Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dark waters

I do not understand people. This should not come as a surprise to me, but I am actually always surprised by how people behave and react. I am especially surprised how people act with children, whether theirs or others. They just make no sense.

I bring this up because of behaviors I have seen on a regular basis over the last decade and a half of working at renaissance festivals. I understand that ren faires are fun magical places where rules are apparently different, but seriously people they are not that different. Basic common sense should still apply.

I could tell you all about the horror stories of parents allowing their children to run with swords, grab the unsheathed blades of swords and knives (sometimes ending in blood shed), allowing their young children to swing about swords with no concern for their surroundings, or (my favorite) allow their children to lick the blades of swords. All of those are terrifying tales that would make you question why people are allowed to breed without a license.

What I am going to tell you about is the ongoing saga of the fountain.

In front of my shop stands a fountain. It is about six feet tall but only a few feet wide. It has a raised square base with a square pillar coming out of the center. Years ago there were multiple streams of water coming from the pillar and landing in the basin bellow. Now only one of the streams actually works as expected and the rest of the hoses merely dribble water out of them. Still it is effectively moving water in an eye and ear catching fashion.

The fountain has always been the focal point of our shop. It is the first thing you see or hear from our shop. It can be seen from quite a distance. When people get close to it they want to take a picture of it or with it. Heck I have several photos of it in my photo a day project. It is really pretty.

The other thing people like to do is stick their hands in the water. They like to wash their hands in it, splash the cool water on their faces and arms, and clean off dirty children with it. They also like to encourage their children to play and splash in the water of the fountain.

This is not alright!!

Perhaps I should explain.

As lovely as the fountain is, the fountain is actually filthy. I mean seriously seriously filthy. I mean I wouldn't even allow my dog to drink from the fountain it is so dirty. I go and immediately scrub my hands with soap if I have to touch the fountain water.

We do not clean the fountain. Ever. There have been years we drained the fountain and scrubbed it out and put some chemicals in it, but that hasn't happened for years. Now we are lucky if we throw a little bleach in it at the beginning of the season.

During the days people like to throw things in the fountain. Soap chips are the most common thing tossed in the water, which oddly makes the water turn a strange milky color and have an oily consistency. There is of course all of the red clay dust and bits of pine tree that get into the water. Children like to throw trash and turkey bones in. Currently there is a bloated half eaten pickle that Lena is calling George lounging in the bottom of the fountain.

At night I can not say what happens to the fountain. There are a lot of drunks wondering around the sight at night so there really is no telling. I can say for certain in years past I have found out that people have urinated in the fountain on a regular basis and on more than one (or 10) occasion vomited in the fountain. Like I said it is at night and I can't really say what happens.

So what you have is a algae covered rock basin full of water that contains heavy chemicals, bodily fluids, and rubbish filled water. This is not clean or sanitary. We can try and keep it clean but really the best we can do is skim the trash out and throw in more cleaning chemicals to try and kill whatever is alive in there.

Still people play in it and bathe their children in it.

I know, you are thinking "But beylit how would they know it is filthy?"

Well for one thing if you look at the water it is pretty sketchy looking. It has a strange milky oily appearance to it and if we haven't had the chance to skim the trash there is that. Still most people don't look at the water in the basin, they only focus on the fact that it is moving water so they think it is clean.

Also there is the fact that this is an outdoor fountain. It is out in nature that also happens to be what is basically an outdoor shopping mall. I don't know about you but my mom wouldn't let me touch the water of a fountain in an indoor shopping mall let alone one outside.

Still they touch it and bathe their children in it.

I know they still don't know that it is as filthy as it is. I know a little dirt is good for kids because it helps build the immune systems. Dirt is not the enemy.

Did I mention I wouldn't let my dog drink this water let alone wash the face of a 6 month old baby with it? Yes that happens all the time.

Now normally if we see this happening we will shout a warning to the unsuspecting parents. We will tell them that the water is dirty and if they need to wash or cool down their child, or themselves, that there is a bathroom not 50 yards away from where they are standing. At least the water in the pipes is sanitary.

Most of the time they will listen and thank us for the warning. Most of the time.

Today I watched as a young mother allowed her 4 year old to play in the fountain. I mostly ignored it as he skimmed his hand over the water and just inwardly cringed. It was gross but it was nothing too foul. Then he stuck his arm in all the way to the shoulder. Normally when this happens it is older children stealing the coins that other kids have tossed in as wishes (which I stop them from doing and give them a stern lecture about stealing other peoples wishes). His mother just watched him as though it was nothing.

That is when he stuck his hand in his mouth.

After I repressed the urge to vomit in my own mouth I ran outside where his mother was telling him not to suck on his fingers in that tone that clearly said she wasn't going to actually stop him or punish him for whatever he was doing and would obviously continue to do. This kid obviously know he could do whatever he pleased.

I quickly walked up and kneeled down in front of the child and mother and as politely as possible explained how gross and nasty that water was. I explained that it would  most likely make him ill if not give him a rash for playing in it. I basically pleaded with her to take her son to the bathroom and at least wash his hands lest he continue to suck on his fingers.

The mother really didn't acknowledge me. The boy just stared at me. He didn't listen to his mother, why should he listen to me?

I went back inside as there was nothing I could do. I had to sit and watch helplessly as the boy, now feeling defiant, continued to stick his hand in the fountain up to his shoulder. It was only then that I realized he was pulling small rocks from the bottom of the fountain and shoving them in his mouth to suck on. Choking hazard was the least of his worries.

The mother never once tried to stop him despite the warnings we gave her. She never once really looked to see what he was doing. She never took him to wash his hands. She just let him play in and effectively eat what she was informed was filthy.

The worst part of this is the fact that something like this happens on a daily basis. For every family that immediately wipes down their baby with baby wipes after being informed the water is gross, there are five families that do absolutely nothing if not encourage their kids bad behavior.

Far be it from me to tell anyone how to parent their children what with me having none of my own at this time. Still I can't be the only person who sees this as a parenting fail.

So let this be a lesson to one and all. Just because water is moving and in a public place does not mean that it is something you want to play in. Well that is unless you want hives.

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