The Brick Test

Last Saturday, I did my lifeguard re-certification.

My current one (well, not my current one any more, I suppose) doesn’t expire until April, but Red Cross courses are somewhat few and far between, and I need to be certified to assistant manage the pool this summer, so I kind of had to strike while the iron was hot.

I hadn’t even set my two eyes on a pool since December 2019, so I was somewhat (really super duper a lot) nervous going into the re-cert. It was nothing I hadn’t done a kabillion times, but that never stops me getting super nervous. Especially about one particular pre-req: the brick test.

The brick test is easy. It is baby stuff. But it always, with out fail, gets me psyched out and in my own head.

The brick test is as follows:

  • A 10-pound, rubber-covered brick is dropped about 3/4 of the way down a 25 meter pool.
  • The depth where it is dropped must be between 7-10 feet.
  • Using any stroke, you swim to the brick.
  • Doing a surface dive, either head or feet first, dive to the bottom and get the brick.
  • Return on your back, swimming only with your legs while keeping the brick out of the water.
  • When you reach the wall, you must get yourself and the brick out without using your legs to exit the pool.
  • You have one minute and forty seconds to accomplish this.

This is an itty bitty baby test to make sure you have the proper in-water proficiency to be taught how to do real lifeguarding stuff. Before you can even get certified in the first place, you have to do this, on the first day of your course. It’s done before every re-cert and at, like, every other training. And in the upper-level swim lessons, sometimes it’s done for fun, so the kids can see if they can do it.

And therein, my good people, lies the problem for me.

You see, I progressed through swim lessons very quickly when I was a wee bairn. I loved the water and I loved swimming, and when we crossed the crucial threshold of me no longer having a coronary every time chlorine water got in my eyes, I rocketed through the levels.

This resulted in me reaching level 5, the penultimate kids’ swimming level, as a shrimpy 9-year-old. I was in that class with kids twice my size, and, as I thought at the time, twice my age. (In retrospect, the oldest kid was probably fifteen. But still).

Towards the end of the two week session, the swimming instructor brought out the old, rubber-peeling brick from the guard room and introduced us, his class, to the concept of the brick test. He wanted everyone to try it, just for fun, no pressure – but everyone did have to try it.

I had no problem with this idea, initially – I liked getting diving toys. Though I do admit some trepidation at the idea of getting a big, heavy brick from the bottom. So, in my patented self-preservational tactic, I moved myself to the end of the line so I could see what other people did before I had to go.

Most people did just fine – some struggled before they broke the surface of the water, but only a few weren’t able to get the brick all the way to the top.

Then it was my turn. I was nervous, with an unknown and people watching, but I was prepared to give it my darndest. A reminder, at this juncture, that I was probably all of 75 pounds at this point. (This may be slightly hyperbolic, but the point is: tiny child. Definitely no muscle mass).

I dove to the bottom of the pool, no problem.

A brief interlude to say that this pool, as I recall, was only 8 feet deep. Not terrible, but at least two me-lengths at that age.

I found the brick, stark against the white pool floor, and grabbed it. And that was when it all went south – from a rather literal standpoint.

The surface of the water rippled disturbingly far above my head, and try as I might to kick my scrawny little legs, I could not advance more than halfway to it. As I kept trying and failing, being dragged back under by that terrible brick, I felt more desperate.

Hardly anyone had come up empty, and I have something of a problem with competitiveness and perfectionism, so it didn’t immediately occur to me that I could just … drop the brick. Instead I was stuck in a terrible, watery limbo, my drowning imminent.

Before I could drown, though, the obvious occurred to me. I dropped the brick, kicked my way to the surface, and came up crying very profusely as I swam to the wall.

I imagine my teacher felt very bad about it, but it really wasn’t his fault. I sniffled my way, towel-clad, to the minivan and told my mom tearfully about how terrible and scary the brick test was.

I think that memory is just so firmly lodged in my subconscious that, no matter how many times I successfully do the brick test, I always have this feeling that something will go wrong. Nothing has, yet, but I always dread it when the time comes. (You will be pleased to know that it went off without a hitch this most recent iteration. Another one in the bag).

That doesn’t stop me from doing it on my own level 5/6s, though. However, I never require everyone to do it, only those who want to, and I always – ALWAYS – remind them that, if they have to much trouble, to just drop the brick and someone else will go get it later. Always.

Anywho. That’s all. I successfully retrieved the brick, and did all of the other (much more difficult) things, and so now I can guard lives for another 2 years completely legally. Whoopee for me.

I am also working in earnest on a draft of the first Dwynwen book (all titles pending), which I am obsessing over a bit. (I really like it so far). So excuse me while I go write another scene of that before bed.

2 thoughts on “The Brick Test

  1. *pats the tiny Emma* It will be okay, that brick is a lot less of a grownup’s body mass. Also, HOW that teacher didn’t notice that one of his students was tiny and obviously going to have the problem you had, I cannot fathom. Like, nine-year-old you was REALLY clearly not a teen!


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