“To be a good lifeguard, it’s important to be a people person, because the people are who you’re there for. You’re there for their safety above and beyond everything else, but you’re also there to make sure everyone is happy, that’s my feeling. I look at the pool as if it were my own house, and everyone here are my house guests, so when you come in, I make sure anything you might want here I’ll have.
It makes me feel like I’m wanted—and when the people come in and say, ‘Hey Dorsey, how are you?’ or when they come at the beginning of the season and ask how my winter was, to me it shows me they care a little bit about me. And the reason they care about me is because they know I care about them too.
I’d encourage other lifeguards to go the extra mile. When I substitute at other pools I’ll read the logs and see how bored these people are and I’m thinking to myself, ‘You’re getting paid to do almost nothing, it’s a great job.’ All you have to do is get up out of the chair once in a while and introduce yourself to people and say, ‘Hey how are you doing?’
Yeah, I sit here, but I’m not sitting here doing absolutely nothing, I’m sitting here thinking, ‘Is that little boy over there okay?’ I’m looking to see where the parents are. I know who my people are and I have a knack about knowing certain things about them. So if I see someone who looks like he’s dying I’ll walk over and say, ‘Would you like a glass of water?’ And I’ll go in the back and get him a glass of water.
I bring suntan lotion, rafts, inner tubes, goggles, bathing suits, books, even life jackets for people. I probably have more rafts at this pool than most pools will see in a lifetime. There’s not much more you’d want here.
I’ve got over 60 towels made especially for the lounge chairs, many left in the lost and found that I’ve taken home and washed. I always notice towels falling off chairs when people sit on them, so I took the towels home and sewed them on both sides, maybe about seven inches each corner folded over. And I came back and put the towels back on the chairs and they don’t fall anymore, and at the same time it’s helping me out too because my loungers are staying cleaner.
I do find it’s catching up to me though—I started doing this when I was 50, about ten years ago. I was working for the state of Maryland and retired after 30 years and decided I wanted to try something I’d always wanted to, and that’s being a lifeguard. So I went and took my lifeguard test. Of course I wouldn’t recommend it to everybody who’s 50 years old—it’s a lot of swimming that you have to do for the test.
I started wearing hearing aids about five or six years ago because I can hardly hear in my right ear. But my manner of being a lifeguard makes up 100 percent for my handicap, and I really don’t even consider it to be a handicap. If I didn’t have good eyesight then I think it would make a difference. I don’t care who you are and I don’t care what your handicap is, if you really want to do something, go out and try it!
And I do have scary moments here, usually about one per year. I’ve got a good knack for knowing when something is going to happen. Some grandparents came in here once with two little kids and the grandfather went to use the restroom. So he goes one way and then his wife leaves the kids right by the pool steps and says, ‘You guys stay here, I’m going to put my suit on.’ And, sure enough, as soon as she turned her back they went down the steps. They were only a couple feet tall and it’s three-feet deep at the bottom of the steps and the minute they went down the steps I had both of them in my arms bringing them back out. Everybody was saying, ‘Wow, I can’t believe how fast you moved!’ And I joked, ‘Why, because I’m so old?’
I’d like to see more retired people and senior citizens be lifeguards though because I think they’d have a knack for it too. I listened to an interview with Jimmy Buffett, and they asked him how long he was going to keep performing and he said, ‘Well, right now I’m having fun. When it’s not fun anymore, I won’t do it.’ So I imagine when it’s not fun anymore, then I think I’ll hang my towels and bathing suit up and call it a life.”