In the Middle Tennessee YMCAs, they instituted a new life guarding program; one know for its top safety ratings. Instead of one lifeguard sitting between the main pool and the lap pool, there are now three lifeguards. One at each pool and one in constant circulation around the edges of the pool.
Sadly, it was a drowning death at one of the locations that precipitated the stepped up vigilance. And no one can argue against vigilance right?
Or can we?
I have observed on several occasions now, that even when the pool is closed, due to filter or chemical problems, there is still a guard posted at each pool. There is still one walking around the edges. Which must be a little tricky to do because, there are barricades also laying around the edges of the pool. And a sign that clearly says, “Pool is closed due to…..”
One day, I gestured to the cordoned pool and the lifeguard circulating its still depths and asked another worker, “Isn’t this a bit of overkill?”
She drew in an audible breath as though I had sucker punched her. A fellow standing nearby paused from mopping his sweaty brow with a towel and flashed me a look. (Eeeeeyou to you too.)
“At our training they showed us how…” she went on and on about the possibilities and their likely tragic outcomes. All because a closed pool wasn’t being monitored.
I nodded and smiled at what I hoped where the appropriate places, thanked her for her explanation and moved on. I wondered if they made some sort of dark notation in my file.
If those scenarios are possible….shouldn’t they maintain round the clock surveillance? What if a thief broke in and took a dip and drowned? Perhaps they need four…or five lifeguards on duty. No one understands like a mom how quickly a three-year-old can dart from your presence, after all. What about mandating that all the little blue-haired ladies at water aerobics sign waivers…..and so on, and so forth.
I watched the young lifeguard pacing, scrutinizing the empty pool.
That’s right, I thought. Don’t think. Don’t question the policy. Just follow the rules.
And that’s the problem. When we allow ourselves to be governed by rules and regulations we are dumbed down. And then we make more rules in an effort to control every possible scenario conceived by our fear driven minds (or scary, litigious attorneys.)
Am I proposing anarchy? Of course not. There certainly needs to order. Stop lights prevent accidents. Lifeguards do save lives.
But when we become so top heavy with RULES, the human brain and spirit respond by shutting down. (And I’m sorry….even with the most vigilant efforts and rules….crappy things STILL happen. It’s called life. Children still die. Car accidents happen. Wonderful people get injured in really bizarre accidents. It stinks and it’s unfair.)
Rules in an organization can kill creative solutions. Running a home by the rule book may produce obedient little soldiers but will leave a relationship in tatters. Studying the mathematical rules can bore the most eager into sleep. (Versus watching a kid come alive, like Caleb is, figuring out how to solve a Rubix Cube.) And you’ve heard me rant about how rules destroy relationship with God and reduce him to a role of a traffic cup laying in wait to catch you driving two mph over the speed limit.
Even Olympian skater Scott Hamilton, in a recent local newspaper article, alluded to the detrimental effect of technical rules the creative process when it comes to figure skating.
Yes, rules are good for establishing safety standards and figuring math and constructing good sentences. But they should never be the guiding star for a poet or take precedence over common sense. Nor should we think for a moment they will help relationships where we’re all reduced to policing one another.
Sometimes they need to be broken.
And in the case of the Y, it may reduce their payroll costs. That is, if their lawyers let them.