When I was in high school
, I worked as a lifeguard
at a public pool in a poor part of St. Louis
. I had this weird affinity
for the sun at the time and I liked to guard the deep part of the pool because when you sat on that chair, you were completely exposed to the sunlight. I would sit there for hours at a time, listening to the crappy eighties music that blared out of this cheap pool loudspeaker aimed almost directly at the back of my head and watching junior high age boys try to do flips off of the high dive in an effort to gain female attention.
As I said, this pool was in a poor part of the city and when it got hot outside, all the people without air conditioning would come to the pool and sit with their feet in the water and cool off. The particular day I'm remembering was bad even for St. Louis, over a hundred Fahrenheit
and so humid that as soon as you walked outside this sticky half perspiration-half humidity sheen condensed on you which would stay with you for the rest of the day. Needless to say, the pool was packed.
The people who lived in that neighborhood were generally pretty exuberant (meaning loud
) and with so many people in the pool things were at a dull roar. I was watching this little girl dog-paddle to the side after jumping off the low dive when I noticed that the entire pool had gone completely silent. Usually this meant that somebody was in trouble and another lifeguard was trying to make a save. This time, however, everybody was looking at this guy climbing up the high-dive ladder right next to me.
He was huge! Sumo wrestler
huge: about 15 years old or so, 5' 5" and at least 350 pounds. He had crossed over that line from where your arms and legs were just wide to having multiple folds on each limb. When he got to the top he had to sort of scoot sideways through the safety rail to get to the diving board part, because he didn't fit straight through. When he did that the crowd started to go wild, whooping it up in that stupid Arsenio Hall
dog pound thing that was popular at the time.
The kid was eating it up. He raised both arms and slowly strutted to the end of the board. With each step the crowd got louder. The board was bending severely under his weight, and although he probably planned some stunt when he got to the end he never made it, as the bend of the board became too extreme and he slipped off before he got there. He slipped in kind of a cartoonish way, because the board slapped him in the ass on the way down, and then he flew uncontrolled into the water in an almost perfect bellyflop
He couldn't swim.
He wasn't really in any danger. The higher your body fat content the more easily you float. I probably could have sat on his head and he still wouldn't have gone under. Mostly, he was slapping water around in a panic.
I jumped in to pull him out, swam underneath him in good life-guarding style so as to approach him from behind and then ran into the problem that I couldn't get my arm around his chest to pull him to the side. But like I said, he wasn't about to go under so I just put both of my hands on the small of his back and pushed him to the side. There were about 30 people waiting at the side of the pool to help him up. He actually didn't seem all that upset, mostly he was enjoying his bit of the spotlight. I had to yell at him to stop him from going up the ladder again.