It's not until you've pulled a child out of the water that you truly understand how quickly and silently drowning occurs. It isn't the screaming you see in movies — not even someone yelling for help. It occurs with all the laughter, music, and yelling of all the other people at the pool overshadowing the struggling swimmer as they slip under the water. It happens no matter if there are five or fifty people present. This is why proper training, confidence in execution, and communication between the guard team are absolutely vital with lives on the line.
Lifeguards don't tell people to stop doing certain things simply to be a killjoy.
Trust me, we go swimming and like to have fun when we're opening and closing. However, safety has to come first. Even as lifeguards, we never swim alone. With each thing a person does at the pool, we see how it can quickly become a horrible situation. It's by no means a mindset to live in. However, when a lifeguard shows up to work, they know it's their job to keep everyone safe. In fact, lifeguards are legally responsible for doing just that.
Sitting up in the chair, you begin to question so many actions. I don't mean how you found jumping in the pool five hundred times over and over again fun when you were a child. Yes, you laugh at some of the conversations you overhear. There are days when babies decided to strip down naked and their moms just can't catch them. We have a lot of laughs up in the chair and back in the guard room with our the people that become our second family. It feels like we live together during the summer months.
The questions I'm talking about are why is that boy running and jumping onto the kickboard? We yell so we don't have to send a child to the hospital with a cracked head. Head wounds bleed an immense amount and are horrifying for everyone on sight. The chicken fight right by the edge of the pool and near that little kid may lead to one of them falling onto the edge of the pool or crushing the younger child. Why is that kid's parent over there drinking a beer while his young and inexperienced swimmer is bobbing in the deep end? One of us will be jumping in to get him soon. Can't they just get off the landline like they've been asked? If someone attempts to swim under and they're pushing down on it, the other person may become stuck and unable to get air. They dunk on the basketball net but don't understand that it's fallen in the water over four times this summer. The young girl with the mermaid tail will understand it completely restricts her legs after it becomes too late for her to swim on her own. Then her father will no longer be yelling at us for ruining the fun.
Having to be the responsible one, when even when parents aren't is what we signed up to do.
We take every hit of cruel words, the balls "accidentally" thrown at us with perfect aim, every single complaint about insignificant things, and all the amounts of times those boys have squirted us with water guns with grace. No matter how annoying we may find someone, when they go under I guarantee that we will be there saving them.
This isn't to say you need to thank your local lifeguards for their line of duty, but rather to consider that no matter how hard of a shift they've had, they'll be in the water instantly to do what they've been trained to. This isn't a job everyone is cut out for. When they say blood, sweat, and tears — it's no joke. No matter how rough the day was before, we show up again the next morning. While we may appear grouchy or "the killers of all fun," as stated by an Ashwood Clubhouse resident, all we care about is everyone making it home safely at the end of the day.
We don't want to see the silence engulf a struggling swimmer. It's a scene that nobody wants to be on and the lifeguards replay over and over in their head. Was there something they could have done differently or something they missed? The real question is though, if not us, then who would notice? Silence may kill but lifeguards save.