Sliding away from personal responsibility

The SE Texas Record Jan. 25, 2009, 2:34am

Water slides are fraught with small risks. That's why they're so much fun.

We hope Faisal Wasi enjoyed part of his day trip to Moody Gardens' Palm Beach water park in Galveston. That's until his last run down the water slide-- when he got hit at the bottom by the next person riding behind him.

This is an unremarkable event to most who've been to a water park. People slide too early; they slide too slowly; they get splashed; they fall down in knee-high water.

Wasi apparently didn't get the memo. After being hit he sued Moody Gardens in Galveston County District Court, charging the park "failed to provide safeguards on the water slide."

He wants the park to pay him for the time, he claims, he missed work. Then there is the usual mental anguish and pain and suffering for his unspecified injuries.

Sadly, such lawsuits are as unremarkable these days as are wet falls at the water park. People expect that even when they take risks (as in going down a water slide), their lives should remain risk-free.

The impact this attitude has on us, and the needless lawsuits it spawns, cannot be overstated. For one, it's the reason we don't have more water parks, or three-meter high-dives, or see-saws and merry-go-rounds in neighborhood play lots.

Amusement parks and park districts alike now actively adjust their behavior to avoid lawsuits, striving to do all they can to protect us from ourselves. But far from making life safer, this accommodation makes us less safe, as it renders individuals more dependent on the guidance of others, rather than reliant on their own awareness and sensibilities.

In his suit, Mr. Wasi blames a teenage attendant at the top of the water slide for his fall. He followed his direction as to when to head down, and he expected to have plenty of time to gather himself and leave the water near the exit. Why? The attendant said so.

There was a time when folks looked behind when they got to the bottom of a water slide; when they didn't blindly trust the judgment of a water slide attendant; when they took responsibility for their personal safety.

Lawsuits like this one didn't happen then. We'll leave it to you to judge if we're better off.

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