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How Confidence Can Easily Turn to Embarrassment

It was in December, during my Christmas vacation, when I decided to start looking for a summer job. There were many options but the job I decided to apply for was a position as a lifeguard at a waterpark. I filled out an application and was accepted almost immediately. The only thing left was the lifeguard training; little did I know that it was going to be an experience I would never forget.

The aquatic rescue part of the training was held the week of my spring break. I was excited about the training session because I was finally going to meet some of the people that would work with me and get to see what the job was like. The day before the session a meeting was held for all the people who had been accepted. Here I discovered that I was the oldest person trying out--everyone else was still in high school. At first I was uneasy about the age difference, but it also gave me some confidence (leading me to believe that I could handle the training as well as or better than anyone in the group). This was not a wise assumption.

The day of the training started with a slight chill in the air as most spring mornings. The weather made me even more eager to start, but unfortunately it also made the water a little too cold for comfort. I decided to skip breakfast and have a protein drink instead, believing this would keep me from getting stomach cramps and also supply me with some energy. Leaving my house that morning I could think of nothing but becoming a lifeguard.

The training started with a swim test. The object was to swim two hundred yards in a set amount of time. I expected this to be easy because I had been lifting weights and doing exercises for some time and considered myself to be in excellent physical condition. But I had failed to consider that I had lost some body fat since the last time I swam. This made my body less buoyant and my speed somewhat slow. There were two sixteen year old girls in the lanes on either side of me who swam with the agility of dolphins. These girls and everyone else beat me to the finish, which did not help my nineteen-year-old ego. I wanted to crawl away and hide but was determined not to let myself be outdone.

The next part of the training turned out to be the toughest. We were required to dive ten feet to the bottom of the pool and retrieve a ten pound weight. Once the weight was brought to the surface we were supposed to tread water for two minutes while keeping the weight above the water line. This appeared to be simple so I dived in, expecting an easy time. I had no trouble getting the weight to the surface and proceeded to tread water with a feeling of undoubtable success. But once again my anti-floating physical quality began to take effect. At one minute and thirty seconds I began to sink and within the next fifteen seconds my head was submerged and I was fighting for air. The water from the pool began flowing into my mouth with each desperate grasp for air; it felt as if an ocean were draining into my body. I remember hearing from under the water the instructor's muffled voice counting down the last ten seconds of the exercise. When it was all over I slowly made my way back to the pool's edge where I was informed by the two young girls that they had no difficulty completing the task. I found a quiet corner where I sat feeling both disgusted and disappointed.

It was just about this time that I was starting to feel the effects of the poolwater mixing with the protein drink in my stomach. The result was a turning sensation accompanied by a terrible gurgling noise. Knowing what to expect next, I jumped up and ran inside to find a bathroom. Before I could open the door my stomach already began to relieve itself so I ran to the nearest toilet stall which was through a shower area. When I finally reached the stall I puked until I thought I was going to die. About the time I was finishing I heard someone getting into the next stall. Because of my inverted position over the toilet it was easy for me to notice the painted toenails of the person next to me. It was at this time I discovered, to my horror, that I was in the women's bathroom. I stood frozen, not knowing what to do. After a long period of time, the girl next to me finally got up and left, but my troubles were not over. Just as she left two other women came in to use the showers, which I had to pass through to get to the outside. Thinking quickly, I wrapped my towel around my body as a girl would. I then proceeded to run through the showers praying the women would not notice the excessive amounts of hair on my legs. Evidently they did not because I made it through the day without being arrested.

After I got over the embarrassment of being physically humiliated and of making a terrible mistake, I went back to the session and completed my training. I quit lifeguarding after a week into the summer season to take a job that turned out to be for less pay and longer hours. Although the lifeguarding job did not work out I did manage to learn two valuable lessons from the training. The first was how to save a life and the other was not to be overconfident, for life is unpredictable.

--Chad LaBerge

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