Monday, May 30, 2011

Oh No, Poor People! Close The Beach!

Officials in Chicago close North Avenue Beach due to heat. It was 88 degrees. The water temperature was 53 degrees. Sounds like a good way for people who may not have air conditioning to cool off-so they closed it. Oak Street Beach (close by, but in a posher neighbourhood) remained open.

It sounds like the officials and police panicked because there were throngs of working class people in one place. People pass out from heat exhaustion all the time without officials closing beaches. Then again, in the 24 years I spent living there, I never heard of Lake Shore drive being closed due to snow-so who knows, maybe there's some sort of collective madness at play. What's more, the people passing out were young and otherwise healthy...suppose maybe they had a few too many beers on a hot, holiday at the beach? Yeah, my money is on drunk. 88 degrees F. simply isn't hot enough to cause healthy, young people to fall over without the aid of alcohol. I say that as someone who even as a small child could not tolerate the heat and spent nearly every excursion to an amusement park puking my guts out before I got anywhere near a roller coaster. Still, I lived in a place with severe winters and ungodly summers that routinely went above 100 degrees F. for a week at a time. That's when people die-in the heatwaves. I sure hope they aren't planning to close the beach come July and August when people really need the lake to cool off-they'll be dealing with hearses lined up around the city morgue like they did in the late 90's. Passing out is surely better than dying, isn't it?

The logic that they cleared the beach to let in emergency vehicles makes no sense. All those people leaving, in a rush would impede ambulances worse than clearing a path in and out. North Avenue beach isn't that hard to get in and out of, you could even drive on the bike path, in an emergency (which I did one night, accidentally- I swear I was sober, just lost).

I'm sorry, I just don't buy this, and were the crowd really testy, they would have had a damn riot on their hands rather than people leaving annoyed, but quietly. Don't these officials know how to lie anymore? Really, I'm serious. If you're going to pull a stunt like closing a public beach on the first hot day of the season because there are too many poor minorities in one place and it makes the police uneasy, you need to come up with something better than, "people were passing out." You do. Take the extra five minutes and come up with something plausible, like toxic waste in the water. That's how you clear a beach in Chicago. Hell, we wouldn't even swim when the alewives were washing up on shore in the 70's and that didn't pose a health risk.

Still, they close the beach? Are they serious? On a holiday weekend? What are they planning to do if the crowds at Taste of Chicago get too large, pull a '68 and start lobbing tear gas to clear Grant Park? Geez.

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