Sortie En Mer; Drown, Then Buy a Lifejacket

Thursday, April 24, 2014

I almost drowned 9 years ago. It remains one of the single most terrifying moments of my life. Swimming has since, although it used to be a favorite activity, become difficult to manage without panicking. For anyone that has come close, it's an experience you won't ever forget. You are simultaneously fighting against gravity, the water and your own body. Every natural reflex your body has will only help you drown faster. Overcoming the urge to breathe while your lungs burn and mustering the endurance to keep moving your arms and legs is more difficult than most would imagine.

Today I heard about a browser based "drowning simulator." Knowing very little else about what I was about to experience, I looked it up. After experiencing Sortie En Mer myself, I have to say I feel as though I've been played. 

It is an interesting exercise. The simulation puts you in the perspective of someone who is knocked off a boat. You must keep your head above water by scrolling without stopping. A small display on the right shows you an approximation of your depth, body temp and heart rate. Very quickly, you realize that you must continue to scroll faster and faster. Inevitably you give up, through physical and mental exhaustion. That's when it's all over. You stop fighting, stop screaming, sputtering and coughing. Your life flashes before your eyes. You awake one last time to see the dune like patterns of sand on the bottom of the ocean.

Then it happens. A message appears on the screen reminding you to wear a life jacket at sea. It's sound advice, I'll give it that, but still rather abrupt.

It turns out, the "simulation" is an advertising and life jacket awareness campaign from Guy Cotten, a clothing company specializing in cold weather and survival gear for fishing and yachting. 

I can't fully explain why this rubs me the wrong way. I understand the importance of life jackets and proper safety gear, especially at sea. I think I expected it to come from a different source. Rather than from a clothing company that I could imagine has other motives besides the "common good" in mind. It doesn't make light of drowning, no, but the added nudge of "buy some of our things" is enough to put me off.

I don't recommend drowning. I can't recommend Sortie En Mer to most people. But if you know someone who is hesitant to wear a life jacket, it may be exactly what they need to realize the *ahem* depth of their negligence.