The morning sun singed my stomach as we lay poolside, engrossed in a couple relatively mindless novels.
I was tearing through the last chapter of “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” eager to wrap up Stieg Larsson’s 1,500-plus-page trilogy I started months ago.
She was settling into Jonathan Kellerman’s “Bones,” her airplane reading selection for the 14-hour flight we had in store for us a few days later. Another summer, another wedding to attend in Ohio.
Our concentration, however, was interrupted by the manager of the apartment complex. He had strolled out on the deck to inform a pair of families celebrating a child’s birthday that blow-up rafts were not allowed in the pool.
The kids were in the midst of what can only be described as sheer joy before the manager sucked the air out of all their fun. A fantastic scene of fathers spending time with their sons was wrecked by ridiculous rules.
We glanced around the pool area. It was littered with signs, each beginning with “NO…” No running, no diving, no toys, no spitting, no splashing, no, no, no.
It would be easier if upon entry, there was a sign that told you what you were actually allowed to do. “You may sit in a chair and look longingly at the water.”
Unfortunately, the only things that weren’t banned, or at least not enforced, were more disruptive and hazardous to everyone’s health. I would gladly have accepted a sign forbidding smoking, loud radio music, excessive drinking and gawking at girls.
Instead, the two boys looked expectantly at their dads before launching into a crescendo of cries. They were given cool squirt guns as a substitute for their inflatables, but it was no use. The moment had passed. Wrecked by rules.
I’m sure there was a board meeting in which each “No” sign had an argument to back its merit, probably based more on liability than anything else.
But the reality is we live in a rule-driven society, enabled in part by our passive acceptance, that impacts our quality of life. Despite having the numbers and logical reasoning behind us, we too often simply adhere to the marching orders instead of standing up for what’s right.
Easier said than done at times, I suppose.
Had one of the fathers or myself spoken up, explaining that the rafts they were milling about the pool on posed no problem, maybe common sense would have prevailed. But then, some people love rules.
Maybe they weren’t loved as children, or had a tough time fitting in during high school. I guess all I want to convey here is my wish to return to a state where there’s some semblance of personal freedom, the kind where out of mutual respect we don’t do things that offend others. The variety that needs no signs plastered on fences and gates telling us what we aren’t allowed to do.