Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Swimming Pool

I worked as the fill-in life guard the summer I was 15.  It’s a small Texas town, and then it was the only public pool. It was outdoors on the old high school campus sandwiched between the gymnasium and the original football field. My two cousins were the main life guards, and I went to the pool with them each day to learn the ropes, as the elder was getting married that summer, and I was to be her replacement. The public pool was soon to be run by a 15 and 17 year old.

A couple details about that summer job haunt me today, as a mother and as a responsible person.  First off, I was not certified by any agency to be a lifeguard. Nepotism at its finest. I had the general idea, CPR wise, and I had a whistle.  Also there were no adults in charge, to speak of.  The football coach, in high waisted nylon shorts and knee high white socks, dropped by on occasion, probably because he was getting a few extra bucks for running the pool. And it was near the weight room where the football players worked out.  Another was we were paid daily right out of the till, so if it was a slow day, we closed the pool early so we could make it worth our while to be there.  My cousin checked the PH of the water, or whatever that kit with the colored drops was.  Occasionally the water level was too low so we put a hose in.  I know there were bags of chemicals we dumped in from time to time.

We had the key to the doors and the padlocked plywood cover for the admission window that covered the front of the cinderblock building that served as snack bar, and twin changing rooms and bathrooms.  I cannot remember them ever being cleaned, just hosed down.  There was never toilet paper and the concrete floor was always wet and hopping with crickets.  It was a dollar admission and we purchased bulk snacks, zingers, twinkies, chips then sold them for profit.  Swimmers could get a wire basket from the snack bar but there was no place to stash it.

I have a painful image of a rough passel of scruffy kids in cutoffs and t-shirts standing on the asphalt in the burning Texas sunshine, having been dropped by mom and given a buck each. We opened at 1 PM, and I vividly remember a couple of them didn’t have shoes and were hopping from foot to foot, waiting for us.  Mothers were often late and pissed off, screeching into the parking lot in rattling faded station wagons with the windows down, smoking a cigarette and her hair in sponge rollers.  Lots of kids road their bikes and left them laying outside the fence, never needing to worry that they’d be stolen.
This was mostly an extreme babysitting job with fighting siblings, water, and two diving boards. There was one giant football player who went off the high dive and sunk.  We had to both go in after him.  We gave time outs for pushing and dunking. We yelled at a kid named Dwayne a lot. 

At the end of my summer adventure at the pool, I had learned how to French braid my own hair, had snagged a kinda-sorta summer boyfriend and I had a bitchin’ tan. For me those were all firsts plu I had a Styrofoam Sonic slushie cup stuffed with one dollar bills

At the end of summer the pool was closed then totally removed some years later.  A big Corporate Wellness Center with an indoor Aquatic Center opened at the new hospital across town. Many more people now have their own backyard pools I guess. A patch of brown grass has replaced the entirety of the old public pool and snack shack, and the space looks impossibly small.

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  1. "I had a whistle." Awesome! Every professional needs the tools of her trade! As my husband likes to say when we recount crazy stories that could have gone terribly awry: "And nothing bad happened."

    Although Dwayne might have a different perspective.

  2. Our public pool was only a quarter and the water tasted salty. can't imagine how we all survived given the excellent supervision and the copious consumption of all that cholrinated, sweaty, kidpiss water. thanks for the memories.