The rooftop pool on my high-rise apartment is its crowning glory; a glistening turquoise rectangle filled with rippling water overlooking an architectural giant, the world’s busiest bridge. Beyond the George Washington Bridge, I see miles up and down the Hudson River and the entire New York City skyline, including the colorful tip of the Empire State Building and the Freedom Tower. The mountains of surrounding Bergen County, New Jersey warp the other side of the building creating a perfect blend of urban-almost-suburban. Sadly the pool is only open for three months of the year, but we use it almost every sunny day we can.
As expected in life, with all sweet things, you get a dose of bitter, and for the glory of the pool, we deal with the world’s shittiest lifeguards. Lucky for me, my 14-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter are good swimmers, but as my mother threatened, when my son was born, “never turn your back on a child in a bathtub because you can drown in a teaspoon of water.” Even though my daughter knows how to swim, she is only six and the entire pool is eight-feet-deep, which is four feet deeper than her. (Minor flaw.)
Our building relies on a company to send us lifeguards. Usually, there are about four different college-age students alternating asses in the brown deck chair near the pool. Last year I noticed the lifeguards had gotten extremely lazy, accustomed to low traffic, with only a couple of swimmers at a time, usually over the age of 75. The pool is open from 10:30am – 7:30pm and there are often stretches of hours at a time in the middle of the day when it is empty, freeing the lifeguard on duty to read, text, watch movies or chat with the friends they occasionally bring to hang out with them.
However, when there are children in the pool, it is their job to watch – and be on alert. I get extremely pissed off when they don’t do their job. I feel like a bitter old hag as I stand a few feet away, my arms folded, my weight shifted to one side of my body. As my nose flares, I inhale loudly and sigh even louder on the exhale and still the lifeguard is laughing into his phone, oblivious of the obligation he agreed to, which I’m incidentally paying him for.
Last year I spent several days in the evidence-gathering mode before I went to the President of the board, filing a formal complaint. I shared countless photos and videos showing the lifeguard looking down into his phone for fifteen minutes straight without looking up. (It went longer but my phone died.) This year I expected a revolution; maybe even a new company – surely after the lifeguard shakedown of 2015.
The first day the pool was open, Ari, a handsome young lad clad in aviator sunglasses and the uniform red t-shirt took to his chair. I was optimistic. By day two, his phone was out, snacks were at his feet and his attention span was absent. This was unsatisfactory.
Here I was again, huffing and puffing, none of which affected him at all because he was too enthralled with whatever his phone was displaying. He was texting or chatting or watching youtube or porn or whatever it is that lifeguards who are not doing their job are doing instead. This year I wasted no time and immediately went to the President of the board, who complimented my dedicated concern for public safety and deemed me “his eyes.”
The next day I arrive to see Ari right back where I never thought I’d see him, a charming smile on his face, chatting to three octogenarians forming a half moon around him. These women come to gossip, not to swim. They don’t need a lifeguard to protect them from drowning. Instead, they abuse him for their pleasure, dipping their toes into a lifetime ago, giggling like school girls as the rest of us have to watch our own children in the pool because Ari is distracted.
The next morning I am out with my phone, secretly video logging his inexcusable behavior because pool justice is no laughing matter and I cannot spend a summer watching my own children when we have clearly already paid for someone else to do it!
I’m coming for you, Justice.