Burton on the Bay:

Candid Camera

Big Brother Is Focused on You

You're on Candid Camera.

You're on film now when you pass through some shoreside red lights, prompting one to speculate whether you might also one day out on the Chesapeake or other waters be on film to make sure you're properly dressed. In other words, that you're wearing your personal flotation device, your PFD.

All courtesy of Big Brother, the government. They're coming to help us some more.

As for filming intersections to nab those who run red lights, they're welcome. Buy stock in Eastman Kodak; it's going to take a lot of film to cover all the intersections that need monitoring.

Better still, buy even more film and start taking candid shots of those afflicted with road rage, get 8-by-10s of them with their middle finger up in the air or their mouths spouting obscenities. Same on the water where we're seeing more, shall we say, cruising rage.

On television we see (really you see, I watch the tube maybe 25 hours a year) life in film clips; everything is short, fast and not so sweet. Life is in the fast lane, and it's contagious.

No time to be considerate; courtesy is as old fashioned as a teakettle. Intimidation is in. On the road or the water, it's me-first, I'm in a hurry: a never-ending game of chicken.


The Camera Doesn't Lie

Maybe Big Brother's Candid Camera can help. It already has with some who run stop signs, even among those who slow down though don't quite stop. Also those others who try to beat the light, don't slow down at all, instead put their foot through the floorboards to zoom ahead. Me first.

Those who have been caught were never asked to say please or to smile; they were caught unbeknownst. Police are mounting cameras at selected troubled intersections; then when the film is reviewed, they can zero in on license tags as well as have a picture of the vehicle, maybe even the driver, and that's evidence enough.

The program is in its early stages, but the cameras are running, and no offenders I've yet heard of have been able to talk their way out of a violation. It's hard to convince a judge; the camera doesn't lie - much as we like to think it does when we see an unflattering picture of ourselves when Wal-Mart has developed that roll of film from the pool party.

Caught on film trying to beat the light an invasion of privacy? Tell it to the judge: you'll probably get the chance. You'll also probably hear "$100 plus costs, next case "

It was the same in the early 1950s when radar came on the scene. The units were cumbersome, couldn't be hidden, but no one was accustomed to them - and even as they become more familiar with radar, once they spotted the units, it was too late.

There were all kinds of arguments, usually to no avail. The radar read-out is akin to an 8-by-10 glossy print. Tough to deny. Even tougher today. Same ending, "$100, plus costs, next case "

And just in case you're thinking of an angle: Short lived was the argument that radar was unfair. Playing Candid Camera at intersections is likewise? Tell that to a judge or DMV.

All's fair in love and war - and also on the highways where the rotten drivers must be weeded out if we're ever able to once again feel secure when we go for a drive. The same goes out there on the water where courtesy once was the byword.

Fair? Are we to assume that it's unfair to use modern technology in the effort to combat bad drivers, fight death, maiming, drownings, banged fenders, hulls or worse? If you object, you've got to be a habitual offender, one who holds self-interest above the safety of others.

It was the same long before radar, when police began to use unmarked cars. Who's going to speed when behind them is a car with "police" painted all around it and with a big bubble gum machine on the roof?

What arguments there were back in that primitive age - i.e. "marked police cars cut down crime because people know the cops are around, it just isn't fair to have a policeman sneak up on you, what'll they think of next, a gadget to read your speed electronically or candid cameras?"

Enough on the latest technology courtesy of Big Brother who has something else in mind, of which many boaters are not yet familiar.


Big Brother's on the Water

Among regulations being considered by the Coast Guard - though curiously not well publicized until May 29, the day the period for public comment expired - is one to require boaters to wear PFDs while on the water.

Not carry them aboard; wear them.

Whew, that's a tall order. Requirements that boats have a Coast Guard-approved life preserver for everyone aboard have undoubtedly saved countless lives over the years, and this would undoubtedly save many more - but where can it end? Even more lives could be saved if boating were restricted to days when winds were less than five knots, weathermen saw no storms on their radar screens. Safer still if craft couldn't venture into waters deeper than the chest of the shortest person on board.

Come on, there's a limit. Now, when you board any kind of charter or other commercial craft, it's almost like being on an airliner prior to takeoff. The skipper is obliged to inform you where the life preservers are stowed.

But wearing 'em, come on. Kids and those who can't swim, sure that's reasonable. But everyone? The person who thought of that idea should be out on the Bay at anchor, chumming for blues or rockfish when the sun is bright, there isn't a breeze, the mercury hovers near 100 degrees. Big Brother should have to wear a cumbersome life preserver that day.

Even the new inflatables can get sticky on a hot, breezeless day. Maybe the regulations would make sense if donning a PFD were required when a boat is underway, say at something greater than trolling speed, which is slow enough to be safe - and almost as hot as being anchored when there is no breeze.

But somewhere, perhaps, we must consider that passengers - people - have some sense of responsibility. The skipper tells them where the life preservers are, the choice is theirs, as is the risk.

If one can't swim, the obvious choice is to wear a PFD; the same for kids, and the same when waters are whipped by winds or otherwise threatening. There have been occasions when I haven't hesitated donning a PFD - maybe not always fastening it - but having it ready when things got wild.

When in a high speed bassboat and ripping across the water at 50mph or better, it's on, zippered and strapped. Judgment plays a role in that decision.

Judgment should also have a place in the option to wear a life preserver under flat water conditions, say for chumming on a hot day. Heat exhaustion can take its toll, too. Enough said ...

| Back to Archives |

VolumeVI Number 24
June 18 - 24, 1998
New Bay Times

| Current Issue |