There’s gotta be a way to make it behave
The world would run better
If it was run our way…”
—KONGOS, The World Would Run Better
"What are you doing?" one of the younger girls called out to the older woman.
At this point I floated calmly in the river on my pink donut floaty, courtesy of another hotel guest who was leaving the next day. He wanted another family to have fun with the two floaties they'd been using and didn't want to take home. We gladly took them.
My wife basked in the sun on a nearby lounge chair. Our two girls jumped and splashed in the pool, one of a few the lazy river flowed throughout the resort. Not too far away a sign on the side of a bridge read: All hotel guests must wear a wristband in pool areas.
I noticed the two teenage girls and their mother didn't have wristbands, but I didn't worry about it. Other guests were pointing it out every chance they could. I was too relaxed in my floaty to care, and then the mother said something I couldn't shake.
"For as much as I paid for our breakfast at this place, I'm going swimming."
She swam around for only a minute, pulled her heavy body out of the water and left with her two girls, both with expressions of embarrassed surprise. There it is, I thought. It wasn't that I cared she went swimming without being a hotel guest. I've "jumped the pool fence" a few times in my life. It was the idea that she was owed the pleasure. That she was due. That she was entitled to something else because for whatever reason she couldn't have otherwise due to screwed economic circumstance. And she was clear with her children that it was okay to feel this way.
The next day as we lounged in our small covered cabana, that we paid for, and which sounds a lot more glamorous than it is, another group of non-guests swam by and one of the guys said, "Look at those fancy celebrities."
Wow. And we even packed our own drinks and snacks to save money. At that moment I realized how apologetic I had been about our summer family vacation, still sensitive of surviving the great recession. Prefacing the family fun with the fact that I wove together credit card miles and points to make the vacation magic. Feeling almost guilty about investing in fun and family memories.
Almost, but not quite. I shouldn't feel that way, I know. We work hard to have the little we have, but we weren't due. We weren't owed. We weren't entitled to it because. We made the vacation happen because we could. Nothing more.
Many of us can be and have been victims of circumstance. Getting the shaft and the short end of the stick due to financial forces beyond our immediate control. But it shouldn't mean we have a right to take because of it. This behavior has diminishing returns, and when it's played out again and again, and it is, we perpetuate the painful socioeconomic disparities that can and do lead to greater conflict.
It's like witnessing a century-old sea turtle swimming alone in the shallows of a crowded beach. We can either swallow it whole like a monster, or learn to co-exist in the unforgiving surf.