Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pool Patrol: Mali

Thankfully over the course of my three glorious summers at Oakridge Condominiums not once did I ever have to utilize my rigorous training in lifesaving skills. For the most part my First Aid was only applied to superficial knee scrapes and bee stings. The most serious emergency I ever had to respond to was this one time a severely autistic kid decided to see how far he could stick his hand into the wading pool filter and of course he could stick his hand all the way in but he couldn’t pull it back out. Replying to his cries I sprinted to the pump room, I pulled the levers to turn off the filter suction, drained the pool, and not knowing what else to do I called the Vista Fire Department conveniently located across the street. Within 60 seconds my fellow 12-graders Nate Vass and Wyatt Lansdale – Volunteer Firefighters – drove the fire truck down with the siren blaring, strutted across the pool deck in their full firefighting suits and were quite amused by this dire situation. Nate pulled the plastic filter entirely out of the concrete pool deck, and while he held the screaming, frantic kid’s hand in place Wyatt took out a small buzz saw and cut the filter in half. The child’s hand was unharmed, but I applied a Band-Aid to calm him down. Nate and Wyatt received a round of applause. And that was the closest I ever came to saving a life.

… That is, until I joined the Peace Corps.

I had just hours ago introduced my new kitty James Brown II to my lovely mud mansion and the garden of Xanadu. He was busy wandering around the papaya and banana trees, inspecting every square centimeter of his new home. I assume that he enjoyed the tranquility and shade of this living space devoid of cruel, tortuous children and cat-eating humans.

I decided to start irrigating the garden, so I removed the palm fronds which were temporarily serving as a well cover and lowered the Nafosoro pump’s intake hose. Rainy season had just started and Sanadougou had still seen only paltry precipitation to date, so the water tables were still so low that my 7-meter well contained less than a meter of water. I kicked the pedals up and down but before I could even adequately water a single tree my pump sucked up a soggy slurp; it had already hit mud.

I heard a distressing cry beyond the fence – Snoop Doggy Dogg wanted to come and wrestle. So I opened the gate and he started sniffing around and he smelt a new friend! : James Brown II. Snoop wanted to play!

Word up, brosef! You gonna think this place is dope!!! Let me smell yo ass so we kin have a propa intraducshin…”

James II freaked out! He had never seen anything like this before! So he bolted and ran to the far end of the garden and jumped for cover in what looked like a safe hideaway: the well. After 6.8 meters of silent free fall I heard a splash.

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!! James Brown II!!!”

“… Mewwwwww…”

“I am a Lifeguard trained to save you!!! Do you accept my offer of assistance?”

“… Mewwwww…”

“Okay, first thing I am going to do is reduce the volume of water in this well so as to remove you from immediate danger of drowning. Do not worry – help is on the way!!!”

“… Mewwwww?...”

“There was hardly even a single well-bag full of water in there!!! You are going to be just fine!!!”

“… MEWWWW!!!...”

“I’m still here!!! Now James, climb into the well-bag!!! I will hoist you to safety!!!”

“… Mewww…. Mewwwww…”

“James!!! Just climb into the fucking well-bag!!! I am not climbing down there without a proper helmet to ensure my own corporeal safety!!!”

“Mewwww!!!... MewwWWW!!!!”

“What’s that? You’re afraid to get into the well-bag because has neither sufficient volume or structural integrity to hold you without bending? Hold on!!!


“I said hold on!!! I just untied the well-bag and replaced it with a 20 liter plastic bucket! It is heavy and dense enough that I can lower it down to the well bottom and it will remain right-side up for you to climb up into it – and then I will hoist you to safety!!! Do you hear me?”


“Alright… good kitty!!! You’re in the bucket so just stay still!!! You’re almost at the surface!!!”

With only 1 meter left before ground level James II jumped up and tried to climb the remainder by the strength of his soggy claws.



While James had mere centimeters to go, I dropped belly first onto the now-muddy ground. With my left hand I continued to hold the rope for the bucket right in place beneath him – and with my right hand lunged for a firm grip around James’ collar bone. And I pulled the sopping wet kitten to my chest.

But for a few scrapes to the nose – it seemed like he had jumped face first into the wall of the well – James didn’t seem too hurt. But his fur was soaked, and he was shivering violently. Young kittens are largely incapable of maintaining a steady body temperature – especially when wet. Though it was 90 degrees out, James Brown II was in serious danger of hypothermia.

No matter how hot it was, the danger would remain so long as his coat remained wet and wicked body heat away from his extremities. So I brought him inside and dried him off with my fuzzy towel. Within a few minutes all I could do was continue fluffing his fur until it was bereft of moisture, and James took care of the rest licking with his dry tongue.

“That was a close one, James. You owe me big time – no more jumping in the well.”

“Yeah, and you owe me some formal top-well improvement so that I don’t have the urge to jump down there in the first place! How can I be expected not to do stupid shit? I’m just a cat, dig?”

“Point considered. Now let’s just hope that you spend your other 8 lives at a much slower pace.”

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