You know what they say, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. As a lifeguard, I try to avoid that issue on the daily.
Some days, I love my job and others… well. I think we all hate our jobs on Monday morning at 8 am.
Picture this: You're 11 years old and it's bright and sunny outside. Your parents agreed to take you to the biggest waterpark in south Florida today, The Rapids. You're excited beyond belief. You tell your mom that you're going to be the first in line for all the big rides, Big Thunder, Racers, Baby Blue. You're going to have the time of your life. You scan your ticket and run and fast as you can to the first ride you see. You're so excited you forgot to wait for your parents and little sister who are purchasing a locker to put away all their valuables. You get to the front of the line of Big Thunder. Excitement in the air. Let's do this.
It's going to be the Best. Day. Ever.
Now here I am, the lifeguard, at the top of Big Thunder. I see that 11-year-old kid run into the park at lightning speed. All I can think is "slow down." I see a fellow lifeguard at the bottom whistle at him and signal him to stop running.
He doesn't stop.
He gets to the front of the line and he is devastated when I tell him he can't go down the four-person-ride alone. He reluctantly waits for his "slow" family.
His words, not mine.
They meet him at the top. His mom is wearing sunglasses and his dad is holding a Go-pro on a stick.
Don't they know they're not supposed to have those? (thinking to myself)
I tell the family to not record on the slide and to please put the go pro away. I then tell the mother, "Ma'am, can you please remove your glasses for me?" When she asks why I tell her it's for her safety.
She seems annoyed but obeys.
I then notice their uncle who comes moseying up the stairs. He complains why there aren't elevators here. I laugh.
My lead lifeguard signals that he could possibly be over the safe weight limit. They pull him to the side and ask him to please step on the scale. Luckily, he just made the cut.
He is now infuriated that we even weighed him, to begin with. We give him a nice yellow wristband indicating he had been weighed and he is good to go the rest of the day.
I send them down.
This is how things go behind the scenes. It's all for the guest's safety but they see it as a hassle and entirely unnecessary.
As much as I'd like to bend the rules at times and send a man/woman who is barely over the weight limit down a slide so that they aren't upset, I can't unfortunately. Like any job, when you're at the bottom of the food chain, your lead is watching you and their lead is watching them watch you, and so on.
If I had sent a family down the slide with glasses on, a go pro in the air and had exceeded the safety limit, not only could I have lost my job, but I could have put the lives of 4 guest in danger.
Yet, they see me as the killer of fun, and honestly, sometimes that's how I feel.
No one likes the rules, and boy do we have a lot of them.
As infuriating as the set of rules are, nothing is more upsetting to a guest than spending $50 each on a ticket to have Florida pull a usual and have a hurricane, mid-day.
As evil as this sounds, as a lifeguard, we pray for rain. During a 12- hour shift, a nice hour of giving your feet and voice a rest is nice on a rain delay. However, it's not usually that simple. Most guests want to know when they can get back in the water, and other guests try to get back in the water on their own.
Now, knowing when you can get back in the water… that is top secret information that our managers do not share with us. Therefore, we can't share with the guests. They grow angry with us as if I was the one who personally told mother nature to rain on their parade.
On the other hand, If I were that 11-year-old boy, or any paying guest for that matter, who waited all summer for this day, I would be sad too.
The bottom line is, we have to see the perspective from both sides. Sure, it's rough standing for 12 hours but we did sign up for this job and we are getting paid to do so.
And as for the guest, we as lifeguards should really think about if we were the ones attending the park. They paid good money to be here and we should make their experience unforgettable, in a good away.
So the next time you're at a waterpark or amusement park or anywhere for that matter, take the employees into consideration. They are only doing their job. We don't want to make your life harder with the rules, but life would be chaos without them.
And for all you lifeguards out there: if you're praying for rain, do it for the crops, NOT for the happy kids who want to play!
Get out your whistle and zip up your fanny pack because as Derek Sheppard would say:
"It's a beautiful day to save lives"