It’s summertime and the living is easy
Fish are jumping and the cotton is high
Your daddy’s rich and your mama’s good-looking
On rare occasions I have the opportunity to dip my non-pedicured toe into the waters of the wealthy. Earlier this summer, my children and I swam with sharks, and by that I mean the offspring of hedge-funders and trust-funders. It was at an ultra fancy pants country club. The kind of club you see on TV because it’s the site of PGA tournaments. The pool was old and elegant. No water slides, no high dive, no water blasting zone just a large pool plopped on a piece of a land with a beautiful vista of more beautiful vistas. This, of course, means my kids were disappointed. They like the Chuck E Cheese style of pool with lots of padded plastic to slide down, jump off and climb on. I, was awestruck. It looked like a pool right out of The Great Gatsby.
The kids and I actually get escorted to the pool by what I would call a butler, but what the fancy pants set calls a club facilitator. He tells me that he will check in on me frequently to make sure I have everything I need. One word – awesome. Who cares that my kids and I stick out like the Beverly Hillbillies. I excitedly slap my Dollar Tree flip-flops on the pool side concrete and suck in my stomach in my Calvin Klein, Ross Dress for Less” irregular” swimsuit. Which makes it a perfect fit for me since my body could kindly be described as irregular. I’m also, from what I can tell, the only woman at the pool that is not a size zero. I’m a size zero + 14. Although, I don’t know if I’m looking at moms or nannies. My kids, are also in non-designer swimsuits, but I like to think that the Gap is an American classic. It’s times like these that I’m glad to be a devoted reader of In Style magazine. Sure, I could read The Economist or the London Financial Times, but hours of reading In Style is now keying me into the moms in $200 Burberry Haymarket Check bikinis, teen girls in True Religion thongs and loads of tanned wrists with just released waterproof Datejust Lady Rolex watches. I feel like I’m inside a Neiman Marcus catalog and thanks to sunglasses I can gawk all I want! I also noticed all the designer pool totes. Really, Prada makes a pool tote? If only I could get close enough to smell it. I crave the smell of outrageously priced Italian leather goods. A very nice saleslady at one of my favorite lookie loo stores always lets me sniff the Prada whenever I go in to visit. She gets out her keys, unlocks the case with all the Prada bags, their $3,000 and up price tags tickle my nose as I take hit after hit of all that leathery goodness. Yum. Now, I’m becoming a little obsessed with sniffing that Prada. Luckily, the smell of sun tan lotion is overwhelming my olfactory senses so I settle down.
The kids and I get all country club comfy. My middle class duo jump into the pool and proceed to shock and awe the other young swimmers with their tales of no maids, no nannies, and a lifetime spent in a mini-van. They even bring a small group of children to my lawn chair to prove that they are indeed at the pool with their “for real” mother, not a nanny, not a second trophy wife stepmother. Let’s be honest here. There is no way anybody would mistake me for a trophy wife unless I was married to Methuselah and even that would be a stretch. I also had to verify that my family did indeed fly “commercial not private” to our current destination. I then had to back up my son’s claim that yes you do have to take your shoes off and walk through a metal detector before you can get on the plane and that Southwest Airlines does not have a first class section and that everybody gets on the plane and rushes to the best seat. Yes, it is kind of like “musical chairs.”
I was greatly amused by this, mainly because my country club facilitator was making sure that I was keeping hydrated with my favorite pool side drink – the mojito. I didn’t feel the need to be on mom “red alert level 5 drown status.” This pool probably had a swimmer to lifeguard ratio of 2 to 1. The great thing is you never heard the guards blow their whistle. I was pondering that fact while I sucked on my mojito lime. I figured it was probably because the club was so fancy pants that the whistles were at a higher frequency that only kids and dogs could hear. I’m not kidding about this. Last year, I thought I had a brain tumor because it seemed my hearing had gone down hill fast. I was relived to find out that “my hearing was fine for someone in older middle age.” The doctor said the first sounds to go – high frequency. So, it makes sense that not to bother the over 30 pool-side patrons that the lifeguards would have whistles that only annoyed and alerted the younger set.
As I made my way to the cabana, (no snack bar window at this pool) to order some lunch (I was thinking a smoked salmon and watercress salad with a lemon caper vingerette because it sounded elegant and for sure trumped the corn dog or Smuckers Uncrustables offered at my “home” pool.) I saw a group of lifeguards dining at the “employees table.” I was so certain of my whistle frequency theory that I set out to confirm it. I walked over and introduced myself as a guest of the club, complimented them on their guarding skills and asked my question about their whistles. Cue, the polite, yet gut busting laughter. Um, it seemed I was wrong about the whistles. Amid their giggle fit, I asked if I could sit down and then began prodding them about their lifeguard code of conduct. I assured them that I was just a one time visitor to the club, never to be seen again, so they could feel free to tell all. After gaining their confidence that I wasn’t a tattle tale (I think it was those Dollar Tree flip-flops that really showed them that I was not a club “regular.”) the story of the country club lifeguard began to be shared. My first question was what’s up the whistle? The whistle I find out is all for show (gasp) like set dressing. It hangs around their neck and is also used for twirling between their fingers as they pace the pool. But, that’s all it’s good for. It doesn’t even have that doohickey ball inside that makes the whistle sound. Why no whistle? The guards aren’t allowed to single out the “young patrons” about their behavior. It could cause, according to club rules, “long term ill effects to the young patrons self-esteem.” As a former lifeguard, I’m mouth hanging open, stunned. “So, how do you stop bad behavior or behavior that could result in someone getting hurt?” I ask. That’s a sticky wicket the guards say. You’re allowed to “quietly and in a congenial manner” address a safety issue with the child’s nanny, guardian or parent. But, as a guard you can not speak about a safety issue directly with a child. This, the guards explain is to protect the guard more than the child. Because in the past children who had been reprimanded complained/cried to their parents/nanny/guardian that the guard was mean and before you could say spoiled rotten, the guard would end up losing their job. “If a kid is drowning are you allowed to save them or would that end up hurting their self-esteem also”, I joke. No joke. They can rescue the child from drowning, but it can’t seem like a rescue. Say what? Apparently, when they jump in the water with their red life-preserver thingy they should “attempt to make it appear like they are either doing a practice drill or playing with the child. In no way are they to tell the child they were rescued or needed guard assistance.” “Oh,” I muttered, the whole self-esteem thing again. But what if they need CPR? I don’t see how CPR can be disguised as guard practice.” Fortunately, the club’s guards have never had to have that intense of a rescue with a child. They have had to go in after drunk adults and do CPR, but one guard pipes up, “since they were drunk they don’t remember much so you don’t have to be that careful about their adult self-esteem. Amazing. My limited time in this exclusive east coast country club enclave so explains the national financial crisis.
The lifeguards are like the SEC. The children are the financial institutions. The guards (SEC) see bad behavior, but can’t hurt anybody’s feelings by telling them their naughty and could cause imminent, serious damage to themselves or others. So, they tread lightly and give the (children) financial institution’s boss a very polite and obsequious head’s up. Then, when our economy (children) begin drowning the guards (SEC) don’t have the practice, experience or strength to save them.
I tell the guards to be careful and offer my middle-aged mom advice. “You’ll never forgive yourself if something bad happens on your watch. Even if you’re going to get fired. Do the right thing.” Apparently, that was old advice because they all said I sounded like their mom. “In that case,” I said, “Your moms must all be amazing.” I left the lifeguard employee table went over to devour my salmon salad and thought about how hard it is to eat while sucking in your stomach. Almost impossible. Try it. See you can’t do it. I guess that’s another reason while I’ll never be able to hang with the rich – the inability to eternally inhale. Oh well, I always have my city pool with a high dive that I can bust cannonballs off of causing serious, soul scarring embarrassment to my children. Now, that my friends, makes me truly wealthy.
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