Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The gravy train

Today I took Elli to the park and we splashed in the wading pool a bit.  It was spectacularly cold but incredibly refreshing; I am willing to put up with one to get the other it would seem.  It made me sad to look around the pool though and see the waste sitting on the sidelines.  By waste I mean the lifeguards.  Two of them, guarding a wading pool about forty centimetres deep.  Both of them staring at their cellphones, bored out of their bloody minds.

"So Kimmy, what is your summer job?"

"Well, I spend five minutes in the morning turning a knob to fill a pool, five minutes in the evening turning a knob to empty a pool, and EIGHT HOURS sitting in my chair wanting to die, being completely and utterly useless."

"Surely you do something during that eight hours?  Interact with the children in some way?"

"Yup.  Every so often I tell the children to stop doing fun things because, you know, rules."

That, right there, is a truly miserable way to spend public money.  I don't have a problem with hiring teenagers to do things as I am sure there are certainly plenty of useful things we could have these kids do without changing the economic situation in the slightest.  They could plant trees, pick up garbage, or run games for the kids.  Anything, really, except ten minutes of trivial labour and eight hours of trying to prevent children from having fun.

When people complain about how tax money is spent I want to shout at them that the best thing to start cutting is the people we hire whose job primarily consists of making people unhappy.  If we want to find savings a good spot to begin is to be willing to accept it isn't the job of society to provide a bulletproof defence against foolishness.  In fact I think we really ought to notice the benefits to society that exist when children learn a bit about being responsible for themselves instead of leaning on the assumption that something will always catch them when they fall.

Maybe I should get Rob Ford down here and show him an actual cut he could make to Toronto's expenditures that wouldn't just gut services.

As a pretty random addendum, what is up with pool rules?  I saw a rule recently that read "No street clothes allowed because the clothes might get discoloured due to the chemicals in the water.  Pregnant women and grandmothers excepted."  Juh?!?


  1. Good thing I'm a grandmother so I can wear my street clothes. :)

  2. Whoa, wait. There was a justification given for the "no street clothes" rule? How did I miss this?

  3. It was a pretty lame excuse, but it was there. I found it hilarious that the lifeguard on duty let me break at least 3 rules and the other people there broke at least 1 more. Of course why would the lifeguard care....

  4. Probably something like they don't want homeless people jumping into the water.

  5. The lifeguards refresh the water every X hours (that's why it's so cold), and it takes 10-15 minutes to do so (maybe longer - they also mix chemicals) so it's not *quite* 5 minutes/day. But close.

    There is no alternative where a pool is filled and not monitored. The liability for the City is too high. Even if it doesn't make sense, the City is always conservative and wouldn't want to risk the bad press if someone drowned. There are also property standards bylaws requiring 3-4 walls around any pool, so they'd have to give themselves an exception or find a different expensive solution. If your pool at home needs 3-4 walls to keep it safe, why doesn't the one in the park that kids can easily wander into?

    Keep in mind, *most* of the time the parents are there, but what if it's a cold day, the park is empty, and some random child wanders into the pool? Not good.

    And in theory, the lifeguards keep some order to things and prevent egregious rule violations. And if the pool is fouled (vomit, feces), they are there to close it down and clean things up (this has happened twice to indoor pools we've tried to frequent in the past year).

    Two lifeguards in case one has to go to the washroom. 100% coverage is mandatory.

    It's not the fault of the City, it's what the "people" want. You need to change society so that they accept that once in a while someone's child will die or be seriously injured so that others can enjoy themselves and save a bunch of money (these are union jobs - the lifeguards aren't cheap). That's a hard sell.

    I would be interested in the "incidents/hour of lifeguarding" or "incidents/$" stats. But once you go in that direction you're putting a price on lives and no politician wants to get into that conversation.

  6. Really, it is the second lifeguard that gets me riled up. Sure, the first one can spend 95% of their time standing there bored but at least they have some function - refilling pool, cleaning poop, yelling at children to stop having fun. The second lifeguard is just asscovering legal BS for the first one being on break.

    And yes, the city can't avoid the expense most likely because people are idiots and will happily sue for an unguarded pool even though there are tons of unguarded rivers in parks. Because putting water in a place for kids to wade in makes you liable for anything that happens to them... which is awful and immensely wasteful. In the end you are right, it is people happily wasting money to sing along to the tune of 'safety at any cost'. It drive me nuts.