I have an obsession with my fingernails. Don’t get me wrong – the vast majority of my life, my fingernails have not been obsession-worthy. They were chewed, mangled and highly unattractive. But I have always spent a lot of time worrying about them. Trying to make them look as presentable as possible, I would often break out the clippers and the fingernail file and set to work smoothing things out (pointless as it was). If I didn’t have any of those implements, my teeth would work just as well.

Never mind that chewing my nails often left them in a worse state than when I began, I believed in the cause, so I carried on.

I clearly remember early in my lifeguarding career being called out by a mother who spent many, many hours soaking up the sun, chatting noisily with her fellow leathery mothers, and, as it turned out, observing the lifeguards as they work.

“I see you, sitting up there,” she said, walking past my stand one sweltering afternoon.

“Ma’am?” I said, still scanning the pool as I spoke.

“Picking at your fingernails!” She said this with a genuine sense of “I-could-care-less-what-you-do-because-I-watched-you-grow-up-and-I-know-you’re-a-good-girl” in her voice, so I just smiled.

“Oh! I didn’t even realize I’d been doing that,” I admitted.

My nail obsession was so ingrained that I barely even noticed it.

Recently, I’ve even over-exaggerated interest in my nail-health in order to frustrate Hubby. There’s nothing more annoying than trying to talk to someone who’s more interested in filing their nails than listening to what you have to say. You might think this is rude, and I might agree, but my passive-aggressive nature makes this a fabulous response when I’m irritated with something he’s done or said.

But I digress. I think my passive-aggression could fill an entire post of it’s own, so I’ll get back to the point at hand. I remember once an acquaintance of mine described how she stopped biting her nails. All it required was viewing a sample from beneath her nails under a microscope. Apparently that’s an affective cure for most folks. I’m sure many people have tried to convince me of the unsanitary nature of nail-biting to no avail. I am a determined nail biter. If I’m not biting them now, it’s only by sheer force of will.

My new resolution to let my nails grow out is somewhat inexplicable.

Maybe it was some un-recognized transition into adulthood. Or maybe it is vanity – since I have so little to be vain about these days, my nails have crept up the list. I’ve started painting them twice weekly with Nail Magic to make them less likely to split (my nails are infernally split-tastic) and as strong as they can be expected to be. Before each application of the polish, I file and shape my ever lengthening nails. I take such pride in the result.

One thing I’ve always dreamed about is to type on a keyboard with long nails. This is a weird thing to dream about, I agree. As the length hasn’t yet surpassed the pads of my fingers, I don’t really count the typing I’m currently doing as fulfilling this strange wish. Give me another month and I may be there.

My next project is to get my cuticles and the skin around my nails in good shape. As pretty as the actual nails may be, my hands still look a mess. I’ve only ever had like 3 manicures ever, so I’m not entirely sure what processes are involved in healthy cuticles, but I also think I’m unlikely to enjoy it. I have a phobia of lotions and creams of any sort. It’s overcomeable, certainly, but I’m not inclined to apply a lotion to my hands unless I know it’s going to do the trick. Suggestions?

And if you happen to catch me in an unguarded moment, don’t be surprised if I’m staring at my fingernails. You’re welcome to come stare at them too.

This post could go multiple directions based on the title. I think, though, I’ll focus on the different bosses I’ve had during my years as a lifeguard.

My very first boss of my entire life was about six years my senior. I was seventeen at the time. He was good looking, single, and an idiot. Therefore, he became my boyfriend. He was my boss for two months, and my boyfriend for two years. Waste. Of. Time.

As the pool board didn’t really approve of his methods, he was soon replaced by a college girl who was more interested in the upcoming rush events with her sorority than in saving lives. It was pretty obvious she knew she was a temporary hire and couldn’t care less if she were hired back the following summer.

Then came Ms. G. What a lady. I have to be honest that I didn’t care very much for her at first – she was one of those “adult guards” that irritated me so much as a young life-saver. Plus, she had a knack for writing memos when she had a problem with the way any of us were handling our jobs instead of just talking to us about it. But she grew on me. Considering she was my boss for two or maybe even three more summers (and is still my sister’s boss) it’s a good thing we ended up getting along so well. She’s a sweetheart who is much more relaxed than I gave her credit for at first. She schedules half hour breaks for guards like, every three hours or something. Not even my idiot ex-boyfriend did that!

And then my husband and I moved to Mobile, where I was still in school but needed a summer job. Turns out the only thing I was qualified to do was lifeguard (still feels like that’s about all I’m qualified to do), so I took a job at the local country club as the Assistant Aquatics Director – a fancy title for what amounted to “head lifeguard.” The aquatics director I worked under was also a high school football coach. He had his good moments, but I think he can best be summed up by his favorite quote: “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” There was no relaxing at this country club, not to mention the fact that working at a country club where you are not even close to being a member is very degrading and stressful. So many people with such high standards. Unrealistically high standards, particularly when it comes to teenagers. So Coach had a lot of work to do to keep us all in line (despite my non-teenager status), though he did tend to go overboard on occasion. He yelled at me once from one end of the pool deck while I was in the other. I can’t remember what on earth he was yelling about, but it really upset me. That was my first opportunity to stand up for myself and I think I did a pretty good job. And then, at the end of the summer, I quit, and haven’t been back. Mobile Country Club, I fear we’ll never meet again. I just don’t think I’ve got Country Clubs in my future, unless they want me to lifeguard for them!

Well, folks, that concludes the Lifeguard Chronicles. I hope they were enjoyed! Until next time… -LH

The post yesterday got me thinking about all the actual work that was involved in lifeguarding. There’s the obvious guarding part of the job, but lifeguards to so much more than just that.

At the two pools I’ve worked, there was a guard rotation. This meant that if I’m in the stand right now and for the next half hour, when I come off of the stand, all of the other guards will rotate through my position before I go back up. This usually meant being in the stand for an hour and down for at least another hour, if not two. What does a guard do when not in the stand?

The most enviable task a lifeguard has is to man the front desk. No lives are requiring your attention, you just have to take money for little kids wanting ice cream, sign in pool members, and answer the phone. It’s fantastical. You can socialize with your fellow guards and pool members a little more easily in this position. It’s where all lifeguards aspire to be as frequently as possible.

However, if there are six guards on duty, two on the stand and two at the desk, that leaves two guards who must find some way to occupy themselves. While a few minutes can be piddled away doing things like getting water or cooling off in the pool, you can never be too sure who is watching and you’ve eventually got to get busy. Here are some of the unenviable tasks that must be completed while a guard rotates through this position:

  • picking up other people’s trash, including, but not limited to: candy wrappers, dropped, melted candy pieces, empty cans, empty plastic cups, empty soda bottles, etc.
  • hosing off the deck. sometimes those sticky pieces of candy require hosing to be fully cleaned up.
  • testing chemicals – someone has to make sure chlorine and pH levels are balanced.
  • mopping the clubhouse floors. ugh.
  • taking out full trash bags. usually this task can wait until the end of the day, but if things are particularly busy, the trash cans tend to fill up pretty quickly.
  • cleaning bathrooms. double ugh.
  • this may sound ridiculous, but I guess someone has to do it – picking trash off of the parking lot. this task is only applicable if everything else has been done, and done twice.
  • cleaning the tiles in the pool. they tend to get grimy with sunscreen and dead skin and hair and dirt, etc every other day or so. this is a pretty enviable task since you get to stay in the pool while you’re doing it.
  • emptying the overflow baskets. there can be some crazy stuff in these, so watch out. you can run into frogs, hair clumps, hair ties, beetles, and any other imaginable sort of wildlife and ickiness.
  • running errands for the manager. this isn’t something that normally comes up, but if you’re lucky, you can snag the job when it comes available.

I think that covers the main chores that have to be done while you rotate off of the desk and the stand. Somebody’s got to be responsible for keeping the pool clean and running, and I’ll tell you, I’ve never found a community pool that had a full time janitor. If you are a lifeguard, your secondary job title is janitor. That’s just the way it works. Sorry guys!

I have recently discovered that there is no job in the world totally devoid of some sort of political scheming. Considering I’ve held almost every imaginable sort of job (except retail, per se), I consider myself an up and coming expert in the field of work related/office politics. I feel like I’ve seen and combated it all, though perhaps I only feel that way because of how deeply I abhor all forms of underhanded competition.

One might consider a swimming pool a place of calm and peace in a world of political nonsense, but you would be quite wrong. At the pool where I spent the majority of my lifeguarding career, there was an elected group of board members who met on a regular basis and in general basked in the glory of this absolutely meaningless power they felt they’d attained through this position. The self-importance displayed by these board members was, at times, absurd. The majority of pool members couldn’t care less who was the president of the board, so they’d vote for whomever displayed the most enthusiasm for the job. Let me tell you from experience: these are the types of people who ruin any enjoyment a lifeguard could have gleaned from their job. NOTHING is simple for a board president who delights in demonstrating the power they’ve attained.

They make it a point to have at least one lifeguard fired every summer, constantly nit-picking until they find their intended victim. They over-involve themselves with the day-to-day running of the pool, even though they’ve hired a perfectly capable manager to run things. They make sure they are seen at the pool at least three times a week, showing up at random times to make sure no one is slacking on the job, even when there is not one single swimmer. They NEVER swim. You will absolutely never see this person in a swimsuit, even though they are often present at the pool. They usually lack power in their families and/or at their jobs. They overcompensate for this lack of power by taking what should be a chill and relaxing environment and turning it into an absolute prison.

These sorts of folks make me appreciate even more the Pool Board Presidents who are so cool and relaxed that you hardly even remember their names. These types show up once a week, make sure the manager has everything she needs, and delegate well. They have managed to snag a position of authority and realize how empty that authority really is. They are a joy to work with.

I’ve found that pool politics are very much personality driven and are not necessarily limited to the position of the president. There is a hierarchy among the guards as well, but hey, we’re talking about teenagers who are only just learning to play the game. Not to mention we’re also talking about lifeguards. Seriously, these are the sort of people who want an easy job where they can get a tan and flirt with each other. They aren’t typically interested in moving up the hierarchy.

But every once in awhile, an adult will become a lifeguard. This is typical for teachers who have summers off but want to supplement their income. I totally understand this and will likely be one of these sorts of people one day, when my kids are old enough, because, if I’m being honest, I loved lifeguarding. I hated the politics, but I was pretty passionate about my whistle, if you remember, so I obviously relished the power of the job. Anyway, when you are a teenager, there is nothing worse than having an adult lifeguard on staff. They truly ruin what might be a relaxing job. They do work. They clean. They don’t friggin’ stop. And they automatically head the hierarchy. It is lame. And they can’t help but get involved in the politics, because somehow or other, they are best friends with the board president. And trust me, if the board president is over-enthusiastic, the first thing he does is hire an adult lifeguard and an adult manager. This guarantees that there is no fun had by anyone. And so, this explains their position within the ranks of pool politics. It is an intrinsic part of their association with the pool. They can’t help it.

For the record, I’m a pool anarchist. Sort of. I think there should be a treasurer, a party planner, a grounds keeper, and a pool manager, but other than that, I think the politics are pretty useless, and they definitely kill the buzz of lounging in the sun and getting paid for it. So if I do become an adult lifeguard, there’s no need to worry, my teenage friends. I’m cool. I’ll work (since I worked pretty hard when I was a teenager), but I won’t be crazy. I promise.

{A note to my sister, who happens to be a 22 year old lifeguard: I understand that you are the head lifeguard and you are super cool, but I don’t consider you an adult lifeguard since you started in the biz as a teenager and haven’t taken a summer off. You are of the in-between variety, which I respect most. You don’t take it for granted that you can do whatever you want and keep your job; you work hard. But you know what it’s like to be a teenager with a summer job at the local pool. Therefore, you are not completely obtuse and ridiculous in your demands. Good job, Sista!}

I don’t think there is any other job in the world (well, legitimate job, that is – I’m not counting prostitutes, sorry Ladies…) where one can get away with wearing what amounts to a bikini for the entirety of one’s workday but lifeguarding. I guess I’m not counting swimsuit models either. Whatever, the point is, how crazy is it that teenage girls can prance around almost nude and no one gives it a second thought?

I only wore a two piece guard suit for one summer (the other summers it either wasn’t an option or else you couldn’t PAY me to put on a two piece because my gut wasn’t pretty) and that summer certainly started out with a bang. I was trying on my suit and showing Mom what it looked like when she noticed a black spot just above the top of the bikini bottoms and sort of panicked thinking I’d developed skin cancer. She of course went to take a closer look, eventually revealing that it was not, in fact, a cancerous mole, but instead a tattoo that I’d recently gotten on my hipbone (without permission, obviously). She was almost as upset when she discovered the truth as she would have been if it had been cancer. Maybe not, but still, it was quite an event. I’ll never forget how upset I was when that two-piece ruined my attempts for Mom to NEVER discover what I’d done (ie, “mutilating” my body, as she termed it). I’d made it an entire 2 weeks and a bathing suit ruined it for me. Bummer.

Another topic surrounding this two-piece/bikini issue that has always bothered me is girls between the ages of 10 and 14 wearing bikinis. Under ten, it’s sort of cute. But over ten and before fourteen (well, if I’m being honest, I’d rather my {imaginary} daughter not wear a two piece bathing suit until she turns 16, but that’s just me) it’s really sort of upsetting. That’s just my opinion. I’m curious if I’m alone here, or if I should just give it up and embrace the idea of tweens in two pieces?

This post was a combination of remembrances and rantings, so it’s a little different from the other parts of the chronicles, but I’ll probably never write an entire post devoted to that particular ranting, so I thought I’d throw it in here, where it sorta fits. 🙂 Ta!

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.

This is a part of the story I’d almost rather not tell… which probably makes it the most interesting!

May I say firstly, teenagers are stupid. No offense, teenagers, I was once among your rank. I know it is positively impossible to behave any other way than how your hormones, your boy/girlfriend, and/or your rebellious nature tell you to behave. I’m pretty certain we’ve all been there, done that. However, I am fairly confident that a vast majority of the age-inappropriate activities that are engaged in by teenagers occur at places like swimming pools, where, while not always, you are sometimes managed by another teenager. It’s never a good thing when your superior is just as stupid and rebellious as you are.

I decline to discuss all of the hormone-inspired age-inappropriate activities that may or may not have occurred during my tenure as a lifeguard. As I believe I’ve said before, if you work in a bathing suit, then there are bound to be hormonal issues that arise among coworkers or with pool patrons. A few ground rules for those of you just starting your lifeguarding careers, however: 

  1. Make sure the object of your affections is at least close to your age. Guys, don’t hit on twelve year olds in bikinis. This is a bad idea all around.
  2. Make sure you get to know the parents of your intended date, especially if this date is a girl, is not a lifeguard but a pool member, and if she is under eighteen. This will save you a lot of trouble, since the pool members, in many situations, pay your wages and are thus your boss. You don’t want to date your bosses daughter, really, do you?
  3. For goodness sake, the clubhouse is NOT your private make-out room.

Now, with that covered, I’ll continue with some of the other age-inappropriate activities that I either witnessed or (as unlikely as it may be) participated in during my years as a lifeguard.

After the closing of the pool, sometimes guards would stay late and play. With all of the pool lights, clubhouse lights, and security lights turned off. As far as I know, nobody was naked, which is a good thing, but still, a pretty dangerous endeavor when we were supposed to be taking out the trash and scrubbing the toilets or, more likely, at home in bed. Obviously, this action was not sanctioned by the pool manager nor the pool board, nor our parents, so I’m pretty sure if someone had gotten hurt, there would have been jobs lost and cars taken away.

There was one minor occasion when a head lifeguard threw an unsupervised party at his(or her) home that involved underage drinking. This was, in general, frowned upon by almost everyone when it was inevitably discovered. Two guards called in sick the following morning, and one showed up to work completely hungover. These were fifteen year olds, mind you. Fortunately the head guard had the foresight to keep anyone who had been drinking at his(or her) home so that no one got hurt. But still… this probably goes down as the pinnacle of all age-inappropriate activities I observed as a lifeguard. (Note I use the word observed – yes, I attended the party. no, I really didn’t drink anything)

But in general, considering everything I experienced from the perspective of an adult who eventually wants to have children, the whole thing makes me very nervous. I’d have to say that if my children turn out anything like me, they’ll probably handle it all with grace and poise. However, they’ll have some of Hubby’s genes too… so I’ll have to think twice before setting them loose in this “free-spirited” environment (Just kidding Hubs – you have lovely, mature genes……) 😉