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Jun 15 2019

Hot Town

Summer in the City – Lovin’ Spoonful

Atrios reminds me that Lifeguarding and Water Safety Instruction (you can go and get a dive certificate, but the American Red Cross has no more to teach you) is something I did professionally from the time I was 16 into my mid-Twenties.

I started in Stars Hollow and before you say “But ek, you told me Richard and Emily live in Hartford,” nobody actually lives in Hartford, it’s too urban. They live in Farmington or Glastonbury, if you can’t afford those there’s Rocky Hill but they say the schools aren’t all that.

Stars Hollow is farther away, and in a different direction, but close enough. I have siblings and didn’t go to Chilton Academy (could have, but Stars Hollow is pretty good) and didn’t get pregnant and drop out to run away and work at an Inn.

With 4 years of 10 mile-a-day Swim Team and my newly minted WSLI I marched in, filled out some forms, and bang, I was a Life Guard. At the most miserable and dangerous puddle in town. It was a stream dam that pooled into a 20 yard wide spot between the Beach and a Retaining Wall and tapered into a 10 yard wide ford about 40 yards upstream that only came half way up your calves, people would wade across to the picnic grounds rather than take the bridges at either end. In the Spring it was the site of a popular Fishing Derby and the deeper parts (it got to around 20′ right before the dam) were littered with snagged hooks.

There were 2 “diving boards” which were basically wooden planks with a canvas cover nailed to them, strapped to 2 concrete piers. The “shallow” board pointed at water a mere 3′ deep. Parents loved it because they could stand and catch their kids. The “deep” board pointed at water that was 8′ deep.

THIS IS NOT DEEP ENOUGH! You need 10′ and then feet and not head first. Real Pools are at least 12′ for a 1 Meter Springboard. Hope you had a good time, I always had a panic attack and opened my Manual to Cervical Injuries and made sure our Back Board didn’t have any crap in front of it.

The water was so dark that if you got ankle deep you couldn’t see your toes and if you knew anything about how the stream ran you’d realize it was about a mile from being fresh off the Town Dump.

I knew because I had to test every day.

But it never tested positive and indeed of all the imagined and real hazards I never had to deal with a single one, mostly because it was very, very slow and few people, even kids, got wet above their knees.

Though I spent most days banging a tennis ball against the back of the Guard Shack because I was so bloody bored, I established this reputation as some kind of Super Life Guard, probably because my occasional substitutes perceived my Area (correctly) as the horror show of liability and torts that it was and I had a perfect record.

They only ran it from Memorial Day to Labor Day but because I did scut work all Summer and was eventually one of their most experienced Life Guards (lots of turnover), they’d call me in early and late to work the “normal” pools so I was pretty much employed May – October.

Then I got an opportunity to go to Syracuse University, home of the Newhouse School of Journalism, and moved into the second phase of my career as a Professional Life Guard.