5 Horrifying Things Only Lifeguards Know About Public Pools

What says "summer" more than slipping into a thin broth flavored by dozens of filthy strangers? Sometimes we go to the community pool to lounge, other times to exercise, and yet other times just to run laps around it laughing as the teenage lifeguards try to enforce their fascist "rules." But maybe we should show them more respect: They apparently harbor some pretty dark secrets. Our source guarded lives during her late teens and early 20s, and she told us that ...

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5
People Are Gross; The Pool Is Grosser

5 Horrifying Things Only Lifeguards Know About Public Poolsglashaut/iStock/Getty Images

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I've had to fish out more than my fair share of bloody tampons, I distinctly recall one kid who had Satan's own diarrhea, and there's a surprising amount of vomit. For upchucking we don't even bother to clear the pool unless the chunks are big enough that you can tell what they had for breakfast, and even then we'll only shut down long enough to fish out the worst of it. Oh, we'll sprinkle some baking soda in for show, but that has as much to do with disinfecting as a voodoo ritual. Since I worked at an outdoor pool, we also pulled out countless dead frogs, rodents, and birds that had mistaken our chemical and pump-filled death trap for a natural oasis. Every corpse was so bloated, they looked like Thunder in a cutesy animal remake of Big Trouble In Little China.

Lo Pan would totally be played by a meerkat.duha127/iStock/Getty ImagesLo Pan would totally be played by a meerkat.

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Here are some tips for minimizing the nastiness: Ever feel your skin burn after getting in the pool? Then you should quit being gross and take a shower first: Showers are essential for rinsing off dead skin and stray fecal matter. The burning feeling is likely the chlorine eating the dead bits off your disgusting body. If the water is salty, that could mean there's urine in it. And if you stick your fingers into the hot tub, let them dry, and come away with the scent of French fries, that's a sign the tub is too warm and letting bacteria spread. Of course, that requires tasting the urine and huffing the bacteria first ...

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4
Even The Chemicals Are Dangerous

5 Horrifying Things Only Lifeguards Know About Public PoolsDavid Parsons/iStock/Getty Images

Hey, did you know that improperly balanced pool chemicals can permanently damage your fucking teeth? My manager once got lung burn from improperly handled acid. Here's the story of a chlorine leak that sent 26 people to the hospital, here are criminal charges brought over an incident that hospitalized 13 children, and here's a $10 million lawsuit over another impromptu World War I re-enactment.

But, really, how did they even expect to get the mustard gas in the water?suriyasilsaksom/iStock/Getty Images But, really, how did they even expect to get the mustard gas in the water?

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Another kid was fired for lying on a worker's comp claim about getting chlorine in his eye. He did almost go blind, but it was because he had been stealing chlorine to make bombs. One of his pop bottles exploded right in his face. Damn, who would have thought leaving underpaid teenagers in charge of dangerous chemicals could end badly?

3
It's Even More Dangerous For Children Than You Think

5 Horrifying Things Only Lifeguards Know About Public PoolsDavid De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

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Heads up, parents: A 3-year-old cannot swim. I know you don't go swimming to contemplate your toddler's fleeting mortality, but that's what you'll end up doing if you let them wander off.

THE LAST ENEMY THAT SHALL BE DESTROYED IS DEATH!Dejan Ristovski/iStock/Getty Images"THE LAST ENEMY THAT SHALL BE DESTROYED IS DEATH!"

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Also, no matter what it says on the box, most flotation devices are not safety devices. Water wings, inflatable donuts -- kids will slip out of those. Kickboards and pool noodles are fun to play with, but they're no replacement for a life vest. Parents misuse these all the time, but if you're looking to keep your child safe from Poseidon's underachieving little brother, Poolseidon, the only safe device is one that wraps securely around the middle of the body. Thinking that little Timmy is immune to drowning because you gave him a giant novelty foam dinosaur is only putting him in more danger.

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2
The Pool Is Chock Full O' Sex

5 Horrifying Things Only Lifeguards Know About Public PoolsPhotodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

It should come as no surprise that bored teenagers who spend all day seeing each other in swimsuits would sneak off to have sex. But it's not just them. If your local pool has a family locker room, I guarantee you that people have boned in it. Hot tubs as well, so there's another thing to taste!

There are actually four people in this photo.karelnoppe/iStock/Getty ImagesThere are actually four people in this photo.

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We've had to call the police on several people who hung around outside and watched kids. And lest you think we were just being paranoid, we actually caught a man masturbating in the parking lot. Maybe those floppy pool noodles just really did it for him ...

Just in case you needed any more penile insecurity after swimming.Maria Adelaide Silva/iStock/Getty ImagesJust in case you needed any more penile insecurity after swimming.

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Worst of all was the sexual harassment. Every time we went into the sauna, men would tell us how great we looked and offer to buy us dinner. Most were more than old enough to be my father. Most of us weren't even 18! The guys got plenty of it too: The pool was in a suburban family community, which meant there were a lot of tweens and stay-at-home moms. Thirteen-year-old girls and 40-year-old women alike would ask me whether a certain lifeguard was "available." People think the pool is some sort of post-apocalyptic sexual wasteland, where society's laws no longer apply ...

1
Drowning Doesn't Look How You Think

5 Horrifying Things Only Lifeguards Know About Public PoolsYoung Boy Drowning In The PoolYoung boy drowning in the pool, dangerDownloadalexovicsattila/iStock/Getty Images

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There's a common misconception that a drowning person is going to be flailing their arms and shouting for help, because how else would the cast of Baywatch know the cue for running in slow motion? But usually they'll be silent because they've already taken on water. A drowning person is vertical, usually straight up and down. If someone is swimming, they're at least semi-horizontal, unless they're treading water. So if your buddy is just quietly bobbing up and down, he's probably not enjoying a relaxing float.

Hey, you OK? If you're drowning, say you're not OK.amstockphoto/iStock/Getty Images"Hey, you OK? If you're drowning, say you're not OK."

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Your first instinct will be to swim over and pull them to safety. That's wrong. Drowning people are panicking, and they'll have no qualms about climbing on top of you for buoyancy. We had one dad with two daughters, and the older girl started drowning. The lifeguard was coming to help, but dad reached her first. He still had his younger daughter with him, and she started freaking out. He couldn't support them both, so we now had three people drowning. They were fine, but if you read about someone drowning while trying to save a friend, that's probably what happened. If you lack the proper strength and training, they'll drag you down with them.

They're Rose; you're the door.Exclusive Visual/iStock/Getty ImagesThey're Rose; you're the door.

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What you need to do is pass them something, like a long stick or a flotation device, and pull them out. Ideally you'd be doing this from land, but you can do it in the water as long as you keep your distance. That gives the victim something buoyant to hang onto, which will calm them down. And it doesn't give you a frantically clawing human backpack trying to drag you beneath the water. Really, it's a win-win situation.

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Lifeguards aren't the only ones who deserve a little more respect from us. Check out other people we should think more highly of in 5 Horrifying Things Only Garbagemen Know About Your Town and 4 Scary Things You Only See Cutting People's Power As A Job.

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