Monday, June 17, 2013

If it's Brown

Please note that the following acknowledges that there is more than just water in pools. Reader discretion is advised

Guarding for 6 years, I have come up with a phase, "if it’s brown and floating around, get out of town!" To put it bluntly, shit happens…a lot.

My first pool, the local YMCA, was the pool where I was certified. It was also the first time I had to clean up a stranger's poop. Occasionally when lifeguarding you see stuff float by the lifeguard chair. Any good pool has enough of a current that diving rings will be constantly moving towards the deep end. If something is brown, it’s a good idea to grab the scoop net to remove it. Normal procedure at the Y is to first close the pool and direct people to take a good long shower. Step two is to remove the solid waste and add chlorine to the pool to shock it. Step three is waiting 45 minutes for the pool to cycle thru the filter and get cleaned. 45 minutes later the chlorine levels drop to less than 7 parts per million and swimmers can go back in.

Most of the time it was that routine, though you cant help but laugh every time it happens. Then there was the night that no body laughed.

I came in to lifeguard at 5 pm that night and upon entering the Y I noticed there were no swimmers in the water. I figured it was just another quiet night, then I got to the office and talked to the lifeguards. About 40 minutes ago they had to close the pool due to some do. Yay, a 5-minute break before I guard. Too bad I am just ready to work. After a check of the chemical we deemed it safe to open the pool, so one of the guards went home and the other guard and I went out to open the doors and let people in. There was a small crowd there playing in the wells (super shallow area with water sprayers) and the slide, so I sod next to the wells and the other guard went up to the top of the slide. After about 15 minutes I notice something. Something brown. Something floating. Time to grab the net.

Usually you can tell just by how it floats around but it still helps to scoop it up and out to verify, which is what I did. I scooped it out and stared at it. Then I make eye contact with the lifeguard on top of the slide, then one of the dads at the pool. I did not say a single word; everyone just started climbing out of the water. For all we know it could be from the last attack, but it could be fresh and we don't take chances here. Without a word everyone knew that if I am staring into the scoop, I caught something and its time to go home. 45 minutes later we reopened to a quiet and peaceful night.

Another incident that stood out at my Y is that…well lets just say not everything on the pool deck that looks like mud is mud. I had just walled in to lifeguard and noticed next to our office door this big pile of mud. Well I am still early so I figure I might as will clean it up. How that much mud got there I don't know, but it had to be wider than my foot is long. I went to go get a few paper towels and using them I reached down to scoop up some of the mud, and...mud does not have that consistency. No it was constant and the inside was a much lighter color than the outside. A quick glance at the lifeguards and they know what I found too. If it’s on the deck, we don't need to close the pool but a quick look in the well said that we do. Yay for 45-minute break, boo to cleaning up after someone. I don't know but my thought is some kid in the well started to overrun its dippers and decided to get out, then sat down on the deck next to a bench and let it out the rest of the way? I will never know, and not sure I want to.

At college we have a slightly different policy, leave it there. Luckily we have so few swimmers that come in that it does not happen much, only twice since I started, but here is has happened. I was working a Thursday shift, which I seem to have to cover a lot of, and I noticed poop in the water. I did the usual clear the pool and scoop out what I could but couldn't get most of it. I then called maintenance to have them address the problem, as they do all the work. Well by then maintenance had gone home for the night and a quick call to my boss informed me to close the pool, and he will call maintenance in the morning. Right there is 12 hours where the pool is closed and contaminated. Then the email came, pool is closed the rest of the day. On Saturday I talked to maintenance directly and they didn't think the pool wouldn’t be ready to open till Monday. Actually they didn't say that, but since they don’t come in on Sunday we had no idea if it was safe or not, so we waited till Monday when they came in to clear it.

Then there is the less processed food in the pool, and lets just say that it’s much worse. I personally am fine with poop and blood cleanup, but any kind of puke makes me do the same. On another Thursday afternoon shift at about 4:30, there were no swimmers in the pool. I decided to walk around the pool and look at the bottom and inspect it, just as we should. In one corner of the deep end I noticed something odd, maybe one of those big hairballs that sometimes form bundles of tumbleweed. I stuck the net on a pool in the water to pull it up. In the bottom of the net was defiantly not hair, but something else. Looking closely I saw some beans. Beans and hotdogs. In the pool. Someone must have puked hotdogs and beans into the pool.

I hadn't seen anyone all shift, and during the previous two shifts it was only lap swimmers, and they would have told the guards if they lost their lunch or breakfast. After reporting it and closing the pool, I remembered something, the night before was a large group of kids that came in after dinner. They did it! Like the previous poop incident I mentioned, it took till the next Monday to clean up. What I did not expect was what happened the next Tuesday during a shift. No, I didn't find more puke, or some poop, it was worse. In the deep end I could tell there were still beans down there. Four days of closure and they still didn't clean it all. I should have informed my boss and had the pool closed for another four days, but I felt like there was no point. Hopefully, they shocked the pool and at least killed the bacterial and other nasties.

From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the camping lifeguard

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