>”Mommy, I forgot my goggles!”
There are little kids all over getting ready for swim team practice. Mike has never seen so many kids at a pool before. At least not when he’s been in charge of watching the pool. Mike has been guarding at an indoor pool over the last year or so, but they don’t get nearly as much swimmers there as they get here at Summer’s Bay. Of course, it’s not that big of a deal because he is guarding for the swim team practice. It does seem a little stupid. Who doesn’t trust swim team kids to be able to swim? But it doesn’t really matter, Mike has been waiting for this chance ever since he was a pool rat himself. And he does have some experience already, having had to make three saves at the indoor pool. He’s not really proud about that, though, because he thinks his wandering mind was the reason he didn’t stop the problems before they happened. He has decided not to let it bother him now. This was a new job and a new experience, not to mention the job he has been waiting for.
This would be the best summer he has had in a long time. At least that’s what he hopes. His fellow pool rats, as the kids are called by the staff, seemed to dwindle in numbers as the years went by. There really hasn’t been anyone for him to hang out with for a good seven years now. Despite having no one to play with, or hang with,… or talk to… he still came out to the pool nearly every day. All the way up to the summer after graduating from the 8th grade. That summer was by far the most ridiculous waste of time next to watching moths fly into the bug zapper. That summer was spent watching the entire Star Wars trilogy over, and over, and over. By the end of the summer Mike had no doubt memorized every line in the entire series. He was so immersed in the Star Wars Universe that he began the freshman school year with the mindset that the High School was like a Rebel training facility. He initially came up with this idea to dispel his fear of going to the High School, but was soon caught by the reality that high school isn’t that bad – especially when no one pays any attention to you.
Mike’s cousin and one of her friends were going to take a lifeguarding class so they could work at Summer’s Bay, everyone’s favorite place to hang. On the inside Mike was thrilled to death that someone else he knew was taking the class so he could take it also and have someone there with him so he is not alone and he can become trained to get a job at the one place he has always loved to be and never wanted to leave – but on the outside he didn’t seem all that enthused. That’s just Mike, though.
As you can probably guess, Mike passed the class and was now a certified American Red Cross Lifeguard. His first job would be at the pool where he was trained. It was an indoor pool and he began this job in the middle of the winter. He later applied to Summer’s Bay but it seemed they had all the positions filled. He, and his cousin, would be placed on the sub list and with any luck would be called at the end of the year when all the college kids left for the school year. Until then, Mike had secured a job as one of only 2 lifeguards at the indoor pool. A little nerve-wrecking but still a job, and a fairly easy one at that. Yet this job allowed him to gain a bunch of knowledge about guarding a pool in the real world (versus the pretend drownings in lifeguard class). He also became very familiar with upkeep, cleaning the pool, taking chemical readings, and fixing any chemical problems. Such a small fitness club with such a small pool couldn’t afford to hire multiple people for every aspect of the facility. Instead the managers, owner, and lifeguards shared the responsibilities. By the end of the summer, however, Mike could have been given the job of Pool Manager easily, as he knew more about the pool than even the owner.
No matter how much he knew, or how good he was at his job, he wasn’t happy. He had barely any swimmers (on a good day, even) and it was quite boring and menial. The same thing every day, all summer, and into the winter, and he couldn’t take it anymore. His dad kept pushing him to “get a real job,” and that’s what he was determined to do. He applied at a fast food restaurant with an old buddy and was hired as a chef. After one night of popping chicken thighs he was finished. There was no way he was going back. He called the manager, told her that he couldn’t do it and (knowing how disappointed his dad was with him) he hung up the phone and buried his head in the couch cushions. It was back to the proverbial salt mines for another summer of cleaning windows, balancing pool chemicals, and staring at an empty, yet very clean, well managed pool.
“Somebody answer the phone,” mom yells across the house! Little sister picks it up in a hurry and with a confusing tone to her voice says, “it’s for you?” Mike looks up to see her pointing the phone right at his face. As bewildered as he is, his sister acts like a cop has come to the house to arrest the Pope.
“Who is it,” he asks? With an attitude he gets an “I don’t know, just take it!” He reaches out and grabs the phone. No one ever calls for him, mostly because of the never being noticed at school thing. So he calmly and carefully says, “hello?”
“Is this Michael,” the voice asks?
Mike stretches out a “yeees…?”
“Hi,” she continues, “this is Lisa from Summer’s Bay. I was wondering if you still wanted to and still could work at the pool this summer?”
Mike can’t believe it. A whole minute ago he just quit the chicken place and now he is being offered a job at the pool. His dream employer has called him! His excitement, while contained in his head, is so crazy high that he forgets he is still on the phone with the person who wants to hire him.
“Michael?” “Yes, I can work there!” “Well, here’s what I need,” she continues with a warnful tone, “I need someone to guard for the swim team practices from 8 to 11 in the morning, Monday through Friday. It’s a fairly new position we added last year and the girl we had last year can’t do it anymore. So are you sure you could do that?”
And the excitement is gone. It’s not exactly what Mike was hoping for, yet is still a job at the pool. Without consulting his parents Mike tells her that it’s no problem and he would love to do it, even though it’s not the position of his dreams.
And that is where he is now. Guarding three hours straight in the hot summer sun. As bad as it sounds it’s really not as bad as 5 hours at the indoor pool. At least at Summer’s Bay he has people to watch. He also has people to learn from. After all, it is the swim and dive teams he sees every day. With a keen eye and a sharp ear he soaks in everything he can. Hey, it’s either that or fall asleep and get fired before he had a chance to really work at the pool.