Summer break is swiftly coming to an end for our school district. The last vacations have been taken, the last hot dogs and hamburgers grilled. Meet the Teacher is upon us, and the kids are deciding how to spend their last utterly free weekend.
What else does this mean? Hundreds of community pool lifeguards are heaving a sigh of relief as they climb off their stands and turn in their whistles. Zinc oxide sales will drop precipitously until next Memorial Day, but on the positive side clothing sales will rise.
Lifeguarding. It’s the teen’s summer dream job. Or is it?
Disclaimer: I’ve never been, nor do I aspire to be, a lifeguard. This post depends entirely upon observation in the dead heat of summer.
It seems like the perfect gig. Endless hours at the pool, checking out guys or gals in their swimsuits, minimum brain power expended. Lifeguarding takes physical fitness, a sharp eye, and the ability to watch multiple swimmers at once. Sounds doable, plus you get a nice tan to boot. Score all around.
But when I watch the lifeguards at the pool – really watch them on the stand – it looks like a horrible job.
You’re sitting in the brutal sun for hours at a time, with only a tiny umbrella to throw a bit of shade if you’re lucky. You most likely spend your first three weeks burning in the midday heat until your skin finally gives up and accepts the solar torture. You spend a fortune on sunscreen (zinc for your face, if you’re smart) and half that amount on aloe, alternating between brown and burned as you move through the summer.
The time on the stand looks mind numbingly boring. You can’t read a book because you have to watch the swimmers. You can’t talk with your friends because you have to watch the swimmers. You can’t play games on your phone because you have to – wait for it – watch the swimmers.
Basically if it isn’t happening in the pool, at the edge of the pool, or around the pool then it might as well be wearing a cloak of invisibility. The lifeguards’ laser like focus on splashing kids and bouncing diving boards makes everything else all but disappear. Which is good, safety-wise. But after two hours of staring at kids playing Marco Polo and jumping off the high dive over and over and over? Well…that’s gotta get boring as hell.
So after a few months of watching teens live the Baywatch dream (the chlorinated version) I’ve come to the conclusion that lifeguarding is the biggest bait and switch in history. A summer job that promises hours of lounging by the pool but delivers mind numbing boredom. It presents the image of bronzed perfection, diving into the pool in that red lifeguard suit, but delivers teens soaked in sweat, trying to hydrate their way through the humidity.
And lifeguarding for a kid’s birthday party? Don’t even get me started.
Take heart, young people. There’s only a week or so until Labor Day.