As the weather warmed up, sophomore-itis kicked in, my mom started buying strawberries again, and I grew more and more excited for the upcoming summer vacation. For me, summer means early morning swim practices, cougar baseball games, and as of last summer, lifeguarding. My first day back at the Elmcrest Country Club pool was Mother’s day. Along with being reintroduced with the smell of sunscreen and poolside French fries, I was reminded of the worst aspect of my otherwise enjoyable job: the discourteous members.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that all guests are rude. There are some perfectly well-mannered and polite pool-goers. I am ever so grateful for that minority when I come in contact with the less than civil faction.
In my year of experience at the country club, I’ve come to learn there are many types of ill-mannered patrons. One is the serial sunbather. The serial sunbather arrives right when the lifeguards open the doors in the morning, so as to get optimal sun time. The serial sunbather then proceeds to find a lounge chair most desirable for tanning, unfolds a towel, and assumes the position. Seems harmless, right? Wrong. The problem arises when the serial sunbather stays all day, rotating the chair each hour or so, for the most favorable UV rays. By the end of the day, the chair is rotated a full 180 degrees. This is annoying for the individual who has to reposition the chairs at closing time (me). It’s especially annoying when a flock of serial sunbathers congregate in one area, creating a maze of criss- crossed chairs for the tired, sweaty lifeguard by the end of the day.
Another sanction of impolite patrons is known as the standing socializer. The standing socializer can be anyone from the thirteen year old girls giggling about the boys on the other side of the pool, to the sixty year old men bragging about their grandchildren. The standing socializers are not in the pool to swim, but rather to enjoy the cold water while standing upright along the edges of the pool. These non-swimmers create problems both when the pool is busy, and when it’s nearly empty. When the pool is busy and filled with splashing kids, the socializers become annoyed when they get splashed with water while in the pool (also filled with water). When the pool is completely empty except for the non-swimming socializers, it’s the lifeguards – who are required to supervise anyone in the pool – who get annoyed, as they climb up to the chair only to watch three adults stand at the side of the pool.
Next, we have the snack spillers. These are especially disadvantageous at country clubs, where one can get full meals, rather than just the popsicles offered at public pools. The name describes these people perfectly. It’s the members of any age that order food from the cabana, spill it on the concrete, and make little to no effort to pick up after themselves. Some snacks are manageable to clean up. Lettuce from a half eaten salad. Spilled Chex Mix. The remains of a chocolate chip cookie. More liquid forms of food are much more difficult. Ketchup coating the concrete. Milky chocolate ice cream. The sticky red slushy that smells of processed watermelon flavoring and high fructose corn syrup and will have to be cleaned off the concrete with a high-pressure hose. These are the annoyances that have the lifeguards on duty yelling, “Not it!” This category also includes the trash abandoners, the people who leave trays, plates, cups, napkins, and other waste on the ground, rather than disposing of it in the garbage can, located a mere ten feet away.
Oh, the infamous Pool Rat. The pool rats at Elmcrest are most frequently children. Their parents see Elmcrest as more of a daycare facility than a pool, and drop their kids off in the morning, and pick them up right before dinner. The pool rats certainly aren’t the worst of lifeguard frustration, but watching the same group of six kids play the same game of Marco Polo every single day does get a little monotonous.
All the lifeguards at Elmcrest would probably agree that the worst offender is the Late-night Lingerer. On a typical day, the pool closes at 10PM. By about 9PM, the lifeguards are hoping that no new swimmers come in, so as to start the closing process and get off work a little early. After working an eight hour shift in the sun, we lifeguards are thrilled with the opportunity to clock out at 9:30, instead of 10:00. You can see why, then, it is so irritating when a group of adults, sometimes occompanied by their kids, show up at 9:30. They take off their pool cover-ups and get in the water like it’s no big deal, but to the lifeguards, this late night pool run means an extra hour added on to the work day. You see, we can’t start the clean up procedure until all of the members are out of the facility. So when people come in thirty minutes before closing time and order a bucket of ice-cold beer from the cabana, we know we’re doomed. We then observe as the members splash around eating mozzarella sticks and indulging (sometimes over-indulging) in alcoholic beverages. At 9:50, one of the lifeguards will get on the speaker system with the usual message, “Attention Elmcrest members: the pool will be closing in ten minutes” in hopes it will yield a response. Unfortunately, by the time the rowdy late-night lingerers file out of the aquatic area, it’s 10:30, and about one hour of cleanup awaits the sun-burned, frustrated, lifeguards.
So lifeguards, this summer, let us rise above the ill-mannered pool goers, and maintain a respectable level of composure during those late-night slushy clean up sessions. And pool-goers, as you go to abandon your used water cups, or rotate your chair another 90 degrees, please keep in mind the hot, tired, lifeguards who are only getting paid $7.25 an hour.