Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Signs of the Times

But first, an update on the Carina Challenge: Carina Press has another special call out, this time for proposals. First three chapters and detailed synopsis. I’m going to sub with the two M/Ms I had planned for the anthology call. I figure this will save me some time: if one or both gets bounced, I can put them aside and write shorter stuff, finishing them at my leisure. Or focus on stories for the other three anthologies. The M/Ms have the best chance of selling to another publisher if Carina doesn’t want them, that’s why they’re going here. I’ll let you know what happens.

For you romance writers out there, here’s the link. Deadline is July 13, so if you don’t have something already finished or underway, better get a move on.

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I’m a bit late jumping on this bandwagon, but the problem I want to talk about has no set time or place. I’m sure we’ve all heard by now about the family vacationing at Disney World, who lost their young son to an alligator. Animal control searched the lagoon and found six gators in the water. I don’t know if Disney has modified the “No Swimming” signs, but I hear they’re putting up fences. Will that work? Maybe. Maybe not. I’ll get to the whys in a minute.

I’m not trying to lay blame on anybody here. Floridians accept gators as part of everyday life, but this family was from the Midwest. They were on a beach that looked like it was designed for swimming (and was, at one time; swimming used to be allowed at that lagoon back when the park first opened). They weren’t swimming; they were wading in ankle-deep water. The kid may have been splashing around, inadvertently acting like a prey animal, but he was a kid. They do that in the water. Apparently his parents were close enough that the father tried to jump on top of the gator to get his son back, so you can’t point fingers at them. And anyway, they were at Disney World, the happiest—and supposedly safest—place on earth. When you’re walking on a white-sand beach at the Magic Kingdom, alligator attacks are the last thing on your mind.

I don’t blame Disney World. The lakes and lagoons are posted “No Swimming.” They have people whose sole job is to spot alligators and notify animal control. There are lifeguards, though maybe not enough. This was the first alligator-related incident in 40 years for them. Could they have done more? Certainly. They could have added “Beware of alligators” to the “No Swimming” signs. I’m not sure that would have helped, though. Unless some people actually see the danger, they may not believe it exists. Especially if you have a young child who wants to go in the water.

I certainly don’t blame the alligator. It was only doing what gators have been doing since the first proto-crocodilian crawled out of the muck alongside the dinosaurs. If anyone’s to blame, it’s the guests who, according to employee reports, were feeding the gators from the hotel. They didn’t even need to feed the gators, just toss food to the ducks and fish. This causes the gators’ favorite meals to congregate in human-inhabited areas. Predators go where the food is. A small child is about the size of alligator chow, and they’re going to splash around in the water like a duck or an injured mammal. Pretty simple math from that point on.

So now the beaches at Disney World are fenced off, and there may be “Warning—Alligators” signs. Will it help? I’m willing to cop to a solid maybe. When, not if, it happens again, I’m laying the blame firmly where it belongs: on the arrogance, entitlement, and sheer stupidity inherent in certain segments of humanity.

Shortly before the Disney World incident we had that report from Cincinnati, of the kid who fell into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. It was not an accident. That kid was determined to get in and see the gorillas, and got through at least two barriers to do so. He was four. No way he could even conceive of the consequences of his actions. The trouble is, there are alleged grownups out there with that same mentality. They’re dead set on doing something they’ve been warned is dangerous, and no amount of signage is going to stop them.

I talked about this in a previous blog. Some instances are harmless. Some, not so much.

I still get my WiFi from the library. The library is still closed on Friday, although the lobby is open for the post office/passport office. They still have that five-foot sign planted right in front of the doors, announcing in big, bold letters that the library is closed. And people still come in, walk right around the sign, cross the lobby to the library, tug on the locked doors and go, “It’s closed? When’d that happen?” Oh, about a year ago. Some people are slow on the uptake.

Many years ago there was a news report about a kid—a teenager, I believe, certainly old enough to know better—who scaled four fences in order to get to a public pool that had closed for the night. I’m sure at least one of those fences had a “No Trespassing” sign on it. That wasn’t enough to stop our determined hero. He made it to the pool, climbed in under the tarp, got trapped and drowned. Outraged citizens demanded the pool be closed. The pool was forced to hire a security guard to protect the terminally stupid from the consequences of their own ill-advised actions. Bet the pool’s admission went up after that. Bet people complained about that, too.

Granted, some teens aren’t any farther along mentally than that four-year-old in the gorilla enclosure. But, assuming they survive their teen years, they don’t get any smarter, or any less entitled. I’m talking about grown adults who step into traffic without looking, or who look right at you and cross the street anyway. They’re pedestrians; you're supposed to stop for them. Or the people who want to pet the buffalo at Yellowstone. That’s what the buffalo are there for, right? Or who have to be told hot coffee is hot and can burn you. Or simply can’t accept the word “no” under any circumstances, even if there’s a good reason for it.

This is why, within the next three years, I expect to hear another news story out of Disney World, this time about a grownup, possibly drunk, who gets injured or killed by an alligator in that same lagoon. Because there’s a beach and there’s water and he wants to swim, and anyway, they got rid of all the gators three years ago, right? And he’s on vacation, and nobody’s going to tell him he can’t do whatever he wants. So he’s going to ignore the signs and climb over the fences, and the gators are going to go, “Hey, Morrie! Cleanup on aisle 5!”

But that’ll be him, and not any of us. Because we don’t do those things. We know better. Right?

1 comment:

  1. Quickie update: it's Friday morning. I've been here less than an hour and already two people have walked around the 5-foot sign, crossed the lobby and yanked on the locked library doors. One guy had to have it explained to him that the library's closed on Friday. If somebody vacationing at Disney World really wants to go swimming in a lagoon, do you really think a fence and "No Swimming" signs are going to stop them? I have serious doubts.