My favorite kind of humor is found in the ironic. So, imagine my delight when I read this week that Atlanta was selected to be the site for the new National Health museum. Atlanta? A Health museum? Oh, the irony.
So…why is this ironic? Let me count the ways:
1. Guess where the museum will be located? It will be downtown. Right in the hub of activity by Centennial Olympic Park and the Aquarium. And what else is right there? Why the new Health museum will be right next door to the Coke Museum. You know, just in case you need to taste a variety of high fructose corn syrup from all over the world.
2. Oh, and who is funding this museum? It’s our friend Coca-Cola…providing 100 million dollars in seed money. Do you think that the museum will declare Coke healthy?
3. What is one of the healthiest and easiest activities for you to do? Walking (Well, unless you are like me and have heel spurs, then it’s not so fun). And do people in Atlanta walk? Ummm…no. This is a city of cars. Where the average household has more than two cars. Where sidewalks are not really for people to walk, but are referred to by the Department of Transportation as “vehicle recovery zones.” You know, just in case you might have to dodge someone going slowly…or a dropped ladder in the road…you might need to swerve onto that sidewalk. Pedestrians beware! Maybe the new museum will have moving sidewalks so that Atlantans will not have to do the unthinkable: walk.
4. And what does all that driving do for us? Atlanta, according to Forbes Magazine, ranks number one in the nation for the worst traffic …and quite high for road rage. That is how we increase our heart rate here in metro Atlanta…we don’t need to walk or exercise.
5. And even the state government doesn’t advocate walking or exercise – because they know that traffic will solve all your problems. So, what did they do? Why in April of 2000, the Georgia Legislature passed House Bill 1187, which removed the Physical Education requirement from Georgia's public school systems.
6. And if you insist that driving in traffic will not meet your exercise/heart rate needs, you surely don’t want to be outside. Atlanta is ranked as the worst cities for allergy and asthma sufferers. We have that trifecta of pollen, mold and pollution.
7. So all this traffic leads to yet another health issue for Atlanta – smog. Over half the days this month have smog alerts in the “red zone.” Which means that it is not healthy to breathe the outside air. For everyone…not just those asthma sufferers.
8. One of the explanations given for locating the National Health museum here in Atlanta is that Atlanta is also home to the CDC. The same CDC that made headlines this week for containing bioterror bacteria with duct tape. Yes, duct tape. Is that part of the OSHA and CDC protocol?
9. Speaking of diseases…Georgia is home of the West Nile virus and the syphilis capitol. Many people saw the documentary and Frontline special on the Atlanta suburb of Conyers – and know that they are infamous for a syphilis epidemic among teens. And even today, Atlanta is ranked number two in the nation for syphilis cases. (And a total side note – one of my college courses for my major was Physical Anthropology. We learned a lot about how you can tell gender from looking at bones; some hints that bones can give about race; and clear indicators of age. Many of the bones that we had were from people that had syphilis. You can tell because the bones have small holes that look like someone drove a nail all the way through them. Can you imagine the pain of having all those holes in your bones?)
10. Do you think the Health Museum might have a food court? With true Southern specialties of sweet tea, fried chicken, and gravy? Atlanta is home to the largest drive-in restaurant in the world – The Varsity – with its yummy, greasy, artery clogging goodness. And the best onion rings in the world.
11. New York might have the Empire State building; Seattle has the Space Needle; Chicago has the Sears Tower – and what does Atlanta have? The Big Chicken, of course.
12. No list of health ironies would be complete without the mention of a creation by Mulligan’s restaurant in Decatur: The Luther Burger. It is a half pound bacon cheese burger – with a Krispy Krème donut as the bun.
13. And that same eatery created this other chest clutching concoction: The Hamdog. Which is a hot dog, wrapped with ground beef – then deep fried – and placed in a hoagie roll – then covered with chili, onions, a fried egg, and two handfuls of French fries. In the south, it’s a rule that you criticize with love and affection. So, Atlanta, bless its heart, is getting a health museum. Ya’ll come visit!