poolside stories

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.


turkey day number one

Happy Thanksgiving, all!


happy birfday to me

Twenty-five years ago today I decided to grace this oft-crazy planet with my presence. It appears I must have liked the place because I have since remained, growing ever wiser (and perhaps more insane) as it constantly throws lessons at me.

A quarter of a century has passed and, while much has changed since then, much remains the same. TV still, to my surprise, exists, and cars do not yet hover (at least not on a commercial scale). We also do not yet have hoverboards, as I’d hoped we would by now after watching the Back to the Future movie series, one time too many.

But our technological progression is still nothing to snear at. So many more exciting changes are happening now and, while I’ve felt this way the past few years, we are still in the midst of a technological revolution that is going to change the way everything works in the coming years (referring to green business practices, housing, economics, etc.).

The thing I’m most excited about is the commercial flights into space. I have the opportunity now to live my youthful Star Trek-inspired dream of travelling into space and seeing this lovely planet as a whole from there. Sure, I could never afford to go right now. But the cost will surely lower and one day – one day it will happen. I will travel closer than ever before to the stars. I will see Earth from space.

But celebrating the human race’s advancements is not why I reflect now upon the day of my birth. It’s simply one of the many reasons it’s so exciting to be alive, and be young (yes! twenty-five is not as old as I have been making it out to be these last few weeks), at this particular time in human history, on this particular day.

Only one of the reasons. My other reasons are, of course, on a much smaller scale: people. Specifically, the people I’ve met in my lifetime; the people with whom I have come in and out contact over the years; most of all, the people with whom I surround myself often, and the people with whom I would if only they did not live so far away.

Today is a day for me to be happy, to fully appreciate the life that was bestowed upon me by my strong, brave mother and my loving father and to acknowledge my great friends who daily show their love and support just by being there for me.

You know who you are. Thank you all.

general travel

an anniversary of sorts

For me December 31st/January 1st isn’t the only start of a New Year. As time passes, I seem to have collected more and more such “new years”: school beginning in September; my birthday on October 5th; the typical New Year’s; school ending in April (or, previous to post-secondary, in June); the spring season; and, finally, the usual end-of-school trip I have been taking for the past four years.

My, that’s a lot of “New Years” to celebrate! Looking back, it doesn’t make sense to look at each event as such – it seems more accurate to label them simply as the normal, to-be-expected, initiators of change they really are.

In any case, two of the more major ones for me have now ended: the beginning and ending of school years. As a side-effect, so has the end of school year trip. And, finally, my first year of not being in school since I was oh, about three years old, has just come to a close.

Now that I reflect on all this, I realise just how significant my trip to Thailand was last year at the end of school. What better way to end such an era of my life (the first quarter of it, if I should live to the ripeness of 100, as is the plan), spent studying, than to be swept off to some remote land? It was probably the biggest learning experience of my life compacted into a six-week period that I’d ever experienced up until then: I learned the ways of the pan-Asian pacific, picked up on morsels of a new language I never dreamed of learning, observed the extreme contrasts caused by a sharp divide between rich and poor, learned a lot about how I operate when yanked from my comfort zone, and came to a conclusion about how and what I wanted to do for the next little while, at least. All the while adjusting to the intense heat and food I’m not used to, seeing incredible beaches and getting to drive a motorcycle, to boot!

The entirety of the trip cannot be conveyed in words. Even now, a year of much digestion and deliberation later, I am still unable to properly convey all the thoughts and meaning the trip had for me. It was the most intense experience of my life, and thus the things that happened are so deeply ingrained in me that even now, at times I feel like I just arrived back in the country yesterday. Except that now my tan has faded and I’m back to my usual pale white British complexion.

When I came back with my parents last June, it was time for the Graduation ceremony. Standing amongst my fellow students, staring around at all the familiar faces I had come to recognize over the past four years, I was fascinated by the deep lines now marking their faces; the bags clearly underlining their eyes. This was a much more subdued, grown-up, and dare I say abused group than had entered the program in 2001.

I wonder what I looked like to them… if the six weeks spent on the beaches, in the intense heat, developing the sort of glow I’ve never had, of not worrying too much about what I was going to do next, of enjoying the life of riches in a poor country, had smoothed out my features so that i didn’t look quite so haggard. Or if none of that really mattered because the stresses of years of school can never really be erased from a person’s face. It’s just a part of you that tags along into the next stages of your life.

A lot of reflection here at the closing of the first year of my life (at least the part that counts – the part I remember) spent outside of school. That doesn’t mean, however, that my education has stopped. Indeed, I’ve learned so much about life in the past twelve months, I couldn’t possibly say that being out of school has halted my education.