Growing up in the eighties, we had access to some of the best cartoons ever. G.I. Joe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and so on. On most of the programs I watched, there was a public service announcement (or PSA) at the end of every episode. These usually involved things like, “Stealing is wrong,” “Don’t do drugs,” or “Playing with matches is dangerous.” To me, most of these seemed quite obvious, but there was one that made me terrified of refrigerators for years. Basically, a group of kids were trying to find their friend, John. A G.I. Joe named Recondo just happens to be walking through and asks what’s going on. The children explain the situation and Recondo looks over to see an old refrigerator, and immediately assumes he’s in there (and he was right). Opening the door, Recondo finds John suffocating. The PSA never explains why John was in the fridge; we’re simply left to make our own assumptions about what led to this event.
You see, growing up when I did, I had no concept of a latching refrigerator. Every refrigerator I had ever seen and used worked the same way we do today. Open the door, get what you need, and when you close it the suction keeps it closed. Simple as that. I had no knowledge that a few decades prior, refrigerators were held closed by a latch that was released when you pulled the handle. When the door was closed, the latch simply fell back into place. And the time when I was growing up was when it more and more common for these refrigerators to be discarded.
Once I saw that PSA, I knew that every time I went for food, I was playing a dangerous game, risking my life for a glass of milk or a delicious strawberry. I would swing the door open as wide as I could, grab what I needed, and leap out of the way before it would close. It wasn’t until sometime later that I decided to get over my fears once and for all. One day when my friend Rob was over and my mother hadn’t done the grocery shopping yet, I decided to take out the shelves and get in the fridge. I told him if I started banging on the door to open it up. So I got and he closed the door. Once sealed inside, I pushed the door back open with ease. I was elated. Refrigerators weren’t dangerous at all. Those guys on G.I. Joe were so stupid. What else were they wrong about? Downed power cables? Swimming in lightning storms? Surely if they had the refrigerator thing wrong, they must be wrong about other things too. Or maybe, they had teamed up with parents for some scare tactics. Contacting childrens cartoons to make kids obey sounds just like the sort of thing parents would do.
It was a few years later when I actually learned about latching refrigerators. Suddenly the PSA made a lot more sense to me. Thankfully, I never did get injured pushing againts the warnings of other PSAs, though I think I did go swimming in a lightning storm. That is until I saw a tree nearby. As we all know, lightnight loves trees and trees love water.
2 thoughts on “G.I. Joe Made Me Afraid of Refrigerators”
I recall only one refrigerator with a child safety button allowing the door to open from the inside.
It was a Hotpoint made around 1960 that my parents owned. The button was the diameter of a tennis ball with a few words on it, which, not surprisingly, I no longer remember, but which indicated its use.
All refrigerators should have (had) something similar.
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I had to ask my dad to explain the whole “locking refrigerator” thing to me. There was either public money floating around to reduce refrigerator-related childhood deaths or there was some vast diaspora of these suffocation machines that nobody knew was lurking about.
Personally, I got more use out of the stop, drop and roll PSA.
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