Tuesday, 5 September 2006

Lessons from an Alpine water park

On our last day in Switzerland Pierce and I decided to do the most relaxing thing we could think of, visit Europe's largest water park, Alpemare, on an Alpine ridge outside of Zurich. We didn't really know what to expect, but it was definitly impressive. Tons of water slides cascading down the mountain, thermal iodine baths, a wave pool, a lazy river, everything a water park should have. And all on the edge of a mountain in the Swiss Alps. It was very cool.

One of the more interesting things I observed during the visit was yet another example of the completely different environment Europeans operate in in terms of legal liability. We were shocked to find at the water park that there were pretty much no attendants, anywhere. When you got on the slides, the only thing that kept you from going down whenever you felt like it and plunging into the person in front of you was a little traffic light. You could in theory go down whenever and in any way you wanted. And the slides were crazy! I came out with literal bruises! Same thing with the wave pool. With our wave pools in the states, there are lifeguards literally every five feet, and they're constantly blowing their whistles telling people not to do things. At this one, there was only one for the whole pool, and he was barely paying attention. He didn't even have a whistle.

And the lazy river? It felt more like you just fell out of a boat during white water rafting. It felt like we were moving about 50 miles an hour! You couldn't even stand. If you put your feet down, the current would drag you along, sliding all the way. Any lifeguard or attendant on this thing? Nope.

This is generally the case for everything in Europe. The doors on the trains, for instance, open before the train has even stopped moving. This would NEVER happen in the states. Why? Because someone would sue. And they could very easily win. Same thing with the water park. If someone decided to be an idiot and go down the slide before the light was green, or go down head first, or dive into the wave pool, in no European country could they ever win a lawsuit against the park. It was their own fault for being wreckless. The same would apply to someone who jumped out of the train early and fell and injured themselves. In the states, that person would probably win a big settlement. And I have to say, it was nice not to have these constant ridiculous warnings about the doors closing, or having lifeguards blowing their whistle at you every time you looked like you were even thinking about doing something stupid. It was very nice.

But this isn't the life lesson I was referring to in the title. Rather, as I was going through the rapidly flowing river, and finding myself unable to stand still or walk against the current (something I've always enjoyed doing at water parks before) I began thinking about my own life and what's been going on with my family. Trying to resist the current, I was only postponing the inevitable, and increasing the work and anxiety for myself. If I tried to keep my feet down and stay in place, I was only dragged along and ended up in the same place anyway, only slower. But if I accepted the direction of the current and allowed myself to float, accepting whereever it would take me, it was a much more comfortable ride. Perhaps it is a lesson I should take to heart, and that my father should as well. He's been having a very difficult time adjusting, but more on that in my next entry when I return to the states.

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