In the old days, the saying was “You don’t have to make a federal case out of it.” Today it would be “You don’t have to put it on the internet.”
At Frontier City’s Wild West Water Works in Oklahoma City, a family objected strenuously because their 8-year-old daughter’s prosthetic leg caused her to be banned from the water slide. The attendant stopped the family at the entrance to the ride, explaining that park policy prevented individuals with prosthetic limbs from sliding because it risked scratching the sides of the slide. The family decided to make a federal case out of it, and the dispute ended up on in the local media, then the national media, then the internet, then social media
The complaint was that the park didn’t have this restriction listed. Okay, good point. That doesn’t mean they were obligated to let the daughter scratch the slide with her leg. I can imagine other perils of sliding with an artificial limb that neither the park nor its insurance carrier would want to risk. It’s a shame the little girl was embarrassed and disappointed. My son was once similarly disappointed when a ride he wanted to go on had a height requirement. Too bad. I didn’t make a federal case out of it. Not every restriction can be listed on park signs; the longer the text, the fewer people read it.
The family of the rejected girl, however, did make a federal case out of it. They got the news media involved, and soon the park was putting out this:
“Our goal at Frontier City is to create family fun and fond memories for each of our guests while placing a priority on guest safety. Our Ride Admission Policy has been developed in consultation with industry professionals, based on the recommendations of the ride manufacturer, past experiences, and evaluations of each ride using knowledge of the ride in all operating conditions.Like many water parks across the United States, regulations regarding loose articles and medical assistance devices are enforced to ensure the safety of each guest. Unfortunately, we can’t allow loose articles, swimwear with exposed metal ornamentation, casts, certain limb braces, or prosthetic devices on certain slides at Wild West Water Works.We never want to refuse our guests the opportunity to enjoy our attractions, but we must also always follow guidelines that have been set by our industry to insure the safety of all guests. To avoid any confusion or heartache in the future, we will strive to make sure this is communicated better in advance by adding the restrictions to our website and ride signage. We deeply regret any disappointment caused to our guests due to our Ride Admission Policies. Again, our first priority is guest safety and our mission is to provide the best experience possible for all of our guests.”
The park sounds completely reasonable, professional and fair. But one family had to react to a minor disappointment by casting the Frontier City as a heartless villain and their child as a victim, resulting in dozens of news stories across the country, blog commentary and Facebook posts. Some things are not worth making a fuss about. Some things should be handled with a shrug, a quiet suggestion of a better way to handle things in the future, agracious goodbye and maybe a letter afterwards.. Every minor dispute doesn’t have to be the Battle of Waterloo.
I fear we are raising a generation of entitled and hair-triggered victim-mongerers, armed with little cameras and video recorders, ready at any provocation to turn every mistake, disagreement, disappointment or ill-considered glance into 15 minutes of infamy for anyone unfortunate enough to cross their paths. In the future we will all be spending so much time apologizing to each other and explaining to the media what we meant that it will be increasingly impossible to just live. The insatiable web and 24-hour news cycle makes shaming a constant threat to the most minor offender, and gives everyone the power, under the right conditions, to bend others to their will.
But I guess that dystopian hell will be worth it if the next child with an artificial leg knows she can’t use the water slide at Wild West Water Works before she gets to the top.