Common sense, a rare commodity
May common sense rest in peace.
We have seen it coming for a long time now. We have become a society bound more and more and more by inflexible rules and regulations. I's are dotted and T's are crossed and we are constantly referred to the fine print, no matter the situation or the circumstances. Long gone are the days when the end justifies the means.
Many years ago, as I was about to enter the workforce for the first time, I went by to visit Porterdale icon B.C. Crowell to seek advice about how to handle the interview process that I was about to endure. He gave me two pieces of advice that I have never forgotten. The first was to always exude confidence. He said that if I didn't promote myself as the best possible candidate for whatever job I was seeking, potential employers would assume that I was not. The second was to use common sense when answering all questions.
His comment was, "They won't care how much book knowledge you have if you can't handle yourself if they send you downtown."
Both were sound pieces of advice; however, the latter may, sadly, have become a victim of the litigious times we live in.
Point in case: This past week, in Hallandale Beach, Fla. (It's close to Miami. I had to look it up, too.), 21-year-old lifeguard Tomas Lopez was fired for leaving his post and running a quarter-of-a-mile down the beach to a "swim-at-your-own-risk" area to save a person from drowning.
I ain't making this up, y'all. Forget common sense. Forget the parable of the 99 sheep left unguarded. Forget the value of a human life. The Jeff Ellis Management Company -- the firm contracted by the city of Hallandale Beach -- stated that lifeguard Lopez knowingly violated company policy in leaving his post.
Tomas Lopez broke a rule to save a life. What a dummy!
The Jeff Ellis spokesman said that by leaving his chair unattended Lopez placed swimmers in his area in danger and (here's the real problem) could have gotten the firm in legal trouble.
I know a little bit about the lifeguard business. I was pulled out of Porterdale pool by one when I was five. It was either Sonny or Salty Prince, but I can't remember which. I'm glad the aforementioned B.C. Crowell didn't fire him because he left Kay Shaw unattended to lift me out of the drink.
I was aquatics director at Camp Jamison, at Bert Adams Scout Reservation, for seven summers. Don't tell my lovely wife, Lisa, that I said so, but it was the happiest time of my life. I was King of the Jamison waterfront and a legend in my own mind. I was strict and by the book but may I wake up a Georgia Tech fan tomorrow if I was as ever as out of touch with common sense as the folks who are charged with keeping Hallandale Beach safe -- and lawsuit free -- this summer.
For several summers, after my camp staff days were done, I managed different pools in the area. Just like my Jamison days, I was strict and by the book but may I wake up an Obama supporter tomorrow if I was as ever as out of touch with common sense as the folks who are charged with keeping Hallandale Beach safe -- and lawsuit-free -- this summer.
Back to Tomas Lopez. The owner of the Jeff Ellis Management, Jeff Ellis himself, said that Lopez's stretch of beach was never left unsupervised while he was busy saving a human life but he still insists that Lopez did the wrong thing.
To make matters worse, two other lifeguards were fired the day after the incident because they said, during an interview, that they would have done the same thing. Heavens to Betsy! Has the whole world gone crazy, or just the part of it managed by the Jeff Ellis firm and the Department of Education?
In an effort by the management company to save face and quell the growing public outcry against them, the company did offer Tomas Lopez -- and his two fellow employees -- their jobs back. To their credit, they all said no. Several other lifeguards have quit in protest and a number of Hallandale Beach regulars have threatened a boycott of the popular vacation spot in protest.
This whole furor will die down in a few days. Lopez and his fellow guards will enjoy their 15 minutes of fame and move on. Jeff Ellis may or may not be retained next season to guard the incorporated waters of Hallandale Beach. The swimmer who was saved from drowning will, hopefully, live a long and prosperous life.
But the real victim here is common sense and the way things are looking in our country these days -- well, I am afraid no amount of CPR will save common sense.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.