The story of that 16-year-old girl who was sailing solo around the world and ran into trouble in the middle of the ocean got me thinking about the whole rescue business. Isn’t there something mildly galling when someone undertakes a hazardous vanity stunt and then expects the world to come to their rescue when something goes wrong?
A rescue effort — with search teams, planes, boats, and helicopters — can not only be wildly expensive, but dangerous to the searchers. I remember covering the story of a Chicago area sportswriter lost in the mountains of Colorado. One of the planes searching for him crashed, killing at least one crew member. (As I recall, the sportswriter’s remains were found the following spring.)
I’m not talking about rescue/search efforts to assist someone who had been engaged in the ordinary activities of life –including recreational activities. That’s one of the traits of a caring society– we try to help someone in a jam, even when the rescue efforts are expensive and pose a risk to the helpers.
But when someone is trying to do something that smacks of self-aggrandizement (“Look, Mom, I’m trekking across the Antarctic, solo, at age 13!), why should society have to go through heroic and expensive efforts to be someone’s personal back-up crew? Just how much should the rest of us pay to be the safety net for somebody else’s quest for personal glory?