The lawyers are coming, the lawyers are coming!

How many ways are there to entertain a 9-year-old in Europe? Apparently at least two: the American way and the local way. Guess which one requires more legal waivers?

On Sunday my daughter and I decided we needed a swim. And with most outdoor pools already closed for the season here in Sofia, we turned to the Holiday Inn.

To be sure, it’s a swanky setup. There’s a jacuzzi and miles of picture windows and a sauna hot enough to poach an egg. But first we had to sign a pile of documents. Did we examine all the rules? Check. Agree to supervise our children? Of course. Sign away all legal rights forever in the unlikely event that something unfortunate occurs in said pool? Naturally.

Holiday Inn Sofia /

We had a very nice swim. But for the two of us it cost $24 US for a single visit, plus $4 more for an exquisite bottle of Italian water, thank you very much.

On Monday we went to Kokolandia, a ropes course at the southern end of the magnificent Boris’s Garden, Sofia’s forested city park. For $2.75 US  and not a single signature, my daughter hitched into a harness and climbed happily up into the trees. She clambered over obstacles, grunted past obstructions, pleaded once or twice for divine intervention, and flew down a zipwire. “I can’t believe I did it!” she said afterwards.

Is it safe? Yes, I believe it is. The equipment is in decent shape and the instructors carefully teach kids about the golden rule: never unclip both of your safety lines at the same time when you’re going round an obstacle. They watch beginners most carefully, and then trust – yes, trust – that kids and their parents will keep following that rule and stay safe.

Of course, Kokolandia would give any self-respecting corporate attorney heart palpitations. If Americans got hold of the place, it would be shut down at once.

The American Bar Association has said Bulgaria is making steady progress in bringing its legal profession up to Western standards. I’m sure that’s good news. But if there’s a little delay in passing out all those waivers in Eastern Europe — and declaring open season on the personal injury lawsuits that have America tied up in knots — there will be no complaints from me.


3 thoughts on “The lawyers are coming, the lawyers are coming!

  1. Hey, I found your blog recently (thanks to Karolinka) and I think it’s really interesting and you have really good points about life in Bulgaria. But don’t you think the American health and safety obsession is way over the top? Not to mention the perverse desire to sue everyone for everything.
    We used to ride in cars without seatbelts and airbags. Medication bottles didn’t have secret caps; we drank water straight from the street fountains rather than from plastic bottles. We have never even thought to ride a bike wearing a helmet. We used to make our own improvised carts of boards and bearings found on a dump, and only when we already flew downhill remembered that we forgot to put any brakes. We used to leave the house in the morning, play outside all day and go home when the streetlights were on. And during all this time no one knew where we were. There were no mobile phones, can you imagine! Several kids ate a single ice-cream and drank lemonade from one and the same bottle – and nobody died. No computers, 3D games, CDs, GSM, 160 channel cable TV, internet! Rather we had friends and freedom. We used to hang outside alone in this cruel and dangerous world. Without security and nannies. How did we survive? Our deeds were our own and we were ready for the consequences. We fell down, heart ourselves on the playground, had bruises, hit our knees and elbows – but nobody ever judged or sued anyone. We took responsibilities for our deeds and we had to blame ourselves for everything.
    I wish we could keep some of this freedom and self responsibility and pass it to our children rather than inflict them the idea that someone else is responsible or guilty for what happens to us or the paranoia that everything is dangerous and unsafe. This is one of the things I can not perceive from the US way of life and thinking.

    • Hey, thanks so much for the great comments! And I totally agree. I guess I like airbags and some other things that have really made life safer, but I personally think the litigation culture of people constantly suing each other in the U.S. has gone too far.

      You ought to be able to sue someone if they did something maliciously careless and hurt you, I suppose; no one wants to eat contaminated food, for example. But some people have made careers out of suing for frivolous damages, and that obviously need to change. And I too miss the days when things weren’t quite so safety-obsessed 😉

  2. My cousin in Bulgaria worked at a ropes course like this on the sea coast. If you think it’s dangerous for the children, you should see the workers climbing about. I’m glad he never got hurt, but considering the dismal amounts he would get paid, and the fact that he was walking on ropes and climbing up trees with no protective gear for months was a little insane. I always tried not to visit him at work.

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