Friday, July 4, 2008

Stupid kids doing stupid things

Near my home is a bridge, perhaps a quarter of a mile long (I don't know for sure since I've never clocked it) and (currently) forty or fifty feet above the surface of the water of Lake Eufaula called the "Crowder-Blocker Bridge."

As I approached the bridge yesterday evening on our way home from gymnastics practice, my daughter and I noticed two teenagers standing near the edge of the bridge. One of them (a rather "chunky" fellow) climbed onto the railing of the bridge and jumped to the water as we passed. I wasn't trying to ruin their fun, but given the height of the bridge over the water and the fact that (even though the water level is high at the moment) there are large boulders beneath the surface of the water surrounding this bridge, the danger of these boys hurting themselves badly struck me immediately, so I called the Sherriff's office requesting that they send someone out to disperse the boys.

After the operator assured me that someone would soon be en route, I began to worry that they wouldn't get there in time to save the boys from their destructive behavior; that if one of the boys happened to find himself in a precarious state of incapacitation, the risk that all might be killed would greatly increase. I began to have visions of this Sunday's headline "Boy killed jumping from bridge; friend drowns trying to save him". So we turned back.

My daughter and I were a bit surprised to find, as we approached the scene, that there were not two, but three boys jumping from the bridge (these boys looked about 16 or 17 years old), all wet from having already jumped and returned to do it again. As I pulled up beside them I rolled the window down and asked: "You guys going to jump off the bridge?" The boy who we saw jump earlier replied: "Yeah, man!, it's fun; watch him (pointing to his friend) do a back flip, it's really cool!" To which I replied "No; hold on and let me tell you something." The boy answered "no, man, you got to see this!" At which point I was forced to speak more sternly, more authoritatively: "No; don't you go anywhere, I don't want to see his back flip. Now you listen to me for a second while I explain something to you -- obviously you all are not aware of the danger inherent to what you're doing, but since I am and I saw one of you jump earlier, I've called the Sherriff's office and they're sending someone out." One of them replied: "They're sending someone out?" I answered "yes, they're sending someone out; I didn't call them to end your fun, I called them to prevent your killing yourselves."

Now, I've never jumped from a bridge forty or fifty feet above the water, but I've done stupid things like that (from lesser heights) and I always had to show off my ability to do front flips and back flips and twists, and so forth and so on. Invariably, though, my friends (who weren't as brave, or is it "stupid" as I was) would always respond with something to the effect of "ah, man, that was awesome!, do something else," and the danger to myself and to them would naturally increase as I would have to live up to my reputation of "fearlessness." Believe me, I know what this is all about, and I've, on more than one occasion, misjudged the distance to the surface of the water and underrotated an otherwise perfect front flip slamming into the surface of the water flat of my back. And I can tell you from first hand experience that doing so literally does incapacitate you, at least for a moment.

But anyway, only one of the boys, it seems, took me seriously enough to walk away from the scene. I hope that a deputy made it out there in time to prevent a bad accident. But more importantly, I hope those boys will take something from what I told them, and will have learned what I had to learn the hard way -- that what they were doing ain't real smart.