Saturday, September 8, 2012

Common Sense and Your Life Jacket

So, we did go to the river yesterday, but instead of everyone hopping into rafts and inner tubes to float for three hours down the Snoqualmie, two of us, the moms, camped out on the Tolt river, a tributary to the Snoqualmie and we watched the boys run upstream to the bridge, drop their floatation in and hop on for the ride past us.  There weren't even many riffles and the stream is about half the width of the Snoqualmie, but the water was swift and deep in the middle.

I brought the life jackets and before they got in, Nick and Adrian put them on and let me check that they were tight enough to work.  They knew the drill.  See, a life jacket that isn't strapped tightly  around your waist can pull right off in a current.  You don't want to be struggling to keep the thing on while you're struggling to keep your head out of the water.

How do I know this?

Before Nick was born, Mike was a weekend raft guide and I was a raft-trip mooch.  I learned as much as I could, but told the owner of the rafting company that I didn't want to be a raft guide, to have the responsibility for six or eight souls on a rock and roll river.  I knew I could easily be distracted and miss something critical in the view downstream.  Oh, the owner put me to work anyway, running shuttles and helping with lunch.  Plus, I gladly checked life jackets after the safety lecture before each trip.  The rule was that a life jacket had to be tight enough to stay on when we pulled a floater out of the water.  In other words, it was their handle and if their handle came off, they didn't get back into the boat safely.  Remember when I told you about the time I was a floater on the Suiattle river?  That was a long time ago, but I still remember how hard it was to stay above the water in that swift current, even wearing the best life jacket that money could buy.  I remember finally getting to knee deep water and being pulled back out to the center by the swift current.  I'm not naive about the power of that much water.  I know just how much pressure it can exert.  If you want to know about how much force a river can exert, check out this site

So, yesterday, my friend asked if the kids really needed to wear the life jackets for this river. Hmmm. 

"Yup," I said pretending I had confidence in my answer. "I know of at least one man who drowned in knee deep water because the current was swift.  This is deeper than that.  Besides, it's the law."  It's true, King county has an ordinance that anyone swimming or floating the river must be wearing a life jacket.  There's an $86 ticket for anyone who is caught without one. 

Should the government legislate common sense?  I don't know.  I do know that people die every year floating the Snoqualmie river.  Our last death was on August 15th, one of the crazy hot days.   This guy wasn't wearing a life jacket.  His fine was more than $86, don't you think? 

So my friend's kid argued against wearing the thing.  He nagged.  She hemmed and hawed.  Finally, I told her, as I tightened the nicest life jacket we own onto his frame, "You can decide for him, but Nick and Adrian can't go deeper than their knees without their life jackets on."  Nick and Adrian know me.  They don't argue about helmets either.  She finally told her boy he had to keep his life jacket on.  I was relieved since I didn't want to have to dive in to save a kid who wasn't wearing one. 

So, they ran their length of river and eventually took off their life jackets and sat in the shallow water, throwing rocks and just hanging out.  It had been a busy week and they were all tired.  It was a good hot day to sit in the cold water and just hang around.  I wished more than once that I was sitting in the shallows too.  It was a beautiful afternoon.

Today, it was hot and sunny again.  Instead of playing on the river, we took Nick to his karate test, out to lunch to celebrate, and off to buy good running shoes for him for cross country.  My son has size seven feet, men's size seven.  That's not so odd at twelve.  They're quadruple E width!  Oh man, the kid has flippers.  No wonder his poor feet hurt every time we go for a walk. 

So this evening, after we got back home, I got on Facebook and noticed that my friend had posted more pictures of that same spot where the boys played.  They'd gone back.  What a good idea.  I wished we'd had time for something like that today.  And then, I looked at the pictures again. 

This time, her son wasn't wearing a life jacket.  I showed Mike the before and after pictures.  "So," I asked him, "should I have relaxed and let them go without? Maybe I was a little too persistent."

"Nope," he said. "You did the right thing.  Even on that part of the river, they needed to be wearing their life jackets." 

Whew, that's a relief.  Mike has common sense plus experience. 

Thank you for listening, jb

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