Friday, January 13, 2012

Pool Attendants

One of the glorious things about our resort in Mexico was that we could SO completely lazy.  It is possible that my muscles slightly atrophied from doing nothing but walking from the room to the pool, back to the room, and then to the restaurant for dinner.  It was just so deliciously lazy.

The pool was never crowded and it was always well-staffed by attendants who brought chilled bottles of water and any drinks or food that you'd like to order from the snack menu.  We ate nachos and quesadillas for lunch a couple of days, I fell in love with their lemonade (which was more like a sparkling limeade) and David discovered his new favorite girly-beverage:  The Miami Vice (half pina colada, half strawberry daquiri).

I have to say, though, it was weird for me to be the girl in the lounge chair being offered cool towels, fruit kebabs, and fresh bottles of water.

It was weird because it was Christmas and totally not like Christmas, of course.  It was weird because I was desperately sad and missing Eliza but also grateful to be lying in the sunshine.  It was weird because we have never taken a vacation that wasn't full of sight-seeing and scheduled-to-the-minute self-imposed itineraries.

It was weird because, once upon a time, I was not the girl in the lounge chair.  I was the pool attendant.

I wanted to tell them that I sympathize with how heavy that bin full of wet towels is at the end of the day, and how you have to be careful as you push it to the laundry because if it gets a lot of momentum, there's no stopping it from careening off the sidewalk.

I wanted to tell them that I know it's not easy to balance a frozen drink in a plastic cup with a stem, because I definitely poured a banana cabana all over an old guy's feet my first day on the job.

I wanted to tell them that they deserve every dollar they make out there in the sun, waiting hand and foot on people who barely look up from the electronic reading devices.

Because I KNOW what it's like to be on the other side of that tray of nachos.

My friend Natalie and I decided one summer in college that it would be fun to spend the summer in Arizona.  My aunt invited us (at least, I don't think we invited ourselves, but it is entirely possible) to stay with her, and we scored jobs at the Four Seasons resort that was about two minutes from her house.  It was gorgeous, and we thought working at the pool would be fun!

So yes, the scenery was lovely.  The job was...  well, here's a fun fact:  when you work outside all day and the temperature is 112 degrees Fahrenheit, you can drink all the water you want and barely have to pee because you just sweat it out.  Also:  When you have to wear all white shoes and you find all white shoes so unbearably uncool that you buy the cheapest pair of Keds possible and then you're on your feet walking on hot cement for seven hours a day, your feet will freaking hurt.

We weren't twenty-one yet, and we didn't know anybody else in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area.  We shared Natalie's little car (a Toyota Echo named Eddie) and we spent almost all of our hard-earned wages at Fashion Square mall, buying shorts from Express and shirts from The Limited.  Fashion was our outlet, you see, because the six days a week that we were hard at work, we were stuck wearing this:

Yes, it really was THAT hideous.

Natalie just might kill me for this.
It was enough to give a nineteen-year-old girl an existential crisis:

Should I have gotten an internship instead?  What am I doing with my life?  Why am I wearing this heinous outfit?  What if I see someone I know?
Anyway, we somehow survived the summer.  We became quite proficient at the NYTimes crossword, which we would each surreptitiously pull from the complimentary newspapers provided for the guests, and then work on furiously whenever we had a spare moment at our respective Pool Attendant Stations.  Then we'd either call each other on our Pool Attendant Station Phones For Professional Use Only, or ask each other on our rounds around the pool--"four letter word for Cleopatra's reptiles?" (answer:  ASPS).

We dealt with wealthy, privileged, crazy customers.  The woman who had alarming rock-hard, softball-sized breasts and asked Natalie if it would be a problem if she sunbathed topless.

Natalie (blushing):  Uh, I'll have to ask my manager!

(His answer:  As long as there aren't any kids around, and none of the other guests complain.)

The woman who asked me if it would be all right if her dachshund swam in the pool with her.

Me:  I'm sorry, we just can't allow animals in the pool.  It's against hotel policy.

Dog Lady:  But he is a very clean dog!  And he loves to swim!  Am I just supposed to leave him in the room and swim without him?

Me:  Um, well, why I don't have you talk to my manager.

(His answer:  No dogs in the pool, but we can arrange for someone from the daycare facility to stay with your dog if you don't want him to be alone.)

The family who let their kid poop in the kiddie pool, and then just left without saying anything, leaving poop nuggets floating.  (I had to call the Engineering Department rather than Housekeeping to deal with this issue as it was a Sanitary Problem Requiring Chemicals).

Me:  Hello, Engineering.  We have, uh, a problem at the kiddie pool.  Involving poop.

Engineering:  Are you kidding me?

Me:  I wish.

And then there was the week that the entire resort was rented out to an Australian bank.  Some kind of working holiday for their employees.  The resort went bonkers, stocking up on Fosters (you  know, because it's Australian for beer?).  The Aussies didn't want Fosters.  They wanted Corona.  Or Dos Equis.  They drank all the Corona in the resort, and someone had to call for a special delivery of More Corona for the Aussies.  (And these people loved to drink.  You know what they did not love to do?  TIP.  Is tipping not part of Australian culture?  Someone clue me in on this.  All I know is that we pounded the pavement, serving Coronas and refilling water and nobody wanted to give us any cash for it.

In addition to drinking Corona, the Australians wanted to wear Speedos.  Talk about a culture shock for a couple of Midwestern American girls.  Almost all the Australian bank employees were men, middle-aged and paunchy, and the first day that Natalie and I looked up from our crossword puzzles to see a bunch of dudes wearing Speedos and strutting around the pool...  Well, there was LOTS of giggling.

They were very friendly, though, jolly and joking around, and always calling us "Princess" or "Love" when they wanted us to fetch them another beer (which was constantly).  I remember Natalie speed-walking over to me with a panicked look on her face.  The old man with the white beard and the big belly and the Speedo with the British flag on the front and back?  He had just asked if Natalie would "be a love" and rub sunscreen on his hairy back.  (I can't remember if she did it or not...)

Oh, those were some times.

The outfit is worse with the hat, but at least we are more disguised as we offer guests ice water with citrus?  Evian spritzer?
Every hour on the hour, we'd have to go around the pool offering the guests a special treat.  Oshi-bori towel? (white washcloth, soaked in ice water, wrung out, rolled up tight, and stored in the freezer--preparing these was a much coveted job because you got to escape the heat for thirty minutes or so).  Evian spritzer?  (Evian water in an aerosol bottle that we would spray in people's faces.  Seriously.)

In some ways, it was really the most absurd job ever.

Natalie is happy to serve you a complimentary fruit kebab.  Or seven, if you're that one dude.
And we got to swim in that beautiful pool exactly once all summer long.  When we scrubbed gunky sunscreen and oil buildup off the tiles (and rubbed our fingers raw at the same time!).  After hours, of course.

As Natalie demonstrates, we were tempted many times to just jump in that water.
I think we learned some important lessons that summer, though.  We discovered that neither one of us was AT ALL interested in going into the hospitality industry.  We learned that if you go to the mall often enough, you will hit some great sales.  There is no way to make a hideous uniform any more attractive.  And we learned that if you're with the right friend, you can almost always find something to make you laugh so hard you collapse.  No matter how hot it is outside, or what terrible outfit you're wearing.


  1. Cute story! I had some funny little jobs myself (Target, Supercuts), but the photo evidence it too much to bear for me, so I will not be sharing! Ha!

  2. How funny!

    I hope your date the other night was fun!

  3. These stories are hilarious! Poor Natalie with the sunscreen. After waiting tables in college, I will never take those jobs for granted again. Serving people is hard work!

  4. Thank god G hasn't pooped in a public pool I WOULD DIE. I kinda want a fruit kebob now...

  5. Great story. No, there's no tipping in Australia - actually this may have changed in the last few years, but there wasn't back then. And no, they don't like Fosters either.

  6. Oh, this post took me back to when I would tell you and Natalie that those uniforms "weren't that bad." I realize now how much I lied! :) Peggy

  7. Ohmigosh, those outfits ARE hideous! But funny. And I'm glad you had a good vacation :)

  8. You both deserve a medal.. these pics are seared into my mind! LOL!!!

  9. Hah, why is it that everyone thinks we like Fosters? Real Aussies hate the stuff and would much rather any other beer on earth to drink.
    And as far as tipping goes, no it is not really part of our future. That said, I do tip. But it is more of a "rounding up" kind of thing (at least this is what I do, which is more than I can say for a lot of Aussies). So if our bill was $92, I'd probably just pay $100. I know when we were in Hawaii a few years back, we got a lot of dirty looks, but it was really hard as our Aussie dollar back then was only paying 66c US cents, so it was costing us a lot of money to be there and eat/shop etc. We never didn't tip, we just never seemed to tip enough. Waitresses seemed to work really hard for the tips though and be super nice to us. Then when ever we paid and left, we got some dirty looks!
    Just one of the many differences between our great country and yours.
    If you have any more cultural difference related questions, please let me know. I wish I worked for that bank....

  10. I just re-read this. I somehow missed the bit on speedos! Ewww! Thankfully none of the men in my life (husband, dad, brother, friends etc) wear speedos! And reading this again, these men were probably very wealthy, so I'm thinking that's why there was no tipping, as it is always the wealthy who don't want to part with their hard earned cash!