Rant for Responsibility

I will take all of the credit, and none of the blame.

What is it about our culture today that makes that concept pretty much universally accepted?  Recently, I was seriously injured in a surfing mishap.  I can’t call it an accident, because I still don’t know whether or not the girl on the massive purple longboard meant to hit me in the spine.  As a naturally charitable person, I assume she didn’t mean to plow into me like a runaway train, fracturing two vertebrae in my back and sending me to the hospital.  I assume that the reason she paddled back out, rather than offering help, is that she genuinely believed that I was alright… even though she asked if I was OK, and I said “No.”

After that day at the beach, a lot of my friends- including the guys I was surfing with that day- thought I should sue Purple Longboard Girl.  They thought she ought to shoulder the burden financially for the astronomical medical bills, and the six weeks of pain and suffering I endured while confined to a bed.  They thought she should pay extra since I live on a sailboat, and the injury meant spending a month with my in-laws, who live forty five minutes inland, where there’s not trace of salt air, nor a glimpse of a breaking wave.  From all sides, I was being lectured on how she should have taken the blame for a mishap that was so clearly her fault.

It made me stop and think about how we distribute blame.  I chose to surf Churches on a Saturday afternoon in July, when it was only three feet high.  I chose to paddle over to a peak that was dominated by long boarders, when I was surfing my fat boy fish.  I chose to catch the first wave of the set.  I chose to surf around the girl on the purple longboard, who was lying flat on her board, looking at the beach but not paddling anywhere.  I chose to trust that people in the lineup know what they are doing, and have control of their boards.  I chose to turn around to grab my board after I’d kicked off the wave.  So whose fault was it for my spine getting smashed- hers, or mine?

Listen, Purple Longboard Girl, if you’re reading this: I forgive you.  Everyone is a kook at one point- no, scratch that- everyone is a novice surfer at one point.  It only makes you a kook if you hit someone hard enough to break their bones, and don’t even get out of the water to see if you can help.  It makes you a super-kook if you see them loaded into an ambulance, and don’t paddle in to apologize.  So, I forgive you, and only you know whether not you’re a kook.  But if I may make one suggestion for the next time you paddle out into a crowd of a hundred?

Ride a soft-top.  And for goodness sakes, open your eyes when you’re moving.

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