Waves of Consequence and Culture

"Qué hora es?" asks the little boy.

"Diez minutos más," I reply. Ten minutes left in what is winding down to be a crazy last day. Keeping my eyes on the pool, I didn’t even look at my watch, but having answered the same question every two minutes for the last ten, I had a pretty good idea of the time. "Last session of the day," I tell myself as I try, to no avail, to reposition myself and relieve the discomfort of sitting in a wet suit. The sun, sinking over my shoulder, transforms the water into an iridescent surface of disjointed, choppy waves. I put on my shades to block the glare, and the dark faceless bodies in wet clothes become indistinguishable. As they disappear under the surface, without so much as a splash, I realize I can no longer see the pool’s bottom. On instinct, I make to start climbing down the chair to get a better angle at the pool. But I hesitate. As I recollect the events earlier that evening, I decide to remain where I am…

When the session began, the sun was still high in the sky, and the regulars had all turned out for the evening. It quickly became one of those sessions where the only time you’re not blowing your whistle is when you’re breathing. I was beginning to have a hard time hearing my own whistle.

"Hey! We rotating?" the other guard asks.

"Sorry, yah, didn’t even see you, it’s a zoo out here," I replied. "If Chuchi gives you anymore trouble, he’s out for at least ten," I told her.

"Why? What’d he do?" she asked.

"I’ve already told him twice to stay off Diego’s back, and they know the rules. He’s copping a total attitude, just don’t put up with it." She nodded.

"Got it?" I asked.

She scanned the pool. "Got it."

I strolled across the deck to the office and sank into a chair. Charolotte, sitting at the desk, looked up from the logbook. "Well, how are the pool rats treating you tonight?" she asked.

I rolled my eyes. "At the rate Chuchi is headed, he’s going to be out of the pool before the night is over."

"Really?" she replied, her voice giving away her lack of surprise.

"First, he pushed Martin off the diving board, and I gave him five for that; then he’s crawling all over Diego’s back, and I told him to knock it off, and he gives me all sorts of crap about how, ‘Stephanie never yells at him when he does that ’"

"She does too, Stephanie’s a good guard."

"I know, they just think we’re stupid or something. So I told him I didn’t want anymore attitude, and then he starts the ‘No hablas inglés’ routine…"

Charlotte laughed.

"No respect for authority is what it is…"

"Lindsay isn’t even sure he paid," she added. "There are a couple of sketchy names on the sign-in sheet."

"I can’t believe that. It’s only a buck twenty-five, and he has to sneak in? Like he can’t just ask his parents for a buck twenty-five; I’m sure they’d be happy to get him out of the house."

She grinned. "Yah, so we get to baby-sit the little angel for three hours."

"A buck twenty-five, that’s like seat cushion money. You could recycle all the pop cans around the front of the building for a buck twenty-five."

"But that must add up," Charlotte replied, "He and Diego and Martin are here for at least one session every day."

"Well I’m sorry," I said, "but what gave him the faulty notion that summer vacation meant retreating to his poolside locale for free every day while the lifeguards kissed his ass?"

"I don’t know," she replied in a distant voice.

Standing, I asked, "Did you get that graffiti in the men’s?"

"Andy," she said, "you’re on break, you’re getting paid to sit right now! Relax for the last couple minutes of break at least."

"Fine," I said. It was quiet for a couple of minutes. "You know what my parents would have Jamie and I do when we were little? We used to read, and for every five minutes we read we got to shade in 10 miles towards a trip to Kennewick. At the end of the summer, they’d take us for a day at the water slides…"

"Tell you what," said Charlotte looking out at the pool, "you better rotate."

"Fine, wish me luck."

Out on the deck I now saw that Martin was in the pool in front of Stephanie, as Chuchi pretended to accidentally be getting the both of them wet.

"Chuchi!" He stopped and turned. "Have a seat, you just got yourself a place on the deck."

"I was just splashing, Martin said I could "

"We don’t splash the lifeguards," I said. "Lets go. I start when you get out."

He threw me some line that I didn’t even here, and sat down behind me with a look of accomplishment on his face.

I resumed scanning the pool. There was a little one with babysitter. "Or maybe it’s mom," I thought to myself, "Who knows now days?" I had just turned to scan the deep end when he did it. Wham! I found myself crashing through the fluid surface before I realized I’d been pushed in. As I turned around, however, I caught a glimpse of Chuchi taking off through the locker room, and I felt myself become infuriated as I realized that being the last day of the summer, there was nothing I could do…

"Qué hora es?" It is the same little boy.

Looking at my watch this time I answer, "Cinco minutos más."

The boy shivers for a second, and then scurries into the locker room. The pool is now empty, and the water is placid. The sun has gone down, and I take off my glasses. As the other guards bring the ropes in one last time for the year, they disturb the glass-like surface. Each preceding wave causes a sequential wave until the gentle disturbance has spanned the length of the pool, and licks the opposite side in silent satisfaction. In the fading light, each wave is clearly distinguishable, its impact predictable, and its final destination almost taken for granted.

"Don’t worry about Chuchi, he’ll be back next summer."

I turn, and it’s Charlotte. Nodding, and climb down from the chair.