When I was 16, I made a really big decision. I decided to get certified to become a lifeguard. There was an outdoor pool less than a mile from where I lived, so it only seemed logical for me to sit in a tall chair and get gnarly tan lines. Back then, I didn’t realize how big this decision really was.
Fast forward seven years and three lifeguarding gigs later to me, trying to find a job outside of testing pH levels and blowing a whistle. After realizing that full time work was a hot commodity, I started applying to almost anything that offered a paycheck. I threw that almost in there because I was trying really hard not to become a lifer lifeguard. I applied to waitress positions, retail positions, secretary positions, nanny positions… the works. But all I had on my resume was lifeguarding. No big deal, right? I had a college degree. I had internships and plenty of skills that proved my capabilities and work ethic.
After several months of nothing on the job front, I started going to stores and restaurants to hand in resumes and fill out applications. Each time I handed in my application, the manager would accept it with a smile and ask if I had any experience in retail, waitressing, insert job here. The smile would fade when I replied, “No, but I do have experience in customer service.” This was true. If I could explain to irritated parents why their child couldn’t jump off a diving board, even with floaties, and be yelled at because the water was too cold, I could handle disgruntled customers.
I felt like as soon as I said “no” to experience, my resume was trashed. Maybe this was a problem that only I dealt with, but I feel like other lifeguards had the same issue. Employers see “lifeguard” and think, oh, this person just sat on her ass all day. This is partially true. Where I worked wasn’t the most exciting; the only life I actually saved in my seven years of lifeguarding was that of a baby bird. But I still dealt with a lot of shit, both figuratively and literally. And even though I never had to deal with a real life emergency situation, you better believe I was trained to handle one.
This brings me to my next point: Training. Boo hoo, I have to train someone to run a cash register. Who ever can handle the daunting task of pressing buttons in a certain order? I better wait and hire someone who’s done it before, God knows an x-lifeguard with a college degree doesn’t have the aptitude to learn this challenging process.
Want to know what I’ve been trained to do as a lifeguard?
- Give CPR to babies, children and adults (yeah, it’s different for all of them)
- Give the Heimlich Maneuver to conscious and unconscious babies, children and adults (still differs for each)
- Backboard someone with a neck/back injury in shallow water
- Backboard someone with a neck/back injury in deep water
- Save someone who’s actively drowning
- Save someone who’s submerged under water
- Save myself from someone who’s trying to drown me, and then reapproach this person in a different way
- Know the symptoms of a heart attack
- Know the symptoms of a stroke
- Know the symptoms of heat stroke
- Know the difference between burns, abrasions, cuts, etc. and know how to dress each wound
- Know how to splint a broken bone
- Know how to use an AED machine. Yeah, the one where you yell “CLEAR!” before using to save someone’s life
I won’t bore you with more things that fellow lifeguards and myself were trained to do. I won’t tell you that each month we were required to attend meetings during which we practiced these skills on our coworkers. I also won’t tell you that every day we were faced with the possibility of having to put our acquired skills into action, and that I had friends who rescued people on a daily basis.
If I can memorize the steps for CPR, I think I can memorize a menu. If I can learn how to save a life, I think I can learn how to work a cash register. I don’t understand why more employers don’t want to hire x-lifeguards. At $8, we’re the closest thing you’re going to get to a doctor. Restaurants, especially, should take advantage of this. Oh no, someone’s choking! Thank God I hired an x-lifeguard who knows the Heimlich Maneuver. Oh no, someone cut their finger with a steak knife! Wait, here comes the waitress/lifeguard. She’ll know what to do!
Seriously, this just baffles me. Luckily, last summer I worked at a park because I had a connection with the hiring manager. So after teaching swimming lessons and working at the park, I’ve broken into the child care sector of part-time jobs. Is it better than lifeguarding? I don’t know, but it sure is a lot more entertaining. Maybe one day I can live the luxurious life of a waitress and shower in the tips I earn each night. Until then, I’ll continue working with poop and other bodily fluids.