Just after high school, I took a summer course to become a Lifeguard. I wish that I could say that it was because I had an overwhelming urge to help people. That I thought Lifeguarding to be a noble profession and I sought to better myself by setting goals and such.
Nay. That would be a lie.
In actuality, I just wanted a Lifeguard T-shirt because I thought I’d look totally awesome in it, and I thought that hanging out by the pool, meeting guys, and getting paid for it sounded like a fine idea.
But so did drinking Mad Dog 20/20 on an empty stomach. And that never ended well either.
At several points during my Lifeguard training, I actually thought that I was going to die. And frankly, I didn’t have all that much faith in my fellow Lifeguard trainees to feel confident that any one of them would save me.
There was one test that nearly did me in. We were to fling ourselves into the deep end, fully clothed, wearing skin tight bell bottoms. Remember, this was the 70’s. We were then suppose to carefully remove our Keds and tie the laces together, placing them across our shoulders, should we be in need of shoes IF we made it to shore.
Once getting the skin tight jeans off, we were suppose to fashion them into a floatation device, by tying the end of the leg into a knot, then attempting to “capture” air in them by flying them over our head and then down quickly into the water.
I voted that we should just let the shoes drop, get the blankity blank pants off, and just swim for it. Every man for himself. The instructor vetoed my vote. I’m pretty sure that I swallowed my weight in pool water during that lesson.
The last hurtle was that I needed to swim 20 lengths of the pool without stopping. Not a strong swimmer under even the best of conditions, the rest of the class finished a good 30 minutes before I did. As I dog paddled to the side, crawled up onto the pool deck, and prayed for death, the rest of the class applauded.
I don’t really think it was because they were proud of me, they were just glad that it was over.
After mercifully completing the course, I was hired as a sub-Lifeguard. Which meant that I worked only when no one was in the pool. I KNOW. So much wasted talent. I believe I lasted maybe two days. Maybe. And I never did get the stupid t-shirt.
Over the weekend, we visited Blizzard Beach. There is an area of the park that my children love as it was created just for the kids. This picture shows the two main features of this area: 1) The T-Bar, which is a bar on a zip line. A child grabs hold of the bar and slides down to the end and drops into the water, and 2) a tunnel slide which shoots you out into rather deep water, and you are to paddle paddle to the nearest ladder.
There is only one underpaid Lifeguard on duty at this area.
On Saturday, Fiddledaddy and I sat watching our children frolic, and we witnessed no fewer than 8 rescues during a span of about 30 minutes. And by rescue, I mean that the Lifeguard would blow her whistle, and jump into the water with ALL her paraphernalia, to save the hapless child involved. I should mention that none of the rescues involved my children. I was a nervous wreck before we left. Gnawed every last cuticle down to the quick.
The T-Bar is tricky, because if you don’t let go at the end, the force of the stop can catapult a small child into the air, often causing them to flip. Then when they finally do land in the water, they gasp, taking in water. And if you’re not a decent swimmer, down like a rock you go.
The tunnel slide was cause for issue as well. When you exit the tunnel, the water forces you down where it is rather deep. Bottom line, you really need to be able to swim, or at the very least wear a life vest.
I witnessed one mother and son (neither of which could swim) come down the slide together. When it was apparent they weren’t coming up, the dad went in to assist the child to the ladder. Leaving the mother behind. Well. That was a mistake. She let him have it for nearly letting her drown. Really. I heard some $5 curse words that caused even me to blush.
Fiddledaddy, who began his career a hundred or so years ago as a Lifeguard for Disney Worlds River Country (which is now closed) related to me many stories of saves. I think the problem is that Disney seems to provide such a fun and safe atmosphere, what with all the Lifeguards milling about, parents forget that their little tykes REALLY NEED TO KNOW HOW TO SWIM BEFORE BEING SET FREE.
I was all kinds of grateful to my mother, once again, who gave up her summers to sit in a hot sweltering balcony of an indoor high school pool, so that I would learn how to swim in my youth. And we’ve made certain that our children are good swimmers as well.
My stint as a Lifeguard was brief, but I am so glad that there are so many young men and women who take the job seriously.