Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Full El Monte

It’s been a tough year for lifeguards.

First, there was the young man in Florida who was fired because he made the bad decision to save the life of someone drowning in a section of the beach that his company wasn’t being paid to watch. Then there was the fellow lifeguard who was fired for acknowledging that he would have done the same thing.

And now there are the 14 El Monte, California, guards who got the hook after posting a YouTube, “Lifeguard Style,” that spoofed a wildly popular (well over 200 million views) video done by Psy, a Korean pop star.

Apparently, the spoilsports at Sony or Google won’t let me do an embed here, so you’ll have to click through to YouTube, but here you go:

The El Monte 14
This is cute and funny enough on its own – a bunch of healthy young folks obviously enjoying themselves, but when you look at the video it’s parodying, it gets even better

The world gets smaller, and crazier…

All made funnier to me because I first  heard the words as “Condom Style,” not “Gangnam Style.”

For those who aren’t familiar with Condom Style Gangnam Style – which, when I wasn’t hearing it as Condom Style, I was reading it as Gangman Style:

Gangnam is a wealthy neighborhood in the South Korean city of Seoul where young people go to party. In the song, Psy describes the kind of guy he is and the kind of girl he wants, painting caricatures of the ostentatious culture of people who hang out in Gangnam. (Source: NY Daily News.)

As for the El Monte lifeguards:

Supporters thought the goofy video brought good-natured attention to El Monte and offered a rare opportunity to market the city of 114,000 people.

City officials disagreed. Supervisors in the Parks and Recreation Division called the lifeguards — as well as a manager who did not appear in the video — into a meeting in which they were asked to review pages from a staff manual.

Then, the 14 part-time employees — mostly college students making $9.54 to $14.20 an hour — were fired.

In a statement, officials said the lifeguards made an "unauthorized video" that used city resources without permission, namely distinctive red lifeguard swimwear and the city pool itself.  (Source: LA Times.)

What a bunch of stiffs those city officials must be.

Who cares if they used those city resource bathing suits, which didn’t look all that distinguished to me. I’ve seen Baywatch. Doesn’t every lifeguard in California wear a red suit? And do they actually re-use the suits or share them one guard to another. (Ewwwww.) And if those guards were working later that day, what’s the big difference if they put the suit on a couple of hours early?

As for using the city pool, it pretty much looked like they were doing this during off-hours, so what was harm? Okay, I guess there was some liability – what if one of them bonked their head or slipped on the edge of the pool. But it isn’t exactly as if they were ignoring someone doing the dead man’s float for real, or a kid with a diaper leak, or a teenager cannonballing onto the neck of the some old lady doing geriatric aquarobics. Sheesh.

Those fired – which apparently included at least a couple of folks who didn’t actually participate in the video – were given no warning, no notice, no nothing.

Firing these lifeguards – most are college students – seems way disproportionate to the offense. Maybe a verbal or written warning. Or a day without zinc oxide on their nose.

But firing?

The functionaries who made this decision have to be a bunch of humorless cranks, that’s for sure. Sure, there’s a little vulgarity in the video, but on the vulgarity continuum, it’s pretty tame – especially for this day and age.  But mostly the video just looks like some kids having fun. And I suspect they had fun coming up with the idea, choreographing it, rehearsing, etc.

Aren’t organizations looking for employees who understand technology, social media, creativity, and collaboration? Aren’t these good things?

Not in El Monte, I guess, where at least a few of the town sachems felt the guards were lacking in propriety, and embarrassing the city. (A city that, of course, most people have never even heard of.) 

As I see it, the only ones being embarrassed should be the officials who’ve made El Monte out of El Molehill.

Meanwhile, the El Monte 14 are fighting back.

They’ve appeared at a City Council meeting to defend themselves. And, not surprisingly, they’re using the social media – which, of course, was how they got into trouble to begin with. But which can certainly be well-mobilized for their defense.

You can sign a petition to support them here.

Bring back the El Monte 141

(Marco. Polo. Marco. Polo.)

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