Lifeguarding is not just fun and games. There's sleep too. 

My So-Called Lifeguard

I do not understand why a sleeping lifeguard is considered so dangerous. I doubt any children have ever been injured by a guard taking a nap on the stand.

I should know. During my four years as a guard at pools from Ashland to Mechanicsville to Richmond, I have managed to fall asleep on at least a dozen lifeguarding stands while assuming an appearance of attentiveness.

This isn't to say that lifeguarding is a boring job. Not in the least. It's the perfect job for someone who enjoys being paid to develop his or her tan, enjoy an occasional nap and, most importantly, scold children.

The modern lifeguard is created through a series of pre-summer decisions. As summer approaches, some high-schools students will look for real summer jobs while others will choose to look for romance. The remainder of us choose to become lifeguards. By making this decision, guards around the world are quite admirably putting children as their top priority.

Guarding lives is not all fun and games. It requires mathematical skills in order to estimate the number of patrons in the pool at any given time. This usually ranges from one to 20 or so. Also, janitorial skills are a must since many children seem to believe pool water will cure them of a violent stomach flu.

And lifeguarding has its challenges. As the summer progresses and we round the corner from July to August, the lifeguards prepare for the changes late summer will bring. Have you ever noticed how pools often turn a shade of green during this period of the summer? This is a chronic problem that normally occurs in mid-August when pool managers and assistant managers have left for college and the lowly grunt high-school Cinderellas are left to do the real work.

As a result, lifeguards worldwide will be attempting to solve the age-old question: Is the pool green because the kids stopped coming? Or did the kids stop coming because the pool is green?

So sometime this summer when you drop the kids off at your area pool, I encourage you to approach the stand with dignity, wake the lifeguard and say what a great job he or she is doing.

The lifeguarding-recognition revolution has begun and will be fought sitting down with half-shut eyes and a cool soft drink in hand. We work hard for a living, and deserve nothing less than the best.

Alex Lissenden is a senior at the Governor's School. He will attend Guilford College in the fall.


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