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“You wouldn't believe how often children are not wearing armbands”

“You wouldn't believe how often children are not wearing armbands”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts

(Wo) man at work: Pool attendant at Geusselt swimming pool

Teun Verhagen/ 19/ second-year student of Fiscal Law/ works 18, 20 hours per week, more during the summer months/ earns €10.34 per hour

Let's get straight to the point: pool attendant Teun Verhagen has never had to dive into the water to save anyone. “I did throw a line to someone once. A small boy jumped from the high diving board. After he had hit the water, he couldn't keep his head up. I immediately got the line, it’s like a reflex. Even though every pool attendant does things differently: one would grab the hook, another gets the line and a third one would dive in.”

It’s Sunday morning, so it is still quiet in the Geusselt swimming pool. Verhagen opens the door to the recreation section, picks up a couple of watering cans and fills them with disinfectant. “The floor must be kept clean – that is part of his job.” In the meantime, his colleague puts on some music. “We have had Tunify for about a month now – it’s a type of Spotify for public areas. Before that, we had to play the same numbers over and over, because of copyright reasons. Now we can adapt to the group: for example, play children's songs during family swimming hours.”

The most difficult part, Verhagen feels, is to remain focused even after six hours. “Certainly in the care pool, a small area where the water is 33 degrees, or if the sun is shining on the recreational pool.” Another challenge is the break roster. That is strictly planned – after all there always has to be a sufficient number of supervisors at the edge of the pool. “You can't just walk away. If we have a first-aid emergency, the whole roster is messed up.”

The first parents with children have arrived and have already dived into the water – not literally though, because you are only allowed to do that at a depth of 1 metre 43 and the water here is only 1 metre 40 deep. Verhagen takes up his position between the paddling pool and the swimming pool, one foot on the edge. “From this position, I can see most of the pool, but there are quite a few blind spots here, which is why there are always two of us.” He spots parents with a child not wearing armbands. “You wouldn't believe how often that happens.” It is allowed in the paddling pool, but not in a proper swimming pool. “Actually, I would like to see it in the paddling pool too. We only have to be looking the other way for a moment and a child could run to the deep end and jump in. But that's the policy here.”

He hands the parents a baby-floating device – a swimming ring with a seat in the centre. “We have a few of those. We don't lend out ordinary armbands, if it is very busy, you can't remember whom you have lent them to.” The baby is immediately put into the ring. “People react in very different ways. Some are quick to understand and are happy that you point it out to them, others feel that it is up to them whether their children wear armbands or not.” If the pool attendants have any doubt as to whether a child has a swimming diploma or not, they are extra vigilant. “You can tell by the way they jump into the water whether they can swim or not. If we are not sure, we do a swimming test: swim to the other side of the pool and back.”

How can you actually tell if someone is drowning? “There are different ways. Sometimes a person goes under time and again and you see the panic in their eyes. Older people can sometimes become exhausted halfway across the pool. Someone who has a cramp can sink to the bottom. Or what also often happens: a child jumps into the water in a certain way and you suddenly see two armbands floating. They have flown off. A baby-floating device can topple, if parents turn away for a brief moment.”

Except for the odd difficult visitor, Verhagen finds the contact with people the best part of his job. “I have been working here for more than a year now and I have gotten to know a lot of the regular guests.” He points to a woman who is practising her breaststroke. “That lady, for example, comes every week, she is also taking swimming lessons for adults and is very motivated.”

Does he himself ever get to swim? “Sometimes, I often work during the hours when people swim laps. And we are allowed to swim free of charge, but we can't just dive in. It also applies to us that there must always be someone in attendance.”

This is a series about student jobs

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