On Friday, I was setting up the pool for practice when I discovered, under the pool cover, a large drowned rat. It seemed enormous for a rat, possibly due to being water-logged. I fished the rat corpse out with a large net, double-bagged it, and tossed it into the dumpster.
I was concerned that the dead animal posed a health hazard. I announced that practice would be delayed until I talked to the pool manager, who quickly informed me that they often had "varmint issues." Dead rats aren't a problem as long as the chlorine level is sufficiently high, which it was. Practice was back on schedule, and the 6 & Under group excitedly lined up.
Word of the dead rat had spread quickly. I worried that many of the young children would balk at jumping into the jumbo rat's watery grave. Instead, I had never seen them more excited. They wanted to know all about the rat. Was it big? Did it smell? Could they see it? Where had I put the rat? Which dumpster? Was there a chance the rat could be removed from the dumpster so that they could see it and possibly touch it? Could I please be more concerned with their interests the next time we had varmint issues?
I still added extra chlorine to the water, just to be safe.
It was the Fourth of July in 1996, smack dab in the middle of a giant heat wave. I had drawn lifeguarding duty from 11-4, along with a junior guard. Because of the holiday and the oppressive heat, crowds were huge. I was blowing my whistle constantly, yelling at kids for running, jumping twice on the diving board, and general rough housing.
Two hours into my shift, the power went out in the neighborhood. This had two results. One, the pool's filter system shut off. This wasn't such a big deal, since there weren't leaves and pine needles and other natural debris in the water, and anyway we could compensate by adding chemicals. The second effect was that any neighbors who'd been huddled around their air conditioners before would now head to the pool as their only cooling-off option.
Maybe fifteen minutes after we lost power, just when the first swells of heat-stricken neighbors arrived, a fat French kid named René vomited into the water. Projectile vomit. Beaucoup vomit. And, of course, the filters had stopped.
Already stressed by the crowds and the heat, I flew into a whistle-blowing frenzy. I cleared the pool, dumped gallons of chlorine into the water, and slowly, horrifyingly realized I would have to clean up these litres de vomi by hand, while hundreds of sweltering poolgoers observed my progress.
Le père de René stood at my side, apologetically explaining over and over that his son had not seemed ill, had in fact swam and eaten with gusto all day. When people came up to ask why the pool was closed, he would snap, "Look, ze keeds sometimes trow up! It joost happens!" Of course, he didn't offer to aid in my paper-towel-and-net-based cleanup efforts. I felt like one of those Alaskan Exxon Valdez volunteers, only with bile instead of crude oil, and thankfully, no afflicted birds.
While I scrubbed and skimmed, I thought about how much this job sucked. What had I done, I asked myself, to deserve such a fate? Then, I remembered how, days earlier, I had thrown up from drinking for the very first time, in my sleep, all over myself. Kind friends had cleaned up the entire mess, even washing the shirt I'd been wearing, and put me to bed. So maybe, I rationalized, this was just karma coming back around.
Of course, I totally lost my cool when I saw that fat fuck René eating an ice cream sundae half an hour later.
This story didn't happen to me, but I really wish it had.
My friend Kelly was working at a community pool in Richmond, California. That day, an African-American family was having a barbecue. After lunch, one of the aunts waded into the pool, holding a beer in one hand and a large pork rib in the other.
Kelly blew her whistle. "Ma'am," she said. "You can't eat that in the pool."
The woman looked at her in disbelief, then glanced down at her sauce-covered hand. "It's just a rib," she explained, and continued wading.