Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NYC Waterfalls - Daily Glimpse & oh yeah, about that accident

One of the waterfalls in Olafur Eliasson's NYC Waterfalls public art installation. This is daily view during my morning commute, riding the B train across the Manhattan Bridge.

I do like that my workday is at least always bookended with a view of the East River and the harbor.

BTW, this is not the one the kayakers got stuck under. Not really going to comment on that because I wasn't there, I didn't see what happened, but I do know that I've been involved in a couple of tours where things went wrong & the scenario outlined in the post-problem trip review & discussions the guides had sounded an awful lot like that. Just didn't happen in the vicinity of a $15.5 million dollar public art installation with the harbor charlies on the spot.

OK...maybe I do have one point to make after all. 'Scuse me while I go all serious for a minute here.

(stepping up onto soapbox)

Those post-accident discussions can be painful - especially as a trip leader - because you had people you were responsible for & they ended up at risk while under your care. Done right, though, they can be an invaluable tool for any organization that's running regular tours. If it all degenerates to finger-pointing, that's not so valuable - but if everyone who was in charge can sit down & analyze the event as calmly as possible (not always easy, the leaders may be quite shaken) with an eye to really identifying what went wrong, when it went wrong, and if there was anything the leaders could have done to forestall it going wrong, good can come from bad. Hindsight being 20/20, you usually are able to find a point where if you'd done a instead of b, things would not have gone wrong, or the intensity of the event could have been lessened.

You learn from your mistakes, and you end up being a better guide.

Most sea kayakers are already familiar with this book, but it seems like a good time to plug it anyways. For some great examples of some excellent post-accident analyses involving some incidents FAR more serious than Saturday's, get your hands on a copy of Matt Broze's Sea Kayaker's Deep Trouble.

It is infinitely more pleasant to learn from other people's mistakes than from your own. You have to admire the people who consented to share their stories (with a few particularly chilling exceptions, I believe the articles are all based on the paddler or group of paddlers giving Matt Broze their firsthand accounts, which he then analyzes) for the magazine columns compiled in that book - very generous & brave of them to do so.

I'd say that even if I didn't know one of them. He's probably one of the better watermen I know, too.

evening note - I have a very nice neighbor who passes on kayak articles to me. Came home tonight to find a couple more about this incident. The interesting bit that I thought I'd mention - the Daily News mentions that the NYPD's taking a closer look at THEIR security plan. I didn't even think of that, but of course it makes so much sense - they've got responsibilities for people's safety out there too, and of COURSE they would look at this incident with the same "How did it happen, and how can we make sure it doesn't happen again?" eye as the trip leaders themselves may be doing.

Unfortunately there's doubtless something of a "How do we keep the same thing from happening to some other idiot in a kayak..." tone to the discussion - but I do still find it interesting that that a review of the plan was the response for them, too.

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