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Bring on the SWAT team
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My wife's timing is impeccable, unless, of course, we're going somewhere I want to go. Then, it's sometimes peccable. Recently, I was in the midst of watching a Georgia football game when she had the audacity to phone me.

Somebody better be dead, I muttered.

"Len, there's this patio furniture that's on sale, and ..."

At that point, I zoned out. Minutes later, the phone still held to my ear, I noticed she had never stopped talking, "... you know, I don't know if we'll get the opportunity for this type of deal again, and - "

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, go ahead and buy it," I said as the Dawgs dropped another pass. She hung up quickly and happily.

Normally, I would inquire about such things as, oh, I don't know, the price. But she knows if she catches me in the middle of a Dawgs' game, or a nap, I will agree to most anything - which is how I ended up singing the national anthem at her family reunion.

So, we get this set of patio furniture and it's very nice. And to my wife's credit, a good deal indeed. The only problem we've encountered is that when it rains, the seat cushions get soggy. When presented with the soggy cushion conundrum, I deduced that perhaps turning over the cushion would alleviate the problem.

To my astonishment, I found two things when I turned over the cushion: the other side was soggy too and a tag was connected to the cushion. The tag stated, in bold, very serious letters: "Do not remove under penalty of law."

Now, we've all heard about mattress tags, which, like the aforementioned cushion tag, promise dire legal ramifications if removed.

The mattress tag warnings date back to the early 1900s, when mattresses were apparently used to transport lice and rats and perhaps Congressmen from place to place. To protect consumers, the government required dealers to post tags, adding the ominous warning.

In recent years, the warning on the mattress tag has changed to: "This tag may not be removed except by the consumer." This alteration was apparently made so as not to further petrify consumers that a SWAT team was going to raid their residence at any moment for removing a tag off a mattress that they own.

It only took 100 years to fix that little bureaucratic glitch.

And while the mattress tag has been altered after a century of befuddlement, we buy a brand-new set of patio furniture seat cushions and this same chilling notice appears.

Is this still a problem in 2007? Are vermin now being transported in patio furniture seat cushions? And how does putting a warning on a tag that it's unlawful to remove it really protect the consumer? Do disease-carrying insects read the cautioning message and scurry away to the nearest item without a tag?

In an effort to answer my questions, and end this column, I called the manufacturer. After going through a bevy of choices on their automated system - none of which addressed my particular query, and being disconnected twice - I finally spoke to a gentleman in New Delhi. He was equally clueless.

So, if we've learned anything here today (and we haven't), it's this: It's okay to tear the tags off your mattress. Patio furniture seat cushions? Do so at your own peril. I am.