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In this personal narrative, the author recalls an event that gave her an insight into the importance of how you treat other people. As you read, take note of the specific examples, the imagery, and the interesting diction. ~Ayers

It was another July 4th celebration at the country club. The sun beat down on the luxury cars parked in the crowded parking lot, and laughing children could be heard from blocks away. As walked up the clubhouse steps, I was immediately taken over by the smell of french fries cooking in the kitchen near the pool. I looked in the open door, and saw pool food service staff zipping around like bumble bees gathering pollen from an overgrown meadow in early spring. Chefs yelling out “Order’s up!” struggled to be heard over the servers, who rambled off the latest demand. I could sense the tension and stress building in the hot, hectic room.

Conversely, as I approached the front gate and sign-in table, I was greeted by hundreds of smiling guests in red, white and blue designer bathing suits gossiping and lounging on the crowded pool deck. I made my way to the lifeguard office, walking to the beat of the blaring country music oozing with American pride.

After clocking in, I began the first of what became many greasy, sweaty sunscreen applications. I slipped on my sunglasses, which immediately began to slip down my nose in the upper ninety degree heat. I made my way to guard stand, and climbed up the metal steps into the chair. I had a great view of the party. People meandered in and out of the pool, drifting from the hotdog buffet, to the bar, to their poolside beer buckets. I watched as men drank beers and left the empty cans sitting by the pool without thinking twice.

The hot sun advanced in the cloudless sky, and the pool developed its own cloudy characteristic as the crowd’s sweat and sunscreen melted off hot skin and into the thankfully chlorinated pool. I questioned one patron’s intelligence as I saw her leave her empty, sticky plate on the table when she left, even though she passed a garbage can on the way out. Lifeguards rotated from stand to stand, feeding off the party’s ambiance to maintain a level of enthusiasm and energy during the hot, humid, sticky conditions.

After a full rotation, I got a break, during which the other lifeguards and I led the popular poolside games that have become country club traditions over the years. Greasy watermelon football, belly flop contests, and water raft relays entertained kids and parents alike. Except, of course, for the privileged, bratty eight year olds who complained and demanded prizes when they lost.

After the sun had reached its peak, and everyone’s skin, including my own, had developed a deep rosy flush from the hot sun, the party started to thin out. The smaller crowd gave me a chance to survey the mess that the members left behind, and to begin the long clean-up process that comes with parties as lively as the 4th of July celebration. We helped the food staff clean up after the buffet that sat out for a majority of the afternoon, as members cycled through, eating food and drinking cold drinks. The food staff looked sweaty and exhausted midway through their sixteen hour Fourth of July shift that included making enough food for over four hundred people, running back and forth from the kitchen to the pool deck in the heat carrying trays full of food out to the reclining guests, and cleaning up the messes made by those same guests.

The pool staff took out the trash cans, put down lounge chairs, and swept up cookie crumbs, watermelon chunks, and crushed potato chips from the deck area. We scrubbed spilled ketchup and cherry slushie off the tables, and power-washed crusted macaroni and cheese and hot dog buns off the concrete deck. The members love the patriotic 4th of July celebration at the pool, which may explain the dissatisfied reaction that came when they heard the dreaded message from the loudspeakers: “Attention Elmcrest members and guests, the time is now 8:50, and the pool will be closing in ten minutes.” This message means something entirely different for the pool staff, who had been working in the sun for eight or nine hours at this point, and were eager to finish cleaning and enjoy the rest of their holiday. Pool closing time is hard to enforce at small clubs like Elmcrest, because the members love to stay, and the staff hates to upset them.

On this particular night, two groups of families were left after closing time, each occupying tables on different sides of the pool. The groups were behaving similarly; sipping drinks and watching their children swim around. At closing time, I approached the first table very intimidated with another lifeguard. We knew how kicking out people usually went, and we anticipated the members would be even less willing to leave since it was a holiday. After reminding one of the tables that we were closing the pool, they packed their belongings, gathered their tired children, and threw away their trash on their way out. Unfortunately, dealing with the next table wasn’t nearly as pleasant. After we kindly reminded next group that the pool would be closed at nine, we heard exasperated sighs and profanities as the annoyed members cursed under their breath. Why did we have to be so unreasonable? Didn’t we know it was a holiday? Couldn’t we just leave them alone to enjoy their cocktails? Couldn’t we stay open another hour, for god’s sake? As the fuming members gathered their belongings, one of the men stopped and looked at me. “Well, if we have to leave, we’re not cleaning up.” The group stood and walked away, leaving dirty paper plates, four cold beer buckets, and  half empty cups and bottles strewn across the table, spoiling the otherwise enjoyable day, and my opinion on the well-to-do members of society.

Unfortunately, this and other similar experiences have tainted my opinion about the people who belong to the country club. Seeing members act outwardly rude towards the club staff provides a clear picture of how I don’t want to be when I grow up. The way in which they seem to set themselves up on imaginary pedestals and act as if they are superior to others is extremely unbecoming.

There are other members who, although not outwardly rude, provide another picture about how I don’t want to be. They’re the ones who parade around in their expensive clothing and accessories, gossiping about other people. They’re the ones who talk more about past accomplishments than the present. They’re the ones who provide poor examples to their children about values and virtues, and because of that, they’re the ones I will continue to see for years to come, exercising the shallow behaviors they learn from their parents.

If these people took a moment to look beyond their own needs, they would see something that I’ve discovered in my time working at the country club. After you die, it will be your morals and character that people remember about you, not your luxury car or expensive wardrobe. The way you treat others is the most important thing, and it’s what will bring you true happiness.

 

 

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