Ever see a German Shepard that cowers and tucks his tail between his legs when the aggressive little chihuahua barks at him? Well if David were an animal, he would've been that chihuahua. At 40 years old, he MAY have weighed 100 pounds. He had cerebral palsy and could only walk if he wore leg braces and held on to someone for stability. He was deaf and could not speak. But despite all of these things that would (to most) put him at a disadvantage, staff and housemates alike all knew that David ruled the roost.
One summer we took David and his housemates to the now defunct Seaworld which used to be in Aurora, Ohio. It was hot. We had limited money and could only buy SO many $8 lemonades before we had to say enough was enough. We needed to find alternative ways to cool off the increasingly grumpy group. Then it hit me...Shamu The Killer Whale.
The Shamu show was the BIG show. It was in the largest outdoor pavilion they had and most importantly, it was covered. Shade. That's all I cared about. We were like a group of nomads lost in the desert and I was the fearless leader that would guide us to the oasis. Not only did I get us to shade safely, I managed to get us there early enough that we could sit in the Splash Zone - the section of seats that got wet when the whales, dolphins, and manatees did their tricks and splashed the crowd.
We sat down with our achy feet and sat there for a while just letting the breeze from Lake Erie dry our sweat. Staff was happy. Residents were happy. It was the solace we needed.
The show started and went as expected. The dolphins jumped up and through big rings. The Walruses waved. The seals clapped and balanced balls on their noses. The manatees performed their own special version of Swan Lake. And then it was time for Shamu. We all clapped and cheered as the woman in the wet suit narrated Shamu's journey from wherever he came from to his new and happy home in Aurora, Ohio (because obviously a whale would rather live in a chlorinated tank than in it's awful home in the big bad ocean).
"Shamu! Wave to all of the friendly people!" she said. Who knew that those eight words would send my day into chaos? Shamu swam past, waving his fin and splashing us with big, hard slaps of his tail.
I had neglected to tell the residents that they were going to get splashed and turns out David was not pleased.
Off came one of the hard plastic leg braces. Then the other.
Before we knew what hit us, there was David, soaking wet with his glasses half on his face and half off, wielding his leg braces like ninja swords and swinging at whoever and whatever was within reach. Before we were able to climb over those few seats to reach him, he had managed to hit two of his housemates and two strangers (a middle aged man and a teenage boy) with his legs. He screamed, yelled, and spat in the air. The Seaworld program he had been carrying was launched up and over the low glass wall right into the water where Shamu was.
Luckily, we were well staffed and two of us were able to get him up and out of the pavilion (the trip to the car would be a whole story in and of itself) while other staff consoled housemates, profusely apologized to the people that were physically assaulted and spit on, and gathered David's leg braces.
I thought it was a great idea. I thought I was doing a good thing. I knew that everyone would be thrilled with the splash. Turns out that I was very, very wrong. David did not like surprises. He did not like being suddenly splashed with freezing cold water. He did not like being so close to what, to him, seemed to be a very large and threatening killer whale that was swimming unnaturally close.
Moral of the story: just because you think something is a great idea, that doesn't mean that you are right. Feelings don't trump facts.