They can vent for hours about reckless swimmers and irresponsible parents and have dozens of stories about unbelievably bizarre items people had lost in the water. Ynet gathered three lifeguards to take off their sunglasses and spill the beans, and tell us some of the juiciest poolside stories.
"There are parents that I just don't understand. You'd think they bought their kids on eBay," says Roni Levy, a lifeguard who has been working at hotel pools for the past 20 years. "I ask the parent: Does your child know how to swim? They tell me 'yes,' but as soon as the kid goes into the water I can tell he does not."
This is just the tip of the iceberg when those responsible for our children's safety let lose on how Israelis behave when they come to the pool. "Israelis, all of them, love to break all the rules," Levy says. "I ask them to cover their hair with a swimming cap, they don't, I ask them not to enter the pool with jeans - they enter the pool with jeans. Some even go in the water with their flip-flops."
"It's not really a women's line of work"
Sophie, 27, has been working as a lifeguard at a water park. She had come to the park with her family as a child and decided she too would like to be a lifeguard when she grew up. "It's not really a women's line of work," Sophie says. "I haven't met many female lifeguards, it's mostly men, and I think that's what makes us, female lifeguards, special. It shows how strong we women are."
But strong women are still women, and many pool-goers make sure to remind them of that. "Because I'm a girl, they tease me a bit more than they tease the guys," Sophie says. "They say 'Come give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or 'With a lifeguard like you, I'll swim in the pool all day long.'"
Amiram who is a lifeguard in a national park, says he believes it's not a profession for women, not because of their abilities but because of inappropriate sexist behavior towards them. "There are no female lifeguards here at all," Amiram says. "There was one, but she just couldn't handle it because people drove her crazy. Many would pretend to drown so that she would come and touch them. She had enough and left."
Food inside the pool
Sometimes pool-goers like to take food breaks - some bring fruits, some buy ice cream, and some even set up their barbecue on the lawn. But some, don't want to waste even one second outside of the pool and opt to eat in the water. "People take it too far," Levy says. "They come to the pool with pots of their Shabbat meal leftovers. One guy dished out a plate for his kid and served it to him in the baby pool. Come and see what the pool looks like afterward, it's full of floating bits, it looks like chicken soup." "Once a few guys were sitting behind the lifeguard's chair with a tray of watermelons. Suddenly, one of them took the watermelon and threw it into the pool," Sophie added.
What did you do at that moment? "I picked up my microphone and said so that everyone there could hear: "Excuse me, is this a garbage dump? Get in the pool, take it out, and put it in the trash like a normal person."
The underwater lost and found
Lifeguards find the weirdest things that people leave behind when they go home. "When I come at the beginning of my shift, I go in to swim and find things in the water Levy says. I keep things that I like as a souvenir on a necklace that I made from stuff l found over the years. It's like my lucky charm."
Teeth! I found teeth in the water," Levy lists among his finds. Amiram says he was approached by someone who said he had lost his dentures in the pool. " I jumped in and retrieved them. He was so happy that he gave me a 50 shekel tip." Even a prosthetic was once left behind, Amram recalls "I wondered if the owner of the leg did not notice it was missing when he went home."
But sometimes the lifeguards find real treasures. "I found a diamond ring," Amiram said. "I gave it to my wife. Most of the jewelry I found I gave her," he says.
Busting the myth - everyone pees in the water
If we're being honest, many deny that they pee in the pool, spring, or sea. Some say that only children do that but the lifeguards we spoke to have a different story. "There isn't a person who hasn't peed in the water," Amiram says admitting he too was guilty of it adding it is quicker than running to the toilet which he says is too far. Levy has learned to identify people in the act. "Anyone clinging to the wall and getting cozy, I see you, my friends. I can see it in your eyes when you do it," he says.
"The pee is no longer a big deal and we're not sure you want to hear this but we find feces in the water. When parents bring their young kids into the pool without a diaper, what do you think will happen?" But that means the lifeguards have to get everyone out of the water so that cleaning can be done.
The serious side of lifeguard duty
But after we've laughed and cringed, we must remember that amidst all the chaos and noise, the real job of our lifeguards is to save lives. "I have saved over a thousand people," Amiram says. "I've saved so many people that some come to thank me a year later and I don't remember them."
Even in a relatively small and enclosed pool, there are many dangers. "One day, I locked up and started on my way home, when I remembered I had left my bag," Levy remembers "When I entered the pool grounds I heard a splash in the water, as if someone had jumped in. I was worried because I was sure everyone had left but I saw a toddler who was in the water and sinking fast. I pulled him out and resuscitated him. When he began breathing, so did I."