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Very Testing Waters

, , , | Right | December 14, 2021

I’m an aquatics team lead at a fitness facility. I’m working in the office upstairs when I get radioed by one of the lifeguards to come down to the pool deck. The lifeguards tell me a man won’t get out of the pool, so I head over to speak to him.

Me: “Hello, sir! I’m sorry, but lane swimming doesn’t start until 7:30. Right now all the lanes are being used for swimming lessons.”

He is unusually nice; he introduces himself and asks my name.

Swimmer: “My daughter is in a swimming lesson right now. I just don’t understand why I can’t swim.”

There are a lot of reasons I could give him: because he has to obey the schedule, because there’s not enough space, because if there are two different programs in the pool we would need a second lifeguard, etc. As a lifeguard, you get used to people questioning the rules. If you give them a reason they disagree with, they kick up a fuss, but usually, when you bring children’s safety into it, it’s harder for them to argue.

Me: “It’s part of our child protection policy. We can’t have other members of the public swimming in the pool while swim lessons are going on.”

Swimmer: “That was exactly the right answer! Thank you! You see, I do this stuff all the time: I go where they tell me not to go, and most of the time they can’t tell me why. That lifeguard couldn’t tell me why, but when you said, ‘child protection,’ I immediately agree because my daughter is in swimming lessons. Just make sure your lifeguards also know that.”

Me: *Pauses* “Yes, sir, I’ll make sure they know the reasoning for the rules.”

He got out of the water, and I made eye contact with the guard who called me down. We were both baffled by this exchange.

Later, I got a call from the front desk that someone wanted to speak to a manager. I was the building supervisor for the evening, so I headed to the membership desk and the same guy was there. He just wanted to let the manager know what a good job I had done. He explained the whole thing to the other person at the front desk and I gave him a customer service smile. His wife apologized for her husband and they laughed about it. They left with their daughter after a few minutes.

While I was relieved that the situation resolved easily, I was pretty ticked off. This man had wasted both my and my lifeguard’s time to “test us”? You couldn’t have just asked? You had to jump in the pool and refuse to leave? Not to mention that all the complimenting after just came across as patronizing. I think he was trying to teach us a lesson, but dude, that isn’t your job!

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