So here it is: the number 20. I have been working at the same place, for twenty years. Two decades. Twenty. Two. Zero.
The year was 1994. It was September 13th. The first thing I did, when I got the phone call was to ask for permission to use my mum’s car, then race to the pool to fill out the paperwork. I didn’t want the opportunity to pass me by; didn’t want my new supervisor to change her mind.
I still remember running down my parents’ gold shag carpeted stairs and leaping out the door into the late afternoon sunshine. My new supervisor ribbed me for my promptness.
Today, September 14, 2014, I sit on my blue-jean couch in my living room, next to my husband while our three girls snooze in the next room. Our minivan sits on the driveway; our dog guards the backyard from rats, raccoons and other nefarious creatures. The number twenty spins and swirls through my head playing peek-a-boo with memories like a wisp from my daughters’ fairytales.
Three weeks before September 13th, 1994: I lay dead in the pirate ship of the largest, newest, most overwhelming pool I’d ever seen. The builder said you could easily fit a 747 with a space shuttle attached within its walls, and there I lay: dead.
It was a simulation that had gone deliciously wrong when my fellow lifeguard-in-training ignored me. Winner of best actress in the role of a fake heart attack victim: me. Then I was ordered by our instructor to die.
Naturally when I croaked I made sure to scrunch my body in the darkest corner of the ship, posing my limbs in what I thought would give the police a good chuckle when outlining my body.
The lifeguard found me, exclaimed some exclamations then set to work trying to revive me, but it was too late. I was dead. Gone. Kaput. Set up the next lifeguard-training scenario; solidify a 20-year friendship.
When the number 20 gets tossed around I begin to feel like the old woman of the sea. I’m old enough to be the parent of any of my teenaged staff and I’ve been told 80’s Nite has been replaced by 90’s Night down at the bars.
But what really makes me feel old is technology. I’m still the last one on earth (aside from my husband) without a cellphone… are they just called phones now? And it’s hard not to show any amusement when I walk into a full staffroom and everyone’s glued to their phones not conversing.
P.S. to all that: How happy, oh so happy, am I that i-anything wasn’t in vogue back when I had a nightlife that didn’t include TV and my blue-jean couch? Dodged that bullet.
I fell into my first job for the municipality: lifeguard and swim instructor. Turned down by the folks at the yacht club, I was told I was better suited for lifeguarding over sailing instruction, so I switched gears.
Naturally, the people I was surrounded by made my early years at the pool. But slowly, like cheese, as I aged, I found inspiration in active communities as well. There’s something about being in a building where everyone has a common goal of movement.
Of course, 20 years of being a working girl hasn’t been all roses. Like anything you’ve grown up with there have been moments. Some public, some internal, some so crazy no one would ever believe. Ever. Believe. But because I still need to work, my tell-all is shelved.
Municipal recreation has been my steady partner, faithfully funding my dreams for the last twenty years. As I lay dead in the pirate ship, I never imagined this gig would turn into a career, but I suppose it quietly has.