Friday, September 01, 2006

Swim At Your Own Risk

As a child, I learned to swim in a medium-sized above ground swimming pool in our backyard. The pool was my favorite place to be (a good thing given that the Texas summers in those days were unrelenting). The heat caused people to go a little mad -- days that didn't dip below a hundred degrees resulted in a variety of violent crimes, particularly murder, hence the expression, It's so fucking hot I could kill someone! I even wanted to swim in the winter and jumped into the pool fully clothed when I had ascertained that the adults heads were turned. My father, smoking a cigarette, came in, lit cigarette and all and pulled me out of the freezing water. The good result -- he stopped smoking then and there forever. I remained in love with the water despite the fact that my stupidity caused me to almost drown a few times -- strong swimmers are the ones always overestimating their abilities and getting into trouble.

Years later, I trained to lifeguard, my favorite young person job. Given that I'd just gotten out of working at a slaughterhouse, the city pool was a huge step up. The pool was owned in part by the home for emotionally disturbed/criminal/touched teenagers down the road. Every day they would get two hours in the pool. The other lifeguards hated this time because we had to keep a close eye on them, especially since many of them used this somewhat unsupervised time to try and make time (ie, have sex or some semblance) with their beloveds in the pool. The others who hadn't the good fortune to have a girlfriend or boyfriend would run around and jump on each other's heads off the diving board. I didn't mind, though. They were so happy to be there, you could hear them yelling as they ran down the road from nearly a mile away. When you did have to jump in and get them to the side for whatever reason, they were mostly active victims, a term for people who struggle against being saved, so much so that you have to put their heads underwater a couple of times to calm them down, something I understood all too well.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"When you cannot immediately access the situation, direct others to get help." Lifeguard Instruction Guide

Cocktail Hour

Drinking movie suggestion: The Believer

Benedictions and Maledictions

In answer to John Ricci -- the lovely woman in question is my friend Hank's younger sister, Higgins. She's getting married this year on New Year's Eve -- the same time that picture was taken. Congratulations, Higgins!


paul said...

O Mighty Isis Mermade Queen i never swam much but its never too late too learn as long asd not in the D River pool sounds good tho cooler now R2 C2 Foxy!

Jamie said...

Hopefully you just let them "make time." After all, you guys were just supposed to keep them from drowning.

Sheila said...

i don't remember where i first learned to swim... but i do remember when i was three or four i was swiming in my aunts pool at one of our family parties... and i was in a little turtle floatie... but it was one of those floatie's that had a slit in the back and was not a complete circle. i slipped out and i remember as the water lapped against my face struggling to stay afloat my aunt terry jumped in to save me... clothes and all.

Anomaly said...

It's always puzzled me, why some people will actually struggle against being saved. If it were just men I could just wave it away as being too macho to be rescued - but I've seen women do it too.

I once did a summer job at the local White Water Rafting centre, you see - a place just full of people who think they know what they're doing.

And don't.

Love the writing!


Anonymous said...


JR's Thumbprints said...

I used to be a WSI (Water Safety Instructor). Did the lifeguard routine at my highschool pool too. It's been a good twenty-five years, but I still remember how to save someone from drowning. Ride'em out until they tire, then bring'em in. I like your choice of words: "struggle against being saved" which really means "survive at all cost." Made me think, Michelle. Nice post (not the one behind you).

Anonymous said...

Had an uncle once that would grab my legs and pull me under while swimming across the deep end in a pool while our whole family was on vacation at Myrtle Beach, S.C. And he'd hold me under until he knew he'd sufficiently scared the shit out of me and I'd stopped struggling to get away. Then he'd get out, sit back on the lounger with his hands propped behind his head, like he'd just performed his good deed for the day, or else go strut down the beach in his speedo and permed hair-do, like he was a god or something... something like a joke is more like it! --Robin

John Ricci said...

Dear Michelle,
That is quite the lovely enchantress view. Thank you for the Higgins presentation. If I may ask, is that a family name? Her stare is most perplexing in "Dark Room" I like thinking of you in the lifeguard role. Bravo!

the Riskist said...

My Uncle Eddie, since deceased, thought he'd teach me how to swim by throwing me in over my head into the waters of Long Island Sound, in which I nearly sank like Leonard Cohen's Suzanne's stone, gobbling very salty water, my heart pounding in deathly fear. So, I always feel as if I'm swimming at my own risk. Always.