On a Monday the kiddos all have swim lessons. The lessons work out so that the younger three have lessons the first half hour and PrincessE has her lesson the second half hour. To pass the time, the younger three have a good time splashing about in a small, very shallow circular pool. It works out nicely.
On the last Monday in February, all was normal. The first set of lessons went well and the three and I went to hang out at the shallow pool. Over came a little boy who I have noticed is not spectacularly closely watched by his mother, which is problematic because he is about four years old at most. He has a tendency to be rambunctious and a bit of a risk taker and she is never particularly observant or concerned. (We'll call him "Wild" for the sake of this little story.) Wild jumped in the shallow pool as he is wont to do, he got back out. He threw toys over the edge. My kids ignored him. His mother stayed on the opposite side of the pool, chatting with another woman. Wild stood up and took off his water wings. He threw those into the deep end, which is right next to the small shallow pool. His mother didn't even look over. A few moments later, Wild hopped down out of the shallow pool, stood at the side of the deep end and jumped in.
I had been watching this whole time, mostly because I didn't want Wild to inadvertently hurt one of my kids. As soon as he jumped in, I glanced around. It was clear that he did not have the skills to be in the water without support and he began to struggle immediately. The lifeguard was not at her normal station and I didn't see any other adults around. Wild's head dipped under the water and I took the three or four steps to the side of the pool and slipped in, catching him with my left hand and all the while holding the wall with my right. I guided him to the side and by that point his mother and some people she knew were there. We all got out. There I was, soaking wet and feeling slightly sheepish, but I knew that I had done what I needed to to make sure that Wild was all right.
As I took stock of my own kiddos and what had happened, I realized that my brand new (less than three weeks old), Valentine's Day surprise gift from Dadam, iphone was in my pocket. I gasped, pulled it out and wrapped it in a towel. I felt like I didn't want to make a big deal about it because I was slightly embarrassed I had gotten in the pool in the first place. And I began to feel furious with myself and Wild's mother for being so incredibly irresponsible. I got the kids out of the pool and took them in the locker room.
Tuesday morning I began to brainstorm how to replace my phone. I called our renters insurance. No luck. I called Apple. No luck. I went to work. I came home. I felt hopeless and really pissed off. Wednesday I got a brainstorm to speak to the health club where the incident occurred. I felt like the lifeguard was perhaps neglectful in her duties and that they might be able to at least help cover some of the cost to replace my phone. I called and spoke to a manager. She said she'd make some calls and assured me she would call me that evening. Evening came and I didn't hear from her. The next day I did more research about purchase insurance on the credit card Dadam had used and left a message for the manager. Thursday evening I finally heard back from the manager. "I've spoken to our regional manager and he says there's nothing we can do for you. But I can provide you a letter that is proof of the incident for your insurance company." Okay, fine. I'll take the letter, I think to myself. At least it will be something.
However, during all this my frustration was growing. I began to wonder what sort of legal rights I might have. And so I asked a friend of ours who is a lawyer for some advice. He told me that if there was no lifeguard around, then I could take the health club to small claims court on the basis of neglect. Super! Except....I have seen, firsthand, the sort of toll that lawsuits and claims take on a person's life and well being. I was hardly able to handle four days of dealing with all the phone calls and stress. I really didn't want to drag this on for months. I also felt a great deal of misgiving about taking the health club to court. Lawsuits aren't something to be taken lightly. And I have many concerns about the litigiousness of American culture these days. I knew I had done the right thing and in doing so I took a risk. I wanted to take full responsibility for that. By threatening a suit was I evading responsibility?
On Friday I went in to the health club to pick up the letter and it was un-locatable. I got more than a little frustrated and, during my conversation with the general manager, revealed that I had spoken with a lawyer about what my rights might be. He immediately began blustering about opening a full investigation and if the CCTV showed that I was lying, then I would just have to deal with that. It was uncomfortable and I would be lying if I said I wasn't beginning to doubt that I had done the right thing. What if the CCTV showed that I had panicked and jumped in without giving the lifeguard a chance? Well then, I'd just have to remember to take a deep breath and look around before jumping in next time. But I didn't think I had. I really remembered there being no.one.around. I urged the manager to initiate the investigation and privately wondered why they hadn't been able to self-start that sort of action. Though I really doubted that anything would come of it, anytime in the near future.
Saturday I had enough. A couple of friends had urged me to physically go in to an Apple store and tell them my story. They all seemed quite sure that Apple would replace the phone, free of charge. I felt really ambivalent about taking advantage of that potential offer. It also wasn't Apple's fault that I had my phone in my pocket while I was poolside and it certainly wasn't Apple's fault that Wild jumped in or that Wild's mother wasn't paying attention. I just didn't know what to do. There was a possibility that they would charge me a replacement fee. Dadam and I had discussed it and we both were willing to pay (less than full price of a new phone, but still not small change) just to be done with the situation. So I went. The kids and I took a lovely day out and combined it with a trip to the massively heaving mall. (It was so incredibly busy I made all the kids hold on to me because I was afraid I'd loose someone!) We got to the Apple store, I told my story and the lady said they'd give me a new one. I nearly cried right there in the store. I signed some paperwork and walked out with a brand new phone.
The rest of the weekend was nice. The kids and I had a great time together, though The Boy-child did have a bit of a rough football match, and Sunday night as we were getting ready for dinner the phone rang. It was the manager from the health club. "We've had a look at the CCTV and spoken with the lifeguard. We'd like to offer you full replacement value for your phone." I told her it had been taken care of. And thanked her for getting back to me. I felt relieved and vindicated and good. I was right. I did the right thing.
I'm no longer carrying my phone pool-side. No way. It occurred to me that were it my own child, I'd get in even faster. And I don't want to hesitate because of a stupid phone.