I believe in smiles. I am a lifeguard, so you might think I don’t believe in smiles. But I do. I’m a lifeguard; sometimes I feel slightly silly announcing, “Yes. I’m a lifeguard.” And, no, it’s not all saving lives. Unfortunately, it’s mostly yelling. At kids. At kids who run around and are annoying. At the kids who dive in the shallow end of the pool.
There is one highlight of my day, though. It’s when I get to help kids down Rip Tide Slide. Yes, some of you may know what I am talking about. It’s that gentle slide at the local water-park that leads into a lazy river. This is the only position at the water-park where I work where I myself stand in the water for a thirty- minute rotation. Sometimes it’s cold, and that really sucks. But, in the summers of southern California, it’s usually sunny and usually warm.
Of course, I sometimes stand there, and on a bad day, stoically let kids pass when it’s their turn. It’s not much fun for me or them. They look at me with their big, timid eyes when I say the rules: “Sit down. Feet first. You can go. You can go now. You can GO. GOOOO!” I just want the people standing in line to get out of my way; this is the last position before a break.
But, the best days are when I play with the kids in the water. I tell groups of kids the rules oh so loudly and lively and I dole out punishment if they can’t recite back to me the rules of the ride. Their punishment is this: a tornado of water escorting them to the mouth of the slide. The boys and girls of all ages turn around to face me after having turned away to keep water from getting in their eyes and look in stunned amazement. That…that…lifeguard just splashed me. Smiles of delight, horror, surprise, greet me. There is a certain amount of time before some kid realizes that I’m a fellow human and he/she begins to splash back. I don’t have to be a mean lifeguard, even though sometimes it’s easier. I am the lifeguard that might splash you or push your tube down the slide with a spin or smile with chagrin when she sees you trying to sneak past in a slow jog. I like being human, and sharing a smile between yeller and yell-ee.
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