June 17, 2014

The absence of reason

One of the lakes near my home is nicknamed 'Lake Death'.  For a combination of reasons it has a high number of fatalities. It is a large lake, by area standards.  It has a ton of boat traffic.  It has several public beaches.  It has a number of housing developments on the banks.

In the 90's there was a horrific accident in one of the marinas, wherein a speed boat went over the top of another boat, leaving the women in the boat below seriously disfigured.  It has always been rumored that Dennis Rodman, or at least his boat, was involved.  At the time, Rodman also owned a large construction company, and the gossip that followed claimed that the incriminating evidence (the boat) was encased in the concrete slab of a local building.

This year has been no different on the lake.  The low water level caused by the drought hasn't deterred anyone.  In fact, there have been more stories of boat and swimming accidents due to the low water level.

I am rarely in favor of government intervention and heavy-handed regulation, but this story highlighted part of the problem:
 A search resumed Monday morning for a 38-year-old man who vanished in the waters of Lewisville Lake  while attempting to save his wife's nephew.
As crews scoured the lake, Brianna Mann, Michael Quach's wife, stood by the shore waiting for word.
Mann said she was spending Father's Day on the lake with her husband, his two children and her adult nephew when tragedy struck. Her nephew fell into the lake and yelled out for help, spurring Quach, the only person on the boat able to swim, to jump into the lake.
While Mann's nephew made it back to the boat, her husband never resurfaced.
"I tried to throw a rope at him," she said. "He couldn't reach it, the boat was drifting."
Mann said she then tried to turn the boat around to reach her husband.
"I don't know how to drive a boat," she said. 
Five people on a boat, out on the lake (on a day, incidentally, so windy that seasoned boaters took the day off).  ONE of them knew how to swim and drive the boat.

In Texas, a 13-year old, with completion of an online boater's education course (my kids did it in school or scouts in a couple of hours) can legally pilot a boat by themselves.  Add an 18-year old to the mix, and kids younger than 13 can be the captain. Anyone born before 1993 can jump in the driver's seat and motor away, whether or not they are capable, and without any training.

And, while I hate life jackets as much as the next guy that has ever had to wear one in 100-degree heat, they serve a purpose.  Ideally, if you don't know how to swim, you should never take the damn thing off.  If you do know how to swim, but there are 40 mph wind gusts and heavy boat traffic, you might need to re-evaluate your swimming abilities.  It isn't like the lap pool at the gym.

Is this a consequence of today's 'me' mentality - that people never stop to think about their abilities, they only think about what they want, or want to do, and they set out to get it, or do it, common sense and capability be damned?

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