No Policies

   As GCRG continues to mature, what we think, say and print seems to carry a bit more weight. In the past year we have gotten feedback on a few pieces we have run with criticisms of the industry. Both were written by past or present board members and the question was, “Do these represent the views of the board, GCRG as a whole, or just the authors of the article? Shouldn’t you make that a little clearer?”

   We all know that getting 500 boatmen to agree on anything is unlikely. And even within the GCRG board, there is usually some dissension on most everything. And just about everything we run, to some extent, has a bit of proselytizing and shooting off of mouth. Can’t be helped. And a lot of the same people with the energy to serve on the Board are the same ones with strong opinions and the motivation to write a story. Gray areas are what we’re talking here.

   We held a Board Retreat on St. Patrick’s day, and we batted this issue around. What we realized is that the whole journal is an editorial section, and the bottom line is that we must continue to maintain an open forum. We invite all points of view. That is our policy.

   A couple of us loudmouths at GCRG were recently called into a meeting with some local outfitters and managers. There were a few problems with a few guides, and our input was sought on what sort of policy should be adopted. And of course our policy is usually “no policy”. It was a good discussion and what came out of it was a better understanding of each others strengths and difficulties.

   Here’s the way I see it. Boatmen don’t like policies. This industry, more than most any other I can think of, is composed of rugged individualists who make their living showing people a good time out there on the edge. Pretty much every situation is unique; every circumstance is extenuating.

   Policies are always set at the lowest common denominator, often implemented as a reaction to one problem or one person. What usually happens is that everyone else is offended, and the problem is still a problem that needs to be dealt with. In other cases a policy may be used as thin excuse to get rid of someone that an outfitter wants to expel for more basic but perhaps undefinable reasons. This, too, causes more ill will than an up front, one-on-one handling of the problem would cause. Boatmen don’t like policies.

   Outfitters and managers, on the other hand, get various problems thrown in their laps. Bad letters. Hints and allegations. A boatman blowing it chronically. Fear of litigation. And it’s hard not to want to just make a few blanket polices. And I can see their side pretty easily. Because, the bottom line is, an awful lot of these problems could have, and should have, been dealt with on the river. And by letting things get to the point that they land in the bosses lap, we do each other and our passengers a disservice.

   We have the misfortune to live in the litigation-happy 90s. And we’re in the business of having fun. Oil and water. How do we make this work? We have to work at it a little harder. All of us.

   Bad letters don’t usually come from an isolated problem. It’s often a series of incidents, personality problems and so on that escalate. We need to make an added effort to nip it in the bud. If we’ve got a buddy with a chronic problem, be it grumpiness, drinking, or something, it’s not right to look the other way. As hard as it may be to deal with, we need to let them know it’s a real problem and try to help them address it. Because it’s a problem for all of us.

   And when I am creating a chronic problem, it’s not just me versus the outfitter. It’s affecting all my pards as well. I’ve got to bear that in mind.

   We ended the meeting with a couple pledges- The outfitter and managers agreed to deal with problems on an individual basis, and we agreed to urge boatmen, through an increased effort at on-river management, to give them less reason to want more policies.

   We as guides take pride in being problem solvers. And our job dictates that we push the envelope on a regular basis. We can do them both at once.

   Our policy: No policy. Deal with it.

Brad Dimock