Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tasmania vs Public Liability Insurance

So I'm turning 30 soon, to which you might say "Oh, what do you want, a round of applause blog boy? You've found the Internet at 30, well done, aren't you just like one of those elderly white guys in a Chris Rock film who finds rap music and jives on down, well, next week you'll buy a walkman?" - actually, it really annoyed me last night, there was some soul singer wannabe on V who said something like "soul music is being embraced by youngsters, but if you ask a 25 year old, they'll say it always around!", and I wanted to beat her to death for her urchin cheek - and I'm having a party and I decided it would be quite fun to have a bouncy castle, you know, because pretending to be young is just so in right now. And to be honest, once I turn 30 I'll probably shrivel up and die and spend my time telling the kids about soul music from the 90s, but the problem with my hilarious plan is that I'm not allowed to have a bouncy castle because the bouncy castle people won't rent a bouncy castle to adult parties with alcohol because of public liability issues. Of course this is something of a shame, as it's always annoyed me that I can't just hurt myself on my own time without everyone thinking I'm going to sue. When I lived in Penguin, as I said before, our #1 piece of play equipment in the park was three bits of PVC piping joined together, each piece getting progressively smaller, that were full of what we prayed was rain water, and the other option was a killing machine of a flying fox. I had my leg ripped open on a slide at Ulverstone slide park (that place needs an entry) and I took all the skin off my neck running into uncovered tennis wire, and was rewarded with my Dad telling me I was making too much noise. Now the park in Penguin apparently has fenced off areas and crash mats - we only got crash mats at my old school if we were good, and if you had to a somersault onto a hardwood floor, well, that's how people got to the Olympics in those days. Of course, we were all sitting around listening to soul music young people, you didn't invent it you know...

This blog at some point took a sharp left turn into dealing with the issues of local pride, mostly after I saw the Think Falkirk campaign, but obviously, there are obstacles that the purveyors of local pride have to deal with. Fuel prices stop a motorbike convoy delivering toys, dis-interested communities fail to stump up volunteers, chosen fat guys who get the job as Santa suddenly have a dodgy past brought up - but nothing quite tops the burden of public liability insurance. Things have calmed down a bit since the hysteria of the early 00s, when every second day seemed to feature, certainly in the Mercury, some small children standing around a slide pulling a sad face because they nasty liability people wouldn't insure it or the annual Fingal Fete being shut down because the horses couldn't get insured. When I lived in Penguin, every single year there was a Xmas parade, in which kids could run alongside the fire truck and jump on the back of it and people would try and shoot them off with a hose or hit them in the head with lollies. Try running that event these days, see how you go. As far as early 80s public liability went, all we had was Wally the Wombat, the mascot of the Tasmanian fire service. Brilliantly (yes Kid Rock, we didn't have no Internet) a large part of the year was spent waiting for the new Wally The Wombat sticker to come out, with it's new safety message brought to us by the mascot with the mostess, Wally The Wombat. The excitement that would grip the North West Coast as we unpeeled the free "84, on fire, we declare war!" sticker from the free calendar the fire department sent us was palpable. And certainly, I learned a lot about safety from those stickers. I've never lit a fire in my life, so I did my bit - well, apart from the one at the fat guys house, the one who throw a Mars Bar at me while I hung off the edge of the fire truck. Anyway, the point is, it wasn't an issue in early 80s Penguin, no one was going to sue, but now, we have people pretending to fall in K-Mart, and it's causing community groups no end of grief. Not as much as the poor quality of Tim Tams at the meeting, but still, a lot of grief.

Now, I suspect it's a massive pain in the arse for, say, the Avoca Community Group to cover every we don't want to get sued eventuality every time they want to organise a market or Celtic dancing festival, and insurance is a huge enemy of local pride, but someone told me something once that I found really interesting...apparently lemmings don't kill themse...no wait, that's not it. Apparently one town in Tasmania (not Avoca, I wouldn't slur them like that) had their organising committee set up to sort out the end of year show - but they got to the end of year show, looked at the books, looked at the lack of volunteers, looked at the amount of effort vs the amount of time left in the year, and mostly how freaking lazy they had been all year in the Tim Tams vs actually booking celebrity guests and rides debate, and worked out that there was no way the end of year show could possibly take place. And then one of the committee members saw an episode of Bad Behaviour Caught on Tape, and saw someone pretending to fall over in an American casino, and decided they could simply blame all the failings on public liability insurance. So that's what they did, sorry kids, no show this year, the nasty insurance company won't cover our show, won't let us have ponies, better pose for the Mercury and look sad. Then the committee took the money they had and went to Queensland. The town was pretty upset that they didn't get their Xmas show, and pretty much ran the insurance company out of town and had a massive campaign against them waged in the church newsletter, at least, until someone from the PR department of the insurance company checked the phone records and found out they'd never been asked to supply insurance. One family doesn't live in that town anymore, that's for sure.

Still, it is a pain in the arse public liability insurance, not just because it stops me having a drunken bounce on the castle at my birthday party. I honestly think that one of the things that binds local towns together is their ability to hold events and bring everyone together, and it's a terrible shame when events like insurance issues stop them from happening. Bad weather, that can't be helped, but someone famous cancelling a speaking engagement at the last minute can really deflate a town and hurt the local pride the community is trying for when they create these events. I can still remember a particularly grim sausage sizzle - now, I love a sausage sizzle, which is completely different to a barbeque of course, which i suspect you all know anway, the differences being completely vast - outside Mitre 10 in Penguin back in the day where everyone just felt really lousy about living in Penguin on that particular day. And it wasn't even that we couldn't get insurance for the BBQ - it rained, the BBQ wouldn't light, the sausages were just horrendous, a big name guest didn't show up, the balloons they released floated away in the air - it was just awful, and everyone was cringing after all the effort the people organising the event had put into fliers and promotion. The final straw was a particularly difficult to raise inflatable which showed the independent spirit of a pre Cater 2 U Destinys Child, and threated to make a run for the railway tracks at any moment. And just when things were at their most dismal, a car full of bogans from Ulverstone drove past and said "Hey! Penguin sucks!" just as our inflatable finally broke free of it's moorings and limply collapsed to the ground, the perfect visual representation of our awful day.

Truly, no insurance based cancellation will ever, ever wound like those words...

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