Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Paying Attention

I am a big fan of reading, and books in particular, as of course I would be. And I love to see young people reading a treeware novel instead of texting on their smart phone. Or at least perusing a book on their hardware.

Not everywhere, of course. I would prefer that commuters don't try to finish that Stephen King novel on the way to work while they are driving their cars. I've seen that. Tooling down the road at speed, book propped on the steering wheel, glancing up now and then. Scary.

I noticed whilst walking the dogs today, as I perchanced to pass the neighborhood association's clubhouse and swimming pool(s), a lovely young teenaged girl in her bikini quite engrossed in the book she was reading. Which would have been delightful ... had she not been the lifeguard hired to watch over the kiddies in the pool.

Speaking as a former employee of the Ethyl Recreation Association, whereat I spent three summers, twixt the ages of sixteen to nineteen as a lifeguard and swimming teacher, the notion that I or any of the other guards would sit in the chair reading a book while on duty is shake-one's-head stunning.

Now granted, there were some extenuating circumstances: The pool is one of two, designed for kiddies -- the lap pool is around back -- and the kiddie pool is only five feet deep at one end and shallow enough for small fry to wade in the rest of it. There were only a handful of children, fewer than a dozen, most of whom were tall enough to bob up onto their toes in the deep end, and most of whom had an adult with them, mostly, it looked like, mothers or aunts or grandmas.

Still and all, having fetched panicked children who went down in water only to their chins who couldn't find the bottom to push off and come back up, I know just how fast that can happen. It only takes a heartbeat, and like a Secret Service agent, you have to watch all the time. If you are wrapped up in the throes of the sweet young thing trying to seduce her vampire boyfriend who is being noble and resisting, you could easily miss one of the sunfish suddenly turning into a bottom-feeding catfish.

I don't use the pool -- when I was swimming daily, I wanted a lane where I could do flip-turns and churn laps for forty-five minutes with nobody in my way, so I went to the country rec's Olympic-sized pool. Our neighborhood lap pool is all of about five strokes long.

And the guard might read all day every day while the place is open and never have any of the shrimp get into trouble. But still. It only takes the one to ruin your whole summer.


jks9199 said...

That's intolerable. She can read when she's on a break, in the poolhouse. She can read when she's sitting on the deck for herself. She cannot be permitted to read when she's supposed to be watching the swimmers.

I got trained in lifeguarding by the BSA. Which means you learned how to do it at anything from a pool to the ocean, and any body of water in between. When I was being trained, we did a live search for a swimmer. In a BSA waterfront, you put a buddy tag up saying you're in the particular area of the waterfront, whether that's swimming at a particular level or in a boat or whatever. The name, buddy tag, implies that there should always be two of you involved, as well... We had someone leave their tag in the swimmer area one afternoon. So the drill starts: line up, dive down, move forward searching, rise, dress the line, and repeat. Meanwhile, someone is running up to the kid's campsite to find out if he's there, and just left his tag... which turned out to be the case. Made us all late for dinner. (And to add insult to injury, as I get to the chow hall and join my troop -- one of the guys asks me if I heard about how Billy left his tag up at the waterfront!)

There are jobs that inattention doesn't matter. Lifeguard is at about the end of the scale on jobs that require ABSOLUTE attention.

Justin said...

More wisdom from Mr. Perry.
I'll have you know I have taken up jogging in the wild on occasion, and I don't use my iPod -- in part because of your sentiments on the subject.

Anyhow, your post reminded me of a really interesting article on drowning: http://gcaptain.com/maritime/blog/drowning/?10981