Thursday, May 26, 2005


Girl for Hire Second Job: Life guard Three summers

Ever since that summer I participated in the Water Ballet, age nine, I wanted to be just like JoAnn. She was the instructor for all us gangly little girls, teaching use to sincerest swim to the tune of "I love Paris". She was also one of the lifeguards at the pool that summer. I adored her and wanted to be just like her.

When I turned 16 I immediately received my life guard certification and began campaigning for the job. It was all I wanted to do. I would die if I did not get it! I hung up my water ballet slippers and became a very good competitive swimmer from age 12 on. Exceptionally good. When I was away at Girl Scout camp one year, the swimming coach reached towards the heavens during a heat and pleaded with God, "Where is Mary????" My Dad was one of the first "Board of Directors" and then remained on for many years.

I got the job! $1.50 an hour. I probably would have paid them!

I was the lowest on the pecking order. The swimming coach was the Manager, Mike was head life guard, Ann and Lacy were the blond twins who went to boarding school but lifeguarded during summer break, me and then Dottie was the sub.

That summer was the best summer of my life. It was the height of baby boomers advancing into the teenage years. The pool and surrounding area was a sea of bodies every day. I had a red and white hip hugger two piece and I was tan! As tan as a dark haired fair skinned Irish lass can be.

My favorite thing to do was to sit in the chair, high above the pool, one leg hung over the arm and twirl the wiggled on its long cord around and around my fingers. To the left...Untruly to the right.

I loved to blow the whistle. There were many different types of sounds you could make with that piece of metal. Everyone knows the long drawn out whistle at the top of the hour, signaling the break.

A sharp whistle made everyone hesitate and look, to make sure they weren't the one making one of the many infractions. The list was long, and included such things as over aggressive dunking, running on the concrete, big kids in the little kids pool, too rough, too much tugging on each other bathing suits and so on and so on. When someone was really bad they would be forced out of the pool and have to sit right below you, on display for their transgressions. The younger kids were pitiful, looking up at you with mournful and apologetic eyes. Even though the legal age to be dropped off without adult supervision was 12, many parents disobeyed this. We became more than lifeguards to many kids.

Writing this has brought back one very pleasant memory. Sitting on the chair by the diving area and having all the kids trying their best to have the most outlandish and highest cannon ball splash to drench me.

One of the job interviewers asked me, "What has been your most rewarding job experience"? I babbled off some standard answer that I knew they wanted and expected. Yet, now I realize I wish I could have remained 16 forever, twirling my whistle in my red suit with my pick of any of the young 12 year old boys.

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