It was the middle of summer season, and our swim lesson program was in full swing. This particular day I was sitting quietly, listening to children squealing in the water, when a woman threw open the door to my office and said frantically, “My child is drowning!”
Several emotions went through me simultaneously. Urgency: Had “911” been called and were they on their way? Fear: Was her child OK, or at least going to be OK? Anger: Why hadn’t my lifeguards, swim instructors or deck coordinator seen this, and why hadn’t they signaled with a long, loud blast? Confusion: Why was the woman in my office if her child was dying somewhere on my pool deck!?
I jumped up from the desk, grabbing my emergency pack, and flew out the door, whistle to my lips, intensely scanning the pool, then the deck, then the pool again, for any sign of the emergency. I couldn’t see anything amiss. I thought I must have missed something. I began to walk the deck while I scanned again, more slowly this time, taking in every minute detail.
I saw four classes going — Level 3, Level 1, Parent/Child and Preschool. Instructors were with each class. I saw three lifeguards: two sitting, one roaming. Pool manager on deck, winding up the cord from the vacuum. Deck supervisor assisting a preschooler out of the water and toward the bathrooms. Children in the pool, bobbing, kicking, swimming.
Then I noticed the woman who barged into my office, who insisted that her child was drowning. She was glaring at me. I turned to her and asked where her child was. She pointed to the water and asked me if I was blind! Her child was right there in that horrible preschool class, half-drowned. I looked toward the pool, concentrating very hard on the preschool class. I saw nine kids, two instructors. They were all holding hands in a circle singing “Motorboat,” none of them were even crying.
I turned back to the woman. As the children concluded the song with “… step on the gas!” and they went underwater as a group, I watched the face of the woman twist in horror as all nine kids and both instructors went under the water. She pointed again and demanded to know how I dared to allow such small children to submerge into a drowning position during swim lessons.
I was totally speechless.
Relief swept over me. Her child was fine, better than fine, not drowning. My staff had done their jobs! No one was calling “911” because there wasn’t a need. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. Either way, I had to deal with this woman.
First, I tried to reason with her. I explained why children need to learn to be comfortable going under water. I said it is how all swim lessons are conducted for preschoolers.
Then the obvious, that the children, including hers, were having a great time, and the other parents did not seem as concerned. I assured her that not only were both of the instructors lifeguards, but there were three other lifeguards on stand. Nothing helped.
This woman truly believed that my instructors were teaching some sort of combat drowning technique to her 4-year-old.
Finally, I asked what I could do to make her feel more comfortable. She said she was never coming here again and wanted a full refund, which I gave her without question.