Never just never

Bob Hatcher

September 6, 2011

          Have often have you said: Never again will I put something on the top of the car while I am opening the door or putting something else into the car?  I have lost several coffee cups in this way.  It could be a cell phone or a pair of gloves or a package ready to be mailed. What have you forgotten on the top of your car and how did this work out for you?

          Do you remember the story of the man who put his baby in an infant seat and put the baby plus infant seat on the top of his car and then drove off? He was informed of this by another driver who was frantically honking her horn to communicate the problem?

Hard to believe, isn’t it. Fortunately, this one worked out well.

As a physician who has spent the past 45 years trying to help people avoid unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, the message I would tell young men and young women and older men and older women who do not want to be pregnant is this: “Never, just never have intercourse without using a contraceptive (or even two contraceptives) if the stakes are particularly high and becoming pregnant would be extremely unwise for you at this time. Never, just never, take a chance… not once. But over the years I have learned that in the heat of passion, all too often contraceptive resolutions fall by the wayside.

As a physician whose interests have been both public health and the care of individual patients, I will share with you 3 extremely important “nevers” related to just one aspect of our lives, driving:

  1. Never turn on the ignition without buckling up that seat belt.
  2. Never drive a car if you have been drinking significant amounts of alcohol.
  3. Never ever, ever, ever text message while driving a car.

How can we better adhere to our promises to ourselves when we say that we will never repeat a certain mistake? There are no easy answers to this quandary. We can ask a friend or loved one to remind and encourage us.  We can take it to our higher power in prayer. Or we can even set up a reward system for ourselves. 

But if we have failed over and over again to do something we consider important, we must at some point admit that certain decisions are entirely an inside job and that if we fail to use a seatbelt, if we continue smoking, if we drink too much alcohol or if we repeatedly fail to do anything we want ourselves to do, then we will have to live with (or die from) the consequences. 

Robert A. Hatcher MD, MPH
Professor of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Emory University School of Medicine
Atlanta, Georgia