In A Matter of Seconds

January 1, 2011
By , Philadelphia, PA
“Walk please,” I exclaim as two little girls in matching, neon pink and green bathing suits dart past me, giggling. Standing at the edge of the baby pool, I clutch the bright red tube that reads “Lifeguard” against my chest, as the mid-afternoon sunlight illuminates the water. Laughter and amicable conversations between mothers can be overheard, as children happily frolic by their parents. “U-like” in design, the shallow water-filled roundabout closely resembles a surreal in-water playground with a large cascading fountain, child-sized plastic animals that dispense a deluge of water, and geysers that flow from two technicolor pipes positioned on the side of the pool. It is a quintessential, picturesque day at the local pool, the epitome of tranquility. Then, it happens. The tiny boy, barely two years old, who once played safely by his mother, slips slowly and quietly into the shallow water below.

For as long as I can remember, I have spent the majority of my summer days at this place. Fondly, I recall this empyrean place as a prominent part of my childhood, along with the weekly ice cream truck that passed through our neighborhood and our family's annual beach trip. When I was fifteen I firmly decided that the only summer job I truly wanted was one that included a fanny pack and a bright red whistle. After undergoing an extensive, six-week Red Cross certification program, I was overjoyed to hear those two life-altering words; “You're hired.” Fortunately, in just over a year of employment, I was never faced with a situation in which someone's life was in jeopardy. Now, I realize, as the child fully loses his balance and descends into the water, hesitation is not an option.

I blow my whistle instantaneously, reaching down into the pool, hands trembling, and gently pull the little boy to the surface, firmly grasping both of his arms. His submerged eyes, paralyzed with fear and confusion, peer up at me, unclosed, through the surface of the water. The once oblivious members turn around to assess the situation and the mother, absorbed in an argument between the boy's siblings, comprehends what has just happens. “Michael!” she exclaims as she rushes toward her child, engulfing him in an embrace, “Is he okay?” Fortunately, the little boy is unharmed and, after some calming words from his mother and a general primary inspection, hurries over to play with his toy trucks and to scoop up more imaginary ice cream with his small, plastic bucket, resuming the laughter that he possessed just moments before. Having only been under water for a few moments, the incident has virtually no effect on him. As I resume scanning the pool, visibly shaken, an unnerving thought enters my mind; if I had taken longer to recognize the child's distress, the outcome would most likely have been drastically different.

Assisting Michael, made me truly realize the importance of being alert and focused at all times during my job. Despite the ideal weather conditions and serene, halcyon environment of summer, accidents and emergencies can still occur. Life can sometimes take unexpected detours, deviating from one's perception of “ideal.” Detours, however, do not necessarily equate to tragedy. By calmly assessing their situation, one can rescue themselves from beneath their own, seemingly inescapable “waters” and realize the was not as debilitating as it once seemed.





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