Elmhurst’s East End Public Swimming Pool, 2.4 miles east of our house, was the farthest I got from home during preteen summers. This may account for the lust I felt for it. This brush with the citizenry of our metropolis, at least those of school age, made me feel grownup, cosmopolitan even.
In teen summers, I waitressed and secretaried and cashiered. I missed the pool the way birdies probably miss chirping, so I hatched a plan to WORK there. It took time to become certified. I was 20, home from college, when my whistle and I climbed the lifeguard chair.
From this point of vantage, joy went on holiday. I saw bobbing heads that might be going under; heard noises that either could have been laughs or screams; saw little swimmers doing stuff even big swimmers should think twice about doing.
I blew my whistle at almost everyone, all summer, partly to ensure I appeared to know what to do. I had to arbitrate, educate, caution, admonish, comfort. I had to look after my fellows.
Somehow I had overlooked the fact that lifeguards guard lives.