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Well-tanned and vacuous

When you picture the typical lifeguard, chances are you picture a selfless "Baywatch" type: a vacuous, well-tanned pop-cultural punchline with superb muscle tone and the acting skills of a misshapen chunk of driftwood.

But real lifeguards rarely reflect that stereotypical image. I know, because I've spent the past 10 summers lifeguarding at Saranac Lake's public beach. My lengthy tenure protecting the lives of literally trillions of swimmers doesn't just mean that I'm a loser who refuses to admit that my adolescence is over, despite the fact that I 1) refer to contemporary pop music as "that infernal racket" and 2) eat bran cereal thrice weekly. My long lifeguarding career also means that I know a bit about lifeguard psychology.

For instance, while my colleagues and I might be well-tanned and vacuous, and while we might possess superb muscle tone and the acting skills of misshapen chunks of driftwood, we're certainly not selfless.

I don't mean that we're not good at our jobs. When faced with an emergency, we rise to the occasion. But - because we maintain such a safe environment - we rarely face emergencies. As a result, we face a lot of downtime, and one way we fill it is by demonstrating how awesome we are. There's a variety of ways to do this - for instance, commandeering a picnic table from a family of picnickers, sweeping their food to the ground, and churning out push-up after push-up on top of said picnic table - but my favorite technique is beating the tar out of children in impromptu volleyball games.

Or at least that was my favorite technique. I rarely play volleyball now (I don't have the forearms for it anymore), but during my early days patrolling the mean shores of Lake Colby, I "got my volley on" daily. And while I didn't fare well against opponents my own age (frankly, I didn't have the forearms for it back then), I dominated against elementary schoolers.

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