So what would lifeguarding be without actually saving some lives? It’s not all fun and games, and to be fair, it is a very important job. I don’t really know the statistics, though I’m certain that though I only witnessed and/or participated in a handful of actual rescues, having a lifeguard present at a swimming pool significantly decreases the odds of accidents ever occurring.

My most exciting semi-save was my first summer as a lifeguard. It was a family night, meaning the pool was open until ten pm and there were tons of families there. I was guarding the deep end of the pool and the diving well. There was a line about fifteen kids deep at the diving board. All the dads who, under normal circumstances would have probably been catching their babies as they jumped off the board, were laughing and drinking with their buddies. Their kids, courage bolstered by all of the excitement, were taking risks that they normally wouldn’t have… jumping, swimming to the ladder, lining up and doing it all over again. It’s late, past their bedtimes…they’re both wired and exhausted. And I’m the only thing between them and mortal peril… or something.

Anyway, I could tell it was coming. Diving boards have always made me very nervous, and this little girl looked completely wiped out. The completely useless dogpaddle she was attempting just kept her head barely above water, but she was actually getting father away from the side of the pool, as opposed to closer as she intended. I gave her a second or two to make some progress, but I could see it was useless.

One of my very favorite things about guarding the deep end is being able to dive off of the lifeguard stand. I was across the pool from the little girl in mortal peril, so I took a flying leap and dove perfectly into the pool. I was two or three strokes away from grabbing the little girl when her dad jumped in the pool, fully clothed, and grabbed her first. I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by a parent actually paying attention to their child while they swam. It was a rare occurrence. But he really stole my thunder.

As I helped them out of the pool and checked to make sure they were both okay (attempting to disguise my frustration with concerned questions), I noticed the man’s wallet floating aimlessly in the diving well. I dove in. Two strokes later, I had it within my grasp. Adrenaline still pumping through my veins, I dragged it to the side, checked to make sure its contents were all in place. I returned the wallet to the father. He smiled with gratitude. It truly was a glorious rescue.

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