THE SILVER LINING To Your Life & Health
‘R emember T hat T ime ?’
Wild Summers Lifeguarding at the Thomasville Pool
Summer may be a time for fun in the sun, but it’s also a time to work and save money for many students. That was the case for me when I was growing up. I started working during the summer when I was 14 years old. My dad always told me he had started working and paying for his own clothes when he was that age, and I wanted to live up to that. You had to be 16 to work, so I forged a guidance counselor’s signature on a work permit and got a job sweeping, emptying trash, and cleaning bathrooms at Six Flags. Fast forward two summers, and I discovered I could be a lifeguard and make the same amount of money while working fewer hours than I did at Six Flags. I began working for the City of Atlanta as a lifeguard at Thomasville Pool. I hadn’t even grown into my ears by that point, but I had to grow up quite a bit that summer. Thomasville Pool was in one of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods in the United States. When I think about all the chaos that I went through as a lifeguard at Thomasville Pool, I don’t even know where to begin describing the average day. I witnessed drug deals regularly. I was shot at. Various gangs in the neighborhood would
harass us. There were fights, and I was in some of them. If a group of thugs started saying that the pool was theirs, there would no doubt be a fight. On land, they had us beat, but if we could get them in the water, the other lifeguards and I had the home field advantage. Even in light of all of this — I still had a lot of fun.
into my car. When I confronted him, he grabbed a bat and hit me in the side. I punched him in the eye and broke my hand. I may have had a cast on my arm during my first year of college, but at least I had a crazy story to go with it. Your summer job probably won’t be like mine, but I think the lessons I drew from that experience aren’t specific to lifeguarding in a dangerous neighborhood. Learn to have fun, whatever the environment. No job is only about money. Summer jobs also give students a taste of what their parents do every day, like keeping a schedule. Finally, you should build on the relationships you form at your job. Grueling work makes for great bonding, and it fills your future with amazing “remember-that-time” conversations.
“WHEN I THINK ABOUT ALL THE CHAOS THAT I WENT THROUGH AS A LIFEGUARD AT THOMASVILLE POOL, I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN DESCRIBING THE AVERAGE DAY.”
Thomasville Pool was an environment unlike any I had ever experienced. I learned to navigate it and how to stand up for myself and anticipate certain situations. I had a guardian angel — an older lifeguard named Tim, who showed me the ropes. Tim had been shot twice, but he was very well respected in the community and an expert at controlling the chaos. We’re still friends to this day. I’m still in contact with many of the lifeguards I worked with, and any time we see each other, the question, “Remember that time ... ?” always comes up. Since I survived Thomasville one summer, the City of Atlanta sent me back again. That second summer, I caught someone trying to break
–Duane Hamilton 1 770-744-1855
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