7 December 2009

human stupidity: nature or nurture Pt 2

On Saturday I toddled down to my local beach. Sometimes the beach is closed, and this Saturday was one of those days. In this neck of the wood, on days with an onshore current there are several yellow signs on poles with a swimmer icon crossed out, saying:
There is also a large volunteer lifeguard tent right in the middle of the beach and paid lifeguards in the the tower. People still surf, using the rip to get out back, and swimmers still get in, because it's not like you can build a fence. If people stray into the waves the guards corral them back in making use of whistles or the loud-hailer or the beach PA system, with regular warnings that the conditions are very dangerous. Oh, and there's no flags up.

On days like this there is a nasty little drop off, just a couple of metres from the water's edge. The waves aren't huge, maybe just one metre at most, and if you're not familiar with the conditions it is hard to see what the issue might be. The problem is when they surge you get pulled off the beach, and can end up further from shore than you intended and if you try to swim against the rip you get tired very quickly and can panic and start to drown.

So on Saturday, I have to admit I watched the other swimmers for a bit, checked out where the lifeguards were getting people out, got in for about 30 seconds without going past the depth of my neck and got out again. And even then I nearly got knocked over by a wave in thigh-deep water.

Then I lay on the sand for a while reading my Margaret Atwood short stories. Presently, the Dad-type next to me exclaimed "oh look they're doing a rescue" - and sure enough the volunteer lifeguards were going in with the tow rope to pull out a girl of about 13 or 14. Her and a friend has been playing in the edge for a while, they weren't any further out than the few body surfers, but one of them must have been struggling. The friend got out on her own, and I watched the two of them walk across the beach towards the clan. The friend was asking the rather shaken-looking rescued girl if she was okay, if she wanted to sit down, etc, generally being pretty cool. As they approached Mum, the excitement of the moment overtook her and she was all "hey did you see what happened?! Katy just got rescued! She got towed out by the lifeguards!"

Mum sat up from her towel like she'd been stuck with a pin. Wasn't a big-gosh-fun-adventure for her, oh no. She'd been reading a magazine the whole time and didn't even know anything had happened. Wouldn't the prowling guards and loudspeaker announcements at least make you look up?

So this post is a twin to the stupid posters one. I was astounded that where the signs and announcements were actually immediately useful and could actually prevent you drowning, there was this total disregard for it. This is not an anti-mother rant - just an anti-human one. Too much information where it is useless noise, and a tendency to completely ignore the signal where it is clear, un-ambivalent and critical to your own safety. I think there as a factory flaw in the human genome, basically.


meririsa said...

You should spend an(other) evening at our place. As you know our 3 year old talks constantly, and usually when I'm trying to have a conversation with another adult. I frequently feel like I'm going to go bonkers. This is one of the reasons I don't watch much commercial TV (or if I do, I record it so I can fast forward through the ads). Imagine how peaceful life would be without people trying to sell things to you.

Anonymous said...
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BSharp said...

hehehe! I'd happily take on an E-chan listening shift for you ! x

J said...

I love the signs on buses telling old people to hang on. I mean seriously - if you get to being an old person surely you were smart enough to not have fallen over on a bus so far and cracked your head open. A little insulting I would have thought.

BSharp said...

Oh I hate those 'advice' signs for old people - yes, we must ask one, are they teeth-grindingly patronising? I think STA just has a quota of blank sign placements to fill each year, and the comms team got the intern to do that one.