I’ve had a good, long run in the sun, but as that old saying goes, “Every guard must one day slip into the shade.” For me that day is today, but for most of you, this is the first of many summers as watchers of the still waters at the Ewert Park Community Pool. I bet you’re pretty excited. Well, call me after you’ve done it for 31 consecutive years.
I can still remember a time when this job used to mean something. Almost drowning in this pool used to be an honor. Weak swimmers from all over the county would flock here on the off chance they might go under. We didn’t save all of them—not even half—but at least we got our balls in the water and did our best.
Now the job is all prevention. Watching. Testing. Monitoring. It makes me sick! You want to know how we used to test the pH levels? I’d dip a finger in the water every morning and taste it. That’s old-school guarding. But then they traced that skin-eating-bacteria outbreak here in the summer of ’89 and this place got a lot more bureaucratic.
Man, I wish you kids had been around when Baywatch broke. Now that was a great time to be in aquatics! I’d come off a long shift and wear my red guarding shorts right into The Armpit, the city’s hottest nightclub. That’s where I met the most beautiful girl I ever saw. Like a scene straight out of The Notebook, I was just working up the courage to talk to her when her heart stopped. Whether it was the crystal meth or the 21 shots of Old Crow that did it, I don’t know, but suddenly there I was, resuscitating her with the pool’s defibrillator, which up until that point I’d only used as a prop on the dance floor.
Unlike most of the ’90s, I can still remember that moment as if it were a clear memory. “Whoomp! There It Is” was playing, and a breeze from the oscillating fan behind the bar cooled the sweat on my brow as I placed the electrodes to her impressive breasts. A flier on the wall advertised an upcoming concert by a Winger cover band, and somewhere off in the distance, perhaps near the pool table, a man announced that a throat was about to be punched. I turned on the current and shocked her.
When she opened her eyes they were as green as the algae in the pump basket at the tail end of an Indian summer. She turned her head, vomited on my flip-flops and whispered, “Keep the pigs out of this.” For a few weeks we rode each other like carnival rides, but our love affair ended like all great loves do—with a herpes flare up.
That must have been ‘93. Man, what a good summer! I remember my melanin had come in just beautifully that July: an even, lustrous hazelnut with the faintest hint of ginger overtones. This was before my tragic tanning accident in the summer of ’01 when I applied so much hot bronzer that all of my blood rushed to my skin, rendering me unconscious in the sun for nine hours. A doctor told me he’d seen pictures of men left for dead in the Sahara who looked better. FYI, this is why I wear the full-body diving suit when I’m on duty.
So it’s with a little regret and many good memories that I’m hanging up my rescue buoy. Saving lives is a young man’s game, and I’m old enough to be the illegitimate father of any one of you. Hell, maybe I am your dad. If your mom frequented the city pool during the ‘80s and ’90s, the odds aren’t bad. Any of you color blind? That runs in the family. So does irritable bowel syndrome. Which reminds me, someone took a dump in the kiddie pool yesterday. Now I’m fine with letting the swim classes finish up, but we really need to make fishing out that turd a priority this afternoon.