growing up was that if I ate anything - a single potato chip - I was not allowed to go swimming for 45 minutes. Why? Well, because if I did, I would absolutely get a cramp and sink like a stone. At least that's what my mother and and grandmother and aunts and uncles said - and enforced on me and my cousins.
Since then, I found that the time varied greatly among people and their families. Some parents told their kids it was an hour, others a half-hour. When I became lifeguard in college, I discovered that the whole concept was mostly bull**it. You would have to eat a double-cheese burger and wash it down with a Big Gulp before there's a chance (a chance!) of any cramping.
More likely even in that case, you would only cut loose with a burp that could knock a sleeping lifeguard right off their chair.
That said, I did once have to swim out to rescue a soldier on leave who got a stomach cramp and did sink like a stone into 15 feet of water. But he hadn't had anything to eat or drink for several hours.
Rules, rules, rules. I should get to read some very interesting columns Friday morning.