The people running the Missouri Department of Natural Resources have apparently never seen “Jaws,” in which the mayor and the chamber of commerce of Amity refuse to warn people about a killer shark that’s chewing up tourists as if they were Chiclets and, eww, it gets ugly from there.
For four weeks, as thousands of vacationers enjoyed the Lake of the Ozarks, the DNR withheld a report showing unsafe levels of fecal bacteria in the lake, the Kansas City star reported. The reason, according to a department spokeswoman: “Business and tourism was a consideration. We didn’t want to panic the people.”
OK, e. coli is not a killer shark. But it can make people really sick. It can even kill them. Dead tourists are bad for business, and live tourists with violent diarrhea are not much better. It’s just not a risk you want to take, as students of “Jaws” would clearly understand.
The state closed public beaches on the lake but wouldn’t say why and refused to release the test results to people who asked for them, so people continued to swim elsewhere in the lake. Withholding that information was indefensible, as the state government now acknowledges.
There was no widespread outbreak of disease but experts say it’s hard to know whether anyone got sick from the bacteria, which had been washed into the lake by heavy rain. Tests show the lake is now safe for swimming again, and the beaches are open.
Let’s hope somebody learned something here. Anybody who’s still not clear on what needed learning should rent “Jaws” from Netflix and wait for the line “Amity, as you know, means ‘friendship!’ ” (I’m very familiar with the dialogue because I watched with my eyes shut.)
And I have to say, what the Lake of the Ozarks really needed was a health inspector like Quint:
Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bacteria for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad microorganism. Not like going down the pond chasin’ amoebas and paramecium. This bacteria, you swallow it whole. Little shakin’, little vomitin’, an’ up it comes. And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I’ll find them for three, but I’ll catch them, and kill them, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s just too many captains on this lake. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the cytoplasm, the flagellum, the whole damn thing.