Opinion La Vida SoCal: Hoses for Hasselhoffs

Posted August 12, 2015 by The Argonaut in Columns

So what if the lifeguard in that brawl on the Venice Pier had dumped water on his attackers — more power to him

By Tony Peyser

Eyewitness video recorded the lifeguard pouring  water on his soon-to-be assailants after one attempted to climb up to his tower

Eyewitness video recorded the lifeguard pouring
water on his soon-to-be assailants after one attempted to climb up to his tower

Has society really come to this?

On July 31, two men and a woman got into a pretty brutal fistfight with a county lifeguard at the Venice Pier.

The first video of the incident to emerge — is anything not recorded by someone’s phone camera these days? — shows the lifeguard hopping down from his 12-foot tower on the pier and instantly getting pummeled by two decent-sized dudes. A credit to his calling, the lifeguard fought back admirably. Luckily, he also got some help from a bystander. There might be an aspect of cynical black humor somewhere in the idea of a person in the highly regarded profession of saving lives getting cold-cocked like that, but not for me. The footage is pretty ugly. Think “Cops” meets “Baywatch.”

These men and women are supposed to look great and act cool as they keep us safe, not worry if some grudge-filled sun worshippers want a piece of them. That’s as wrong as killing a mockingbird … or sucker-punching David Hasselhoff.

In subsequent reports, however, it seems that the aggressive beachgoers may have been provoked. Or, in legal parlance, “He started it!”

The fight apparently began after the lifeguard asked one of his soon-to-be assailants to put out a lit cigarette, as smoking is banned on the pier. Initial reports suggested that one in the group flicked the lit butt at the lifeguard, though a lifeguard captain told The Argonaut a day after the incident that he couldn’t confirm that.

Days later, a second video emerged that reveals more of what happened before fists started flying. First released by the Los Angeles Times, that video shows an inaudible exchange of words before one of the beachgoers tries to climb up to the lifeguard tower but is restrained by a pal on the ground. More words were exchanged, and then the lifeguard dumps a bucket of water on two of them moments before heading down the ladder.

The next thought on my mind is, of course, Enron — the Texas-based energy giant that went belly up in 2004. I remember feeling a sense of relief when that sordid saga was over until I heard a TV reporter wonder aloud, “What company will be the next Enron?” I was suddenly not feeling so relieved and later realized this was the moment that set the country towards the 2008 financial collapse.

Bearing that in mind, what other professions are now threatened by the kind of hooliganism we saw on the Venice Pier?

For openers, docents. You know, those art brainiacs who volunteer to give tours at museums. I see the story now: “Today at LACMA, a docent giving a tour of the museum’s 20th-century art collection was put into a headlock by a museumgoer who resented there not being a greater representation of abstract painters. Security guards intervened and the assailant was dragged out shouting, ‘I like the Ashcan School as much as the next guy, but c’mon! A little goes a long way!”’

The next newly risky profession would probably be librarians: “At the Santa Monica Public Library on Pico Boulevard, a shoving match broke out when a librarian told a man he had to pay a late fee for a book he had checked out months earlier. Onlookers were slow to intervene because the librarian — in keeping with the protocols of her profession — whispered for help, which initially delayed assistance from arriving.”

Enough kidding around, though.

The serious question is: Did the lifeguard provoke this violent incident by hurling water at the people in question?

The answer: Yes … and no.

Yes, because this kind of behavior clearly falls outside traditional methods of what’s generally known as “dealing with the public.” I figure just about anybody in a service-oriented job has wanted to do something like this at one point or another, but that’s how you get your ass kicked.

No, because when you consider the troublemakers’ thuggish behavior captured on video before and after the dousing, they didn’t deserve any better. These hotheads clearly needed to cool off.

Personally, I’m sorry this lifeguard didn’t have access to a high-power fire hose.

Yeah, I know, we’re in the middle of an historic drought, but a knuckle-dragger selfish enough to distract a lifeguard from guarding lives over some dumb personal beef deserves a sobering douse of cold water to the face.

If anyone wants to start a Kickstarter campaign to equip county lifeguard towers with hoses, I’m in.


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