Working at a pool is one of the best kinds of places to work if you want to meet a lot of different people. You get just about the full spectrum coming in to swim, in one way or another. So I, your benevolent lifeguard and writer, have taken the liberty of classifying some of them for you:
1. Old Men, Variation 1: The Sauna
Old men come in two variations in the pool-universe (the pooliverse, if you will): the sauna men and the water men. There is one important distinction: the sauna old men are mean. They are full of grumpiness. They do not want to speak to you. They do not want to see you. They do not want you, the lifeguard, to do your job by making sure no one is having a heat stroke from staying the the sauna for too long. In fact, they’d rather not see, speak to, or be checked on by anyone at all. All they want is to sit in their 200 degree wooden box of sweat and crankiness for an hour and then leave, entirely undisturbed.
2. Old Men, Variation 2: The Water
Okay, the old men who stick to the water are typically very sweet. They’re either there to get some water exercise in, or they’re there with the grandchildren. They often will smile back when smiled at, and, occasionally, engage in small talk with you – the lifeguard. (My favorite kind are the ones who are there with their grandchildren who ask me what the pool rules are, and then very strictly enforce them, also impressing upon the grandchildren that the lifeguard is in charge. Be still, my beating heart).
3. The Dads Who Need a Distraction
This is an abundant category. Typically a dad with a baby and at least one other kid. I find that in most cases, mom has gone to exercise upstairs – or is otherwise unavailable to help with child supervision. So, in the absence of the mother unit, the dad takes his kid(s) to the pool to distract them (and himself, really) with the water until their mother returns. You get to see the cutest babies this way, so, really, it’s a win-win for the dad and the lifeguards.
4. The Whole Kit and Kaboodle
Especially on the weekends, you get a lot of families coming in to play in the pool. Depending on the attentiveness of the parents, this can get a little stressful (for the love of God, put the child in a life jacket if you aren’t going to watch him!), but it’s usually pretty nice. It’s pretty rare that a whole family is a real problem, as far as rules and safety are concerned – they just add some joie de vivre to the pool atmosphere.
5. The Parent is Here For Themselves – The Kid is Just a Tagalong
This is one of the most frustrating things ever. The parent has come to the pool. Perhaps to sit in the sauna for an hour and a half (no, really, people do that. I think I’d pass out), perhaps to work out, perhaps to swim some laps. It just depends. They have brought their child with them. Childcare is expensive, after all. So the child is left to run rampant and wild while the parent does … whatever they’re at the pool to do. And if the kid is, I dunno, like … 10 or older. That’s not really a problem. Tall enough to touch in 2 of the 3 pools, probably can swim, typically old enough to listen when I tell them to do something.
But that never seems to be the case. The kid this parent brings always seems to be 7 or under. Can’t swim very well, too small to touch all the way, not very in-tune with what I may be yelling at them. I understand that parents have lives too, but really. I’m not here to parent your child, just to make sure they don’t drown.
6. Creepy Swim Parents
I see a lot of parents coaching their kids. Typically, it’s like, okay. Your 12 year old is on swim team and you’re putting in the work. That’s great.
But sometimes you get these really weird “Soccer Mom” types at the pool. They fill my head with visions of their own, unfulfilled Olympian Gold-Medalist Swimmer dreams that they’re now pushing on their children. And some of these kids are TINY!
Honestly, sir, I don’t care how much you wanted to be the second edition Michael Phelps. All I know is, you and your 4 year old have been here for two hours, and now he’s crying because you’re yelling at him about his Butterfly technique, and that’s just wrong. Take the boy out for some ice cream, and get out of the pool.
7. Lap Swimmers, Variation 1: Here for the Fitness
These lap swimmers are typically pretty pleasant. They’re usually regulars who come in a few times a week. They like to swim and it’s good cardio. They’re here to do their routine and leave. Most say “hello” and “goodbye” on their way in and out with a smile. Some even thank you for lifeguarding as they leave. They’re a generally nice bunch.
8. Lap Swimmers, Variation 2: Second Edition Michael Phelps
These lap swimmers are Creepy Swim Parents in the making. Their dreams of being an Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer have not yet been thwarted, and they are at the pool to get one step closer to that goal. They are serious swimmers. And they don’t understand why all these other silly people – children playing, novice swim team, swim lesson kids – are here specifically to distract them from that goal! Why can’t they just have complete silence and isolation in this public pool? Is that too much to ask?
9. Tyrant Children
These are honestly no joke. They come in all ages and genders. They take joy in breaking the rules, in putting themselves, their peers, and everyone around them in danger. Almost drowning doesn’t phase them; they’ll splutter, pop back up, and continue wreaking havoc. Inexplicably, they seem to be able to make a multitude of friends whenever they appear. Never the same children, either. And, like the Pied Piper of poolside chaos, they sway these nice children to their tyrannical side.
10. Birthday Parties
This is what we in the pool business like to call “hell.”
A multitude of children, never with a suitable number of adult supervisors, flood through our doors. These kids can’t be blamed for their excitement, really. There’s cake and ice cream, presents; sometimes a bouncy castle outside or in the gym. Birthdays are exciting things.
What’s not exciting is the pool population doubling with children with little to no regard for the rules due to their haze of excitement. The number of kids who almost or do end up needing saved as a result of birthday parties is unreal.
But I digress for today. Those are the biggest categories; I’m sure I’ll have more. Perhaps another post for another day. (The word count on this is 1184. That is the longest post I have written in possibly a year. Perhaps this trend will continue? Who can say).