For the past five summers of my life, like most teenagers through high school and college, I've been a lifeguard at the local pool. Despite having a love/hate relationship with my job (though it's mostly love), being a lifeguard has taught me some serious life lessons through the countless hours I've spent watching the water. Here's 11 things that lifeguards learn during their summers by the pool, besides CPR.
1. How to rock the terrible tan line that the one piece gives you
There's nothing like that one piece tan line. It seems like no matter how many hours you spend at the pool (not getting paid) trying to balance theme out, they stay as white and defined as the day you let yourself burn on the stand. But don't sweat it, true lifeguards rock the tan line.
2. How to blow a whistle, the proper way
Nothing frustrates veteran guards more than when the newbies can't blow their whistle properly. Enough with the almost silent little "pfff," there's no need for that at a pool overran with children. You know when you've been a guard for a while when you can clear a pool with one blast. And to be honest, nothing makes you quite as proud as that moment.
3. How to strike fear into children
Honestly, one of my favorite things about my job is when I can stop a kid from breaking a rule with just a glare. I feel like a bad ass, and I know my co-workers love it too. Although I sometimes hate begin the bad guy, it's pretty great when I can shot a look and a slight nod of the head and the madness in the pool stops almost immediately.
4. How to make up rules on the spot
You know those kids that are toeing the line with a rule, or completely just doing something that looks like it should be against a rule. So, what else can you do in those cases besides make up a rule to make them stop? Nothing. Kid annoying you beyond belief? He's breaking a rule. Kid being super obnoxious or mean to a cute kid that you love? He's breaking a rule. No splashing the lifeguard is one of my favorites to make up on the spot, but when pressed, I can find a reason to make anything against the rules.
5. How to dodge water at all costs
Although our job is centered around water, most lifeguards hate getting wet while at work. While it may be because we have plans after work and want to go somewhere without smelling slightly of chlorine for once, most of the time it's just because sitting in a stand in a wet suit is miserable. Guards will duck, dip, and dodge all over the pool to avoid water. Shoutout to the guards with sprays at their pools, y'all are the real MVPs of avoiding the inevitable.
6. How to check people out, stealth mode
The sunglasses definitely come in handy for this aspect of the job. Lifeguards are pros at checking out attractive patrons, all while keeping a desecrate facial expression. I see you, guard checking out the hottie swimming through your scan pattern, But don't worry, it just looks like you're doing a proactive bottom scan. We have the ability to follow a person completely around the pool, while making it look like were just doing an innocent scan of the pool.
7. How to sleep on furniture made exclusively out of rescue tubes
Once busy season starts, which is basically the entire summer, guards don't get much sleep. We wake up early to be there for opening, and to make real money, we work most of the day. Days off are hard to come by, and slaving away in the summer sun is draining. Most guards are exhausted 24/7, so it's no surprise to walk in an office or locker room to find someone curled up on a bed of red rescue tubes. While they're not the softest, they're definitely better than the tile or concrete on the deck. Dream on little guard, of scanning patterns and rainy days.
8. How to detect the faintest rumble of thunder
All lifeguards love the sound of thunder because it means one thing: pool's closed. At my pool, it also means Sonic runs and playing Apples to Apples in the guard room, but that's probably not true everywhere else. For most guards, the sound of thunder means a coveted break from sitting on the stand and for some, it means a whole day off after that first rumble. Thunder is a guard's saving grace, and our hearing becomes bat-like once we see those dark storm clouds form in the sky.
9. How to be comfortable half-naked in front of strangers everyday
Guard suits don't cover much, whether you're wearing trunks, a one-piece, or a two-piece (lucky). You're exposed, for basically everyone in town to see. In addition to the patrons seeing you half-naked every day, your fellow guards see it even more often. After sharing locker rooms and guard rooms, changing out of wet suits under a towel or even getting used to stripping your wet top off under your t-shirt in front of your co-workers is no big deal. You're all used to it, and after a while, no one even bats an eye.
10. How to be a pro in water polo
I know this probably isn't true for every guard out there, but water polo is an extreme sport at my pool. Every summer, we have games throughout the season, and always end on a big tournament between all the guards. It's intense. Teams are drafted, guards traded, jewelry and fake nails aren't allowed, and our manager is required to referee. Without her, we'd drown each other. After three years of being drowned by the boys in the six foot, I finally learned how to hold my own. Now, I'm pretty damn great at the game and I'm already hype for the end of summer games.
11. How to save a life
This is a cliche, but it's true. Before becoming a lifeguard, I most likely wouldn't have learned CPR, abdominal thrusts, how to work an AED, or how to administer oxygen. I wouldn't know what situations call for what procedure, and I wouldn't know how to handle myself in an emergency situation. Without becoming a guard, I would've missed out on all the practice and situations that have been drilled into my brain. Because of being a life guard, I could (theoretically) save a person's life. And ya know, that's pretty freakin' cool.
Being a lifeguard is without a doubt the best summer job a teenager could have. It taught me all of these lessons, and so many more. Without guarding, my life probably be a whole lot less interesting, and I wouldn't have nearly as many stories as I do. Being a lifeguard is being a bad ass, and I highly suggest it.