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Respect Life (3)
with Jeff Ellis and Management lifeguarding
written, end of May, 2012
I have found myself writing down, or wanting to write down, every detail about lifeguarding. I have always wanted to keep some sort of journal like this, but I knew my life was always too dole and dragged out, that it would eventually bore everyone to tears, and maybe this will. For now, everything is still new and I am still learning more and more things every day. Maybe I will never stop learning new things every time I go to work.
I have only finished my last one of these papers last night, but I am going to write them almost every night that I do not work the 4:45 am shift the next day. I write and think I have covered everything about lifeguarding on my mind, but I later find tons of things I totally forgot to put in. One of those big things is how my work effects me everywhere else in my life. There is not much to say, except that I have a hard time talking about anything OTHER than lifeguarding. I think I drive people crazy sometimes. No one has said anything, but I am trying to keep control of myself before everyone is sick of hearing about it. At least I always have new things from work to talk about. But, then, all that is probably only natural.
Lifeguarding definitely leaves me in better spirits, but I still live with my “obnoxious” nine kid family and a Dad that looses his temper too much. I still have homework that needs being done, because, even though it is summer now, I still have homework to finish. I think I have taken a head dive into work for another reason; a distraction. It gives me something to really enjoy. Somewhere to put my thinking and effort instead of lots of effort--time--wasting algebra and Shakespeare. It isn't taking me away from my other work, but it sort of has built something in my head; that there are things I can put my head full into that are fully my interest and nothing the least bit that I do not have the slightest bit of not liking something about. If that makes any sense.
I remember my friend tolled me once to never grow up. I haven't. I know what she means, but lifeguarding has grown me up in a different way. It makes me have a greater respect for certain things. Don't get me wrong, I am not boasting here at all. I did not even think of it that way until my Mom tolled me not too boast. I just have more respect for things like when other people above me are trying to speak. It was like earlier tonight at AHG, American Heritage Girls; and organization smiler to Girl Scouts, only with more older kids. When my squad's leader was trying to talk, the other girls who all range from 12 to 16, were whispering and laughing, even the Senior Squad Leader. I could understand them. I was like that sometimes when I went to school. But, still, our leader was talking about something important. I really do not have that much dedication to AHG, but I have respect, and that means a lot.
I think that one thing us lifeguards really have for each other, that really makes us an amazing team, is respect. Respect for each other, respect for our managers, for out head bosses. Yes, us girls kept Aaron on his toes, fetching ice for us all night, but that even is respect in itself. We were not making him seriously mad, but we all laughed about it. We didn't push each other's buttons or get angry with each other. It's really all too hard to explain if you don't already know what I mean. My experience is, if you have respect for everyone else around you, and they have respect for you, everything else will click into place. The world revolves on respect. It's too bad the world really lacks that.
The funniest thing happened earlier today. I don't mean funny funny, I mean funny cool. I went to open a savings account at the Old Second bank in downtown. The man who helped me, asked me what my job was and my employer. I tolled him. Then he said to me he has a son who is about my age who wants a job, and he said that his son wanted to maybe be a lifeguard at the Athletic Center. Funny thing was, turned out I had just heard from Jerica, one of the head bosses, that the last training class was THAT weekend, this very night, and after that, it was too late. If anyone still wanted to be a lifeguard, they would have to sign up for the training immediately without even being interviewed.
I tolled him this. The man tolled me his son was concerned about the training. I tried my best to tell him that, yes, it was a little difficult and intense, but of you worked hard and payed attention, you would pass fine. He said that he was going to make a phone call to the Center that very day as soon as he got home. That was earlier today, and the first day of the last training was tonight. I wonder if the bank man's son was there. Well, if there is ever a new lifeguard with the last name Pamilla, I guess I will know.
And also, is it weird that I work with the older brother, Dan, of a girl I went to school with? His sister never really liked me much, but Dan is really nice and cool. Well, work is EVERYTHING different from school. Work makes me laugh at school.
I just got back from an only two hour shift, but it is probably one of the most wildest of all the days I have worked. Today was the end of my third week of working, but I still feel like I have been working at the Center forever.
I worked a rental, only the rental was about a million little kids. They were everywhere like ants to food! Although, they seemed to not brake as many rules. I think that the majority of them knew the rules already. Still, I started out at the leisure pool with all the kids. It was so crowded that Dan had to come help me watch them all. I was on my toes like crazy! Dan is not a new lifeguard, but he has only been working a week at the Center, so he did not realize a lot of the rules. I was usually blowing my whistle for all the rule-breaking. Just like before, I gave mercy of steel. I did way better this time. I think some of the kids were a little scared of me. Maybe I was scowling too much. Well, guess that means I'm doing my job right!
Four things that really made tonight wild was that, first of all, I FINALLY have my REAL uniform! Yah! No more 'dresses'! They gave me a way too small hat by accident and it just pops right off my head, so I have to take that back. But, I will only use the hat when I work any outdoor shifts that I pick up. The shorts are just the normal blue shorts like everyone else's, but THE SHIRT... Now, THAT is a different story. I got the brand new up-to-date shirt that not a lot of lifeguards have yet. It is white like everyone else's, but it is sleeveless and as thin as a leaf without being see-through. It even has the nice holey kind of fabric down the sides. The back, of course, has the red lettering spelling out LIFEGUARD. The front has the round blue and yellow circle with the letters EA for Ellis and Associates in the middle, and Jeff Ellis Management is spelled out around the circle. Its a really nice shirt and I can't wait to wear it! Though, I'm sure I'll be really sick of it by the end of the summer. But, for now, it's amazing! They also gave me another whistle, but I guess it doesn't hurt to have a second whistle, just in case.
When I walked into the first aid/everything-else-room with the other lifeguards, we were delighted and amazed to find that there were about six brand new guard tubes! They are perfect! Not a single little bit of foam is showing.; not a single crack or split is visible. The writing, Ellis Lifeguard, is completely unworn. They are nice and stiff and straight. PERFECT! Also, is an almost whole new supply of radio cases. They are shiny and clear and don't have a single little whole in them. ALSO PERFECT! Thank you to whoever got around to finding the money for them and to ordering them! I was even rotating out and Jide, (Jee-day) was taking my place, and he had an old broken tube because all the new ones were taken, and he was complaining about it. I started bragging about my new perfect tube, “See? It's nice and shiny fire engine red! Not a single split, and yours is only held together by the strap!” It was all in fun and we got a good kick out of it.
We got new tubes and radio cases, but the stand in the therapy pool is so done for! It was already broken, but it was not that big of a deal. I walked into the employ room and there it was; completely dilapidated. The metal in the back had finally given and the whole seat part was caved in. Guess we have to stand for the therapy pool now. Oh well! It's definitely worth the new tubes!
The last most amazing part of tonight, or maybe not so amazing for that person, was I had a sort-of save tonight. Jide the supervisor said it's called an assist. I was working the leisure pool and a little girl with a life jacket on fell off the lily pads play equipment into the water, like a lot of people do. She started to freak out because her feet could not touch the bottom. She started splashing some and her eyes got really big. I could easily see the fear in them. I saw her instantly and my automatic reaction was to drop everything, get down on my belly, reach my hand out and clasp her wrist, pulling her to the edge. I lifted her out of the water and she just ran off and started playing again. Apparently, I did the right thing. I don't think we even have to whistle unless it is an actual save. The girl wasn't drowning at all, she was just a little scared.
PAUSE! PAUSE! I am writing this paragraph after re-reading this three months later. Now I remember the slight hesitation I had before I pulled the girl out of the water. Just remember this.
What I learned tonight? Everyone else is right! When a person is in distress, you will know it. When I saw that girl freaking out, all my census were suddenly even more alive and awake and sharper than before. I didn't even have to make eye contact with the girl, she made eye contact with me. I could see nothing but fear, and it was so obvious, that girl needed help. It's sort of like, for one instant, our minds were connected and she could send me a clear message, “HELP!” I had this split split second of fear, but it was replaced immediately by my automatic reaction, to help. I know even more now that in the training, they filled us with fear, yet they drained us of it. They filled us up with a fear to do the right thing about it. There really is no way to explain it. It's that sort of thing you will never understand unless you do it yourself.
I think that is what Red Cross really lacks. The lifeguards are not trained well enough to be able to drive out that automatic fear that is a part of being human, yet be so filled with fear that their reaction is the right reaction to do the right thing correctly. That is what happened to those lifeguards in that video Touched by a Drowning that we watched in lifeguard training. They had that fear that is human, and that fear that is rammed into them at training, but their training fear did not overpower the automatic human fear, the fear to forget everything. You know you are trained well, of you remember everything in spite your fears, not forget it. Those lifeguards were obviously not trained well. They didn't keep their skills tip-top shape and up to date. They obviously did not do monthly training to review their skills taught them. In a way, it was not even their faults. If Red Cross had better training, and kept them in constant training every month, they would not have reacted by not reacting.
I don't mean to boast or anything, if that is what I sound like, but I highly suggest Jeff Ellis, or anything besides Red Cross, to anyone thinking of becoming a lifeguard.
When constantly scanning the pool, we will always see a guest in distress ninety-nine and a half times out of one-hundred, immediately. Or, at least we better! Know that fear in a person's eyes when they need help. Know fear in their bodies; they won't always be looking at you. Have respect for life. All we are really doing is saving lives one at a time. I swear, even if I was never paid a penny for this job, I would do it anyways. It's amazing, the emotional impact it has on people. Being a lifeguard really makes you have an amazing respect for life.
--Martina C., Jeff Ellis Lifeguard, summer 2012