2008-08-08 / Letters

A Tale Of Two Beaches

Dear Editor,

There has been a resounding question throughout the beaches of Rockaway: Where have all the lifeguards gone? While this is definitely most of the reason for the lack of lifeguards, there is something else that lingers beneath the public eye: How one becomes a lifeguard.

The running of the 59th Street pool is the major problem fueling the lifeguard scarcity. With people like Javier, Leo, Marty, and Allison acting as official gatekeepers for NYC, testtakers are immediately disinterested. To delve into specifics would not only change the entire direction of this article but would also shock readers with its vulgar truths. Instead I can give you a first hand account of how I was treated when I attempted to become a NYC lifeguard.

I had been training for months by the time I walked into the 59th Street pool. Immediately after meeting with Allison I knew that I was in for a horrible experience. Then Leo's yelling and belittling began in the testing area making everyone anxious and nervous. I asked him if I had qualified and only received a sarcastic face and a hand gesture telling me to beat it and pushes me to get out of the way. A week later I do qualify and am sent to Marty for an eye exam. There I meet a bunch of giggling schoolgirls who are busy putting in their contact lenses outside the office. They all passed the eye exam and say, "Thanks Marty!" I did not pass the eye exam because Marty discovered I was wearing contacts.

That was the last time I went to the test. Why can't lifeguards wear contacts? Or why can some and not others. This is one question that addresses an issue that only adds to the inadequacy of lifeguards on our beaches. Imagine dreaming of being a lifeguard and then having to work for such disrespectful and unprofessional people.

Blatant Anti-American sentiment is also rampant. American flags are strictly forbidden to hang from lifeguard chairs. The use of umbrellas in the rain is also severely punished. There are also no teams or tournaments allowed of any kind. Management hates any type of organization among guards. Why? If this seems too absurd just ask one of your local guards. Does this kind of treatment sound like a job anyone would enjoy? Would anyone stick around after being treated like a dog for an entire summer? No not many.

There is a bright side to all of this, however. It's called working for the Feds and becoming a Riis Park surfguard. Why? Because surfguards are treated the way lifeguards should be treated; with a dignity and respect that is deserved, not only of every worker but of every human being.

When I went to qualify for Riis I was told, "Our goal here is to help you pass, we're here to help if you can do it and will answer any questions you may have." I was shocked by the contract between the Feds and the Parks. One world completely out of control with low level petty bureaucrats whose egos are fed by being able to control people and the other world: a stable and professional operation managed by levelheaded professionals.

Now that I'm a surfguard, it seems silly how abnormal it was at first to be treated with respect and honesty, no truths being hidden or lies being told. Paperwork is explained and it was made sure that I fully understood what I was signing, unlike how the Parks Department likes to handle that issue.

So if anyone asks you the question, "Where have all the lifeguards gone?" You can tell them the answer: your local fast food chains or Riis Park. Because of the running of the parks department, the treatment of lifeguards truly lacks conventional humanity and is in no way an attraction to those who are looking to have a fun and safe summer working on the beach.

JAMES NEAS

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