I used to be a lifeguard.
While I’ve read many times and in many places that lifeguarding is the perfect job for lazy people, the job itself was a constant source of stress for me.
Every day I went to work, terrified that some random accident would occur, I would completely forget all my training, and enumerable deaths would be the result – all of them resting on my head.
Most days, I got to read. I devoured many a book and magazine during the summers I spent at pools populated by one or two people throughout the day. I remember being severely annoyed whenever someone walked into the gated area. I’d finish the sentence I was reading, slowly put away the object of distraction and then glare at the swimmer until they finally went away and I could pull out my reading material again.
Those were days I considered lucky, however. I usually worked at a rather busy pool in a less privileged neighbourhood and was only temporarily placed at mostly deserted pools a few times a month. The busy pool wasn’t so bad, though. There were some cool kids who’d keep me company throughout the day, and there was almost always another lifeguard for backup.
As much as being at that pool cut into my reading time, I’ll always remember it fondly. Some crazy things happened there, often making me laugh.
“So, this one time, at lifeguading…”
I’m standing at the edge of the pool, close to midway between both ends on the side closer to the shallow end, watching the maximum allowable amount of people swim when only one lifeguard is posted (it was either 25 or 30 people – I forget). The cutest little boy, probably about five years old, bobs over to me while clutching the deck in front of him.
“Lifeguard… lifeguard! Liifeguaaard!” he calls to me.
I glance down and smile at his sweet little face. “Yes?”
“Oh! Look what I can do!” he says, letting go of the edge.
And immediately proceeds to drown.
Ramming the whistle into my mouth, barely able to blow it as I’m entering the freezing water dressed in all my lifeguarding clothes, I don’t even wait for the pool to clear (as guidelines indicate one should – the kid’s life is a little more important than a possible but improbable accident that could occur in the time it takes to pull him out).
I get him out and put him on the side. He coughs and splutters for a while then, barely phased and after a short talking-to about where he should not be “swimming” past and with whom he should stay while in the pool, he happily jumps back in the water and uneventfully finishes his afternoon.
Another day, I’m minding my own business, watching some cute toddlers with their floaty arm bands on jump off the deck into the very shallow end of the pool. Soon a slightly older kid, one who is at least articulate, comes over to me and points to them.
“There’s poo on the deck and some kids are running in it then jumping into the pool!”
Suppressing a massive grin, I hardly dare to glance over there for fear of it turning into a great, hearty laugh. Sure enough: three tiny toddlers are happily lining up, trundling through the poop and leaping into the water.
Now suppressing giggles, while at the same time dreading the action I must take, I walk over to the small group and ask them all to leave. I have to shut down the pool for two hours, pour bleach into the infected area and clean off the deck.
I don’t know where the poo came from. Probably someone’s diaper. Fabulous!
Working at that pool was certainly an interesting experience. Apart from the situations that arose as a result of both the people who attended the pool daily and the others who showed up only once in a while, I showed up every morning wondering what new and wonderful surprise would be floating in the pool’s drains. Among some of the more disgusting items I found used condoms, dead mice, dead frogs and once a dead bird. Much to my dismay, I once encountered an entire stone bench sitting at the bottom of the pool! How it ever got in there was a mystery to me, and the pool was closed for a couple of days while a crane was called in to remove the foreign object from the waters.
I escaped my years poolside as a lifeguard unsued. I wouldn’t say I’m a lazy person – far from it, really – so I’d like to revise that phrase from above: lifeguarding, if you can do it for a deserted enough pool, is the perfect job for readers.