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Outdoors Outpost
You Can't Win
Wednesday, July 11, 2012 • Posted July 11, 2012

You would think a lifeguard’s job would be to save people who are drowning. Well, maybe I’m jumping to conclusions, here. Let me rephrase that. Unless you’re a politician, you would think a lifeguard’s job would be to save people who are drowning. And you would be right.

A politician, of course, might first want to know if the drowning person is from his or her specific district, whether the drowner is registered to vote, which party the drowner is registered under, and possibly whether the drowner has recently made one or more large cash contributions to said politician’s personal reelection fund, before deciding whether the person in the water should be saved or not. And you wonder why the wheels of government squeak.

No doubt you think I’m being overly facetious, here, but I’m not. I have here an NBCMiami.com story found on the internets (so it must be true) which was written by one Gilma Avalos, who would not have gone to all the trouble to write it if it didn’t really happen. I don’t think. And this story falls under the Whaaaaat? category.

Florida, as you may or may not be aware, contains beaches. People, for some reason, like to go to these beaches and lay around in the sun in an effort to contract skin cancer. A certain percentage of these beach-goers, despite strong evidence that salt water contains sharks, go swimming from time to time.

Inevitably, some of these swimmers get in a bind and need rescuing. So some of these beaches feature lifeguards, whose job, allegedly, is to sit up on a high platform and watch for these boneheads to start drowning, and go pull them out of the water.

That’s the situation at Hallandale Beach, which is apparently near Miami. It’s in Florida, anyway. And recently, when lifeguard Tomas Lopez did his job at Hallandale Beach, he was fired for it.

"Ha," you’re saying. "No one gets fired for doing their job. This is America." That’s what I said, when I saw the story. I figured Tomas must have saved a homeless person while the mayor’s daughter drowned, or something. I mean, seriously, you don’t fire a lifeguard for saving someone from drowning.

But there’s more to the story. The drowner Tomas saved was not in his designated area to watch, but right next to it, in an area that doesn’t actually have lifeguards assigned. There’s a sign there telling swimmers they’re on their own over there, and the policy of the company Tomas works for, Jeff Ellis Management, is to save the people in the ‘protected’ area, and let the rest drown. Well, they’ll call 911, of course. Which is the same thing.

According to the story, two other lifeguards have been fired over the policy, and four others have quit. Jeff Ellis, president of the company, is reviewing the situation. Sort of a politician’s approach, I guess.

Now, then, we move to Chicago, where the police department is investigating a couple of kayak tour operators after 62 kayakers had to be rescued from the Chicago River in a storm. It seems the tour people are being held responsible for the weather.

The sky was pretty clear when the boaters got in the water, which was what the guides expected, since they’d checked the weather a few hours earlier, and no storm was predicted. But then, just like with the USS Minnow, the weather started getting rough, and all the tiny ships got tossed. Bummer.

The tour operators received municipal citations for ‘operating watercraft in hazardous conditions.’ The winds reportedly got up to 100 mph which, I can tell you, is way too much wind to be trying to kayak in. Most of the boaters in these two groups were beginners, which is pretty typical for kayak renters. Luckily they were all wearing PFDs. That’s kayak guide talk for Personal Floatation Device. Otherwise they would probably have SLR’d. That’s kayak guide talk for Sank Like Rocks.

So let’s compare these two stories. On the one hand, assuming that hand resides in Florida, we have a lifeguard who goes beside and beyond the call of duty to save someone’s life, ignoring the personal risk to his personal self, and he gets canned for his trouble. And on the Chicago hand, we have a couple of kayak guide services that are evidently in hot water for failing to take into account something as unpredictable as the weather, in the form of a storm that even the local weather predictors didn’t know was coming.

Correct me if I’m wrong, here, but it seems obvious that aliens have taken over Miami and Chicago. But then, maybe that’s a good thing. Might be better than it was before. In both places.

Still, these two stories should help us all to better understand the future of healthcare in America. When your problem is that people can’t afford health insurance, the obvious solution is to require everyone to buy health insurance.

Politicians – keeping America confused since 1783 . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who always wears a PFD, even in the bathroom. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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