Moral Hazard

I am just back from RIAT – The Royal Interntional Air Tattoo at Fairford in rural Gloucestershire. I went with my boys, 9 and 6. That’s not their names. This is our 5th year.  There’s a show on Saturday and Sunday.This year we decided to go on both days. It was great.

There’s 80,000 visitors per day. It’s a great environment for kids – basically no cars. It’s a playground 2 miles long and 400 yards wide.

If you lose your kids they will be safe. But how do you find them?

They have a system – when you arrive you get a wristband for the kids with your mobile number on it. We have used this system every year. We have yet to lose our kids, but they have often strayed and have alluded to the wristband as their insurance policy. They allow themselves a wide perimeter – 30 or 40 feet, but that’s plenty to get lost in in a crowd of 80,000 people.

This was stressful for my wife and me. It took constant supervision and the children clearly felt no risk. My wife couldn’t come this year – had to deal with her late father’s estate.

So it was me and two kids, for two days, in a huge playground with 80,000 people. Hmmmmm. I am feeling outnumbered. Time for new tactics.

Me and the boys walked through the gate on Saturday morning. The nice man with the single tooth in the middle of his upper gum (really) informed me about the wristband system but I declined.

Boy1 said “what if we get lost.” I said “well then, you’re lost.” Boy2 stared at me. That’s not their names either.

The kids were shocked.

What happened?

The boys never strayed more than 15 feet from me at any time during the entire two days. They weren’t fearful, they had simply moved their locus of security from a wristband to their father. They had a great time. Boy1 declared it the best airshow ever. Boy2 agreed through a mouthful of chips.

The wristband is a safety net. I guess safety nets serve a purpose. But if they change behaviour, as the wristband system had done with my boys on previous years, then maybe they are not really a safety net. (The marshalling yard for lost wristband wearers was mobbed with tearful kids at kicking out time – maybe their parents couldn’t get a mobile signal, as I couldn’t. It is rural Gloucestershire after all.)

I guess the question is – do you have any safety nets that change your behaviours and if so, is it a change for the better?

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