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Tag Archives: work

(Poop) Time And Tide Wait For No Man

Inspired by AK’s post, I thought it would be interesting to provide a perspective from the stall on the other side of the wall.  It’s not all fun and games in our world either.  While we may be outnumbered by the females, there’s enough of us to cause problems for each other.  The problems are exacerbated by the infrastructure at hand.

So here’s the general problem.  We have two stalls, one of which is the handicapped suite.  You can tell by the visible shoes/feet that the “lowrider” stall is occupied, but there is no way to know if the suite is in use unless you test the door.  This is because the door is always closed regardless of being latched or not.  Now I consider myself a courteous gentleman.  If I must test the door, I stand at a distance and lightly test the handle with a single finger.  Today, I had two goddamn hulks trying to rip the door off the hinges to get to me.  And I am considerate when I’m inside the suite, too.  I bob my leg to jingle my belt buckle.  Sometimes I clear my throat.  Surely hearing something from inside would indicate occupancy?  No!  Hulk shit now!  RATTLE RATTLE.

As is my nature, the problem-solver, I set my brain to work on how this can be remedied.  There is no existing way to indicate occupancy, but there is an existing way to indicate vacancy.  I employ this method religiously for everyone else’s benefit.  The other knuckledraggers here are slow to adopt it, because I think they don’t understand.

The method I employ is to slide the locking latch shut as I leave.  The closed latch is stopped by the door frame when the door is closed, leaving the door slightly propped open.  You can visually see that the door is open and the stall is available.  It’s easy and costs nothing.  All it requires is adoption.  And so I began planning a campaign to promote this concept to my less-considerate cohorts.  I would post some PSA-type flyers in the stall to remind others to prop the door when they leave.  I needed some clever ideas, clever slogans.  On my first brainstorming, I came up with the following:


With such a marketing campaign, how could I fail?  Well, you only fail if you try.  I did not go through with the propping campaign.  Instead, I started thinking of even more clever ideas.

What if there was a plexiglass “flag” that you could slide onto the latch mechanism from inside?  The flag would extend outside the stall.  That would indicate occupancy, which is more valuable than indicating vacancy.  Because, despite the compelling arguments posted within the stall, you still have to kind of assume that someone may not comply and you have to test the door anyway.  And if that’s the case, then door propping is not 100% reliable and might as well not even be attempted.  (You have to love black and white viewpoints.)

Another early consideration I had was putting a spring lever inside the latch, which would hold the door slightly ajar when unlatched but wouldn’t interfere with closing and latching the door.  I even did the research into what type of metal would be needed and how to form it into a spring lever that wouldn’t simply wear out.  A torch was required to heat treat the metal, so I reluctantly back-burnered that idea. (ha!)

Now, the obvious solution to this is to update the infrastructure.  It would be as simple as buying a latch that has an open/closed indicator on the outside.  You know, like on airplanes.  But even though we seem to get new toilet paper and paper towel dispensers on a bi-annual basis, we can’t upgrade the door latches.

Time will tell if any of these things actually happens.  Until then, I’ll be jingling in the suite.  Keep your ears open.


The CubeRoof

At work, some time ago, we had contractors doing a build-out of new offices right beside our cube farm.  This got me thinking, why can’t we all have offices?  Along with this consideration, I am always hearing from the vampires in my group about how horrible the lighting is.  Everyone wants the light to be cut to 50% or less.  I’m not in that group.  I like light.  I brainstormed a new product idea to help us all.

Why does a company build cubicles and not not all offices?  Some reasons could be:

  • Cheaper
  • Layout flexibility
  • Increased communication, for better or worse
  • Increased oversight

Why do employees want offices and dislike cubicles?

  • Increased privacy
  • More environmental control (light/temperature/décor)
  • Sense of ownership

So what’s the difference between a cube and an office?

  • Door
  • Walls to the ceiling
  • Windows or lack of windows
  • Basically, enclosure. 

So let’s completely forget about convincing management to let their subordinates shut themselves behind a door.  I walk a tight line between being controlling and liberal, and with the co-workers I have, allowing a closed door is simply an invitation to sleep all day.

So if we can’t have doors, we can create enclosure by raising the walls to the ceiling.  This, however, would create serious issues with lighting, temperature, and airflow.  So, my idea is to lower the ceiling to the cube: CubeRoof.

The biggest design point of CubeRoof would be the modular, minimal pieces involved in the system.  Taking cues from both IKEA and ClosetMaid, the CubeRoof system would be cheap and easy.

The first element of any roof is the truss.  The truss is comprised of three straight elements and three angles.  To simplify the system, there are a small number of extendable aluminum beams, similar to “cargo bars”, in varying maximum lengths.  This comprise the angles of the truss and the support beams between them.  Then, there are adjustable angle brackets that connect the beams.  The adjustability allows any peak or pitch of the roof.  The angle brackets have a lip for attachment to the top of the cubicle wall, and a post to accept another beam to connect trusses.

Finally, the roof material is simple nylon fabric sheets connected to the trusses and to each other with Velcro.  Having different lengths, widths, and colors provides for an endless combination of roof styles.  Light color fabrics for diffused light, dark colors for light blocking.  Inset screens for ventilation and panels for adjustable “skylights.”  Aftermarket and customizing possibilities could be large.

I would estimate one CubeRoof requiring three interconnected trusses, which would be eight straight bars, nine angle connectors, and two properly-sized roof panels.  Of course, I’m not going to build it.  That would be for someone much better than me, if you believe in the power of capitalism.

Inmates Running The Asylum

Ha, you think I’m talking about the current political environment.  Nope, I’m talking about my workplace.  I’ll be honest.  I’m a bit old-fashioned.  I’m in a different generation than most of my co-workers and some of the things that are important to them are absolutely ridiculous to me.  For example, the company dress code.

Years ago, one of my co-workers lamented to me about how he couldn’t wear “a hoodie and flip-flops” every day at work.  This is important to him.  The fact he has to wear business casual clothes (which does include jeans) is a problem.  And strangely, employers now have to cater to their employees despite an overwhelming labor force eager to take those positions.

Recently, my employer conducted an experiment.  You could wear anything you wanted to work as long as it wasn’t revealing or offensive.  Personally, I didn’t change a thing, but many others broke out sandals, flip-flops, shorts, tee shirts, hats, and more casual dresses and skirts.  The workplace went from business casual to resort casual, and in my opinion, became more slobby.

The experiment went for 2 weeks and when it was announced that it was going to end, “hoodie and flip-flops” wrote to the HR director asking why it was ending if there were no complaints about how people abided by the rules.  The answer was “we’ll see.”

On the first day after the experiment’s conclusion, “hoodie” came in and announced loudly, “Fuck this place!”  He didn’t get fired or even written up for that, but did get counseled on his behavior.  He had to write an apology letter to the HR director saying he wouldn’t do anything like that again.  His letter also mentioned it was the loss of the relaxed dress code that caused the outburst.  It was a great way to make the case for keeping it, for sure.

But here we are, a couple of weeks later and great news!  For a limited time, SlobFest has returned to our workplace!  For the rest of the summer (excluding days where clients will be visiting), dress down, be comfortable (since that’s so important to you), act like you’re on vacation.  But please, if there’s anything else we can do for you, don’t hesitate to just shout out, “fuck this place!” and we’ll see how we can accommodate you.

Me, I’m outta here.  Fuck this place.

You’re Being My Cat. Stop It.

Sometimes at work, you will have a co-worker who calls you over to look at something they are doing and then continues to work while you are there.  Then when you go to leave, they ask about something else so you stay.  I’m sure there’s a thousand different ways people describe this – hand-holding, babysitting, whatever.  But I know what it really is and I have a name for it.

Most people would probably agree that the root cause of this behavior is insecurity.  Maybe it starts when the person doesn’t know exactly what to do, so they call someone over to make sure they do it right.  Then they need that person to stay there because they are not sure of anything else from that point onward.

There are many times when I am walking through my house that my cat intercepts my path and guides me where she wants.  You do know this is what they are doing when they get all up in your legs, right?  They want you to go somewhere and they will herd you there.  This always happens when I get home from work because that’s canned food time.  It happens other times as well.  But here’s the point.  She always takes me to her food bowl.

Why?  So she can eat.  It’s something I call, “Watch me eat!”  That’s what she wants, for me to watch her eat.  I suppose because it makes her feel safe or maybe because she’s proud of her eating abilities, who knows?  And you know who else does this?  People.  They want you to watch them eat because they’re unsure of what they’re doing or maybe they’re proud of their eating abilities.

Next time your co-worker wants you to watch them eat, just do what I do with my cat.  Walk away.  She keeps on eating, and so will your co-worker.

Humility On Display

In the game Ultima IV, you play a character whose mission it is to become pure in virtue by only doing good things.  It’s a rather sharp contrast to modern games, right?  But anyway, knowing about these virtues makes for some positive change in your real life.

Some of these virtues are stronger in me than others.  Honesty, Humility, Sacrifice are some of the stronger ones.  In a real-life Ultima, I would probably end up being one of the wimpier character classes, like Shepherd.  But, good virtues are good to have.  I say this because I recently made a mistake.  A big, big mistake at work.

I do a lot of my work on intuition, doing what I think is best and usually that works out pretty well for me.  So when I was told to reactivate some application functionality that we had taken out previously, I immediately knew what needed done and where to go to make the change.  The problem was, I didn’t read the details.

My change had been in use for almost a month and when Accounting went to do their billing, everything was rejected.  And it was because of my change.  I didn’t notice the instruction to leave the records open after processing.  That was different than the way it used to be.  And because of that, the company had lost a month’s worth of billing.

It’s not often that a person can say that they cost their employer a million dollars in revenue, but at that moment, I was in that exclusive crowd.  When asked about the change, I owned up to the mistake and fixed it immediately.  And then I started thinking about what I did, which is never a good thing.

I did the math and calculated the damage.  What could I ever do to fix it?  I can’t take a pay cut to zero dollars and work the next 15 years for free.  Even if they fired me, that money can’t be recovered by my elimination.  And there wasn’t anything I could do about it, that corrective work is in a totally different department working on a whole other level.  All I could do was wait and see what would happen to me.

And as I thought about it that night, I wasn’t scared.  I knew I could get another job easily enough.  I was just sad.  I just cost the whole company a substantial amount of money.  Bonuses for everyone?  Forget it.  Pay raises?  Nope.  New equipment? Not this year.  They could fire me, but the impact of my mistake would hit everyone.  And for that I was sad.

The next day I went in to my boss’s office and I asked what was going to happen.  He looked puzzled and then remembered our discussion where he explained that I missed a detail in my task.  “Oh, that’s taken care of.”  The honesty I gave him for my mistake, he gave the same honesty to the client that was rejecting the billing of all of our “closed” records and they agreed to work with us to reopen them and bill them properly.

So I was never really in any serious trouble.  The fear was just something I invented in my head.  But that mental invention, taking ownership of and feeling the impact of your actions on others, is a reminder of one of the principles of Reiki: I will do my work with honesty.

And, like many of my other instances of fortune, I am grateful for what I have been afforded in life.  Never forget to be grateful.

Mai Ties

This is a post about my tie collection.  Yeah, another post about collections.  No one cares – always remember that when talking about your collections.  However, you shouldn’t mistake curiosity for caring.  I can imagine that some people would be curious to see someone’s collection of something, even if they don’t share the same enthusiasm.

Anyway, ties to me were always an afterthought.  I went to a Catholic high school (which was more like a country club with as little learning that happened there), and we were expected to dress up with button-down shirts and ties.  Being teenagers, only about 2% took the dress code seriously.  I was part of the population that didn’t really understand the significance of dressing properly, so I just went through the motions.

Back in those days, ultra-skinny leather ties were in fashion, but they didn’t get worn often because of the dreaded “tie-torqueing” personal attack.  When yanked by an attacker, the leather ties would knot up so tight, they sometimes had to be cut off.  My dad had taught me the full Windsor knot, which proved to be untorqueable, but came with the disadvantage that it was a massive knot.  Once I learned the Four-in-Hand knot, I never looked back.

Knit ties were also in fashion then, and recently I have seen a small resurgence of them, but knit ties really aren’t making a permanent comeback.  They are more like a novelty tie, which is fine with me.  I only have a couple in my collection.

I’ve recently been attracted to ties in non-traditional fabrics, i.e. not silk.  Linen, cotton, polyester, and even velvet have made it into my collection.  I also like non-traditional shapes, like squared-off ends and I have one that I call a “razor” that has a single-angle end.  That one gets compliments when I wear it.  A couple of my ties are event-specific, like a red/white/blue/stars tie for July 4th or maybe Memorial Day.  The velvet tie just screams Christmas time.  My collection is evenly weighted between wide- and narrow-width ties, but most all of my recent purchases have been slim ties.

For me, the why of collecting ties is primarily the recognition.  I always used to have four ties, give or take, that were used only for job interviews and funerals.  But when some people at my workplace suggested “Tie Tuesday” to balance out the everyday casual attire, I joined in.  And that’s when my tie collection started blooming.  I’ve mentioned it before.  People notice when you are dressed above the norm.  But you can’t do it every day, because that then becomes your norm.

As far as cost goes, ties can be a really cheap accessory that adds a lot of style value.  I don’t ever pay more than $15 for a tie, and the ones that are usually $30+ at stores are not even the fashion I like.  They are more business-suit, power-executive ties.  Likewise with tie clips and tacks – you don’t have to spend more than $20 for one.  Of course, once you start getting serious, you will need a tie rack.  I started with a combo tie/belt rack that had maybe eight posts to hang ties.  I’ve since upgraded to a 24-post tie rack for less than $10.  In the same way I limit the clothes I own to the number of hangers I have, I will limit myself to the number of ties my rack will hold.  It won’t be long before I have to start recycling.

So, without further adieu, here are the ties:

DSC_0682_cr (Medium) “The Razor”
Kenneth Cole

This one gets a lot of attention.  I found it at a discount store and have never seen one like it since.

DSC_0683_cr (Medium) “Color Flash”
Little Black Tie

This was a nice gift from the GF.  It works well with my black or my aqua shirt.  The tie is black, but the end piece is a contrasting color that “flashes” when you move.

DSC_0684_cr (Medium) “The 80’s”

This one is heavy 80’s with a really big, loose stitch.  I think the low clearance price is the only reason I got it.

DSC_0685_cr (Medium) “Red Velvet”
Original Penguin

This is red velvet.  It’s a bit thick and has limited potential, but it will rock when the holidays come around.

DSC_0686_cr (Medium) “They Said I Had To Wear a Tie”
Dan Smith

This one is a polyester print.  The pattern is cool and could probably be used at a youngster party.  Definitely “phoning it in” as far as style goes.  I use this a lot to practice knots because it’s thin and slick.

DSC_0687_cr (Medium) “Dark Marble”
Unknown Brand

This 80’s tie has a nice, tight knit and the red and blue color variations in it match up well with rich, dark shirts.

DSC_0688_cr (Medium) “The Southwestern”
BDG. (maybe?)

This is one of my favorite ties and another gift from the GF.  It’s linen, with a nice pattern and shape.  It comes undone easier than most ties.  Works good with Oxford shirts.

DSC_0689_cr (Medium) “The Suit”
Calvin Klein

This blue tie is made of suit jacket material and is part of CK’s Steel series.  It’s like wearing a suit jacket when you’re not wearing a jacket.

DSC_0690_cr (Medium) “The Distinctive”
Original Penguin

This tie is a mix of polyester, silk, and cotton.  The fabric has a unique look and feel that catches your attention.  The color scheme works with a lot of shirts.

DSC_0691_cr (Medium) “Understated”

This 100% cotton tie is probably going to be 100% rumpled.  But I think that’s its charm.  It’s not pompous or power-tie feeling and the neutral color could go with lots of shirts.

DSC_0692_cr (Medium) “My Eyes!”
T. Edwards

This is an old-school tie for me, back when the purpose of wearing a tie was to be obnoxious.  It comes out when it needs to.

DSC_0693_cr (Medium) “New Start”
Jerry Garcia

This was the first tie I bought when I became re-interested in wearing ties. It started a J. Garcia brand mini-obsession.

DSC_0694_cr (Medium) “From the Past”

Some of the ties from my youth I have no idea where they came from or how I acquired them.  I keep this around because the color and pattern works with so many shirts.

DSC_0695_cr (Medium) “Jolly Roger”

I found this one at Target on clearance and since I’m into computers and you know, pirates and all…  It’s a moderate conversation starter.

DSC_0696_cr (Medium) “On Black”
Jerry Garcia

I wanted this tie to wear with a black shirt for the massive contrast.  It did not disappoint.  It also got a direct compliment, so, success!

DSC_0697_cr (Medium) “The Parent’s Tie”

This is another silk tie from my long past.  Probably a more traditional (meaning, old person) pattern.

DSC_0698_cr (Medium) “Ocean”
Jerry Garcia

Blue is my first choice in colors, so this tie really called to me.  I don’t wear it often enough.  This is when I stopped buying J. Garcia ties because it was getting too predictable.  I needed more variety.

DSC_0699_cr (Medium) “Just Silver”
Nicole Miller

I was really attracted to the shine and smoothness of this tie, but I think I’ve only worn it once.  It’s too thick.

DSC_0700_cr (Medium) “Old Balls”
Ottimo Uomo

Who knows how I got this tie.  It’s old-school silk and has a design I like a lot: abstract modern.  It’s really old, though.

DSC_0701_cr (Medium) “God Bless Murca”
Jerry Garcia

Even though I’d stopped buying J. Garcia ties, this one was cheap on clearance and it would be good for American holidays.  I have yet to remember to wear it.

DSC_7123_cr (Medium) “Oxford”
Van Heusen Studio

This tie is a super-thin, light cotton tie.  Like the Suit Jacket tie, this one is like wearing an Oxford shirt when you are not.  It adds a casual feel to a dress shirt, similar to “Understated”.

DSC_7124_cr (Medium) “Vibrant”
Van Heusen Studio

Another super-thin tie, this one in silk.  It has a bold, deep blue color and modern pattern + accents.  Worn against a white shirt, it demands attention.  Against a dark shirt, the pattern becomes the focus.

DSC_7125_cr (Medium) “The Suit II”
Calvin Kline

This tie is similar to “The Suit”, although it is not in CK’s Steel series.  It’s a silk blend tie with blue/grey/black colors.  It has a semi-iridescent sheen to it which makes it “pop”. Bought on clearance with an included tie clip, for less than the cost of a tie clip.


“This” Is Not Good.

I write Windows software for a living and as a hobby.  When Windows 8 came out and they introduced the new Metro/Modern app paradigm, I was unconvinced.  I never investigated why I felt that way, but I felt so strongly about it that I didn’t even want to invest the time to figure it out.

I’ve recently had another burst of motivation to get certified in my programming skills, and the training I’ve been studying involves these new-style apps.  For a while, I was interested, but then as I saw and learned more, I got less interested.

I think the same reason I dislike the modern apps is the same reason I don’t use any apps on my phone.  And that’s not surprising since they are essentially the same thing.  The problem I have with the apps is they operate in a singular focus at all times.  You start at a high level, you dive in, then you back out and do it again.  The bottom line is, this will not work for nearly all business applications and it won’t work for many productivity applications.

The official training is as much marketing as it is instructional, and I understand that.  As a developer, you have to sell the reasons for creating an application in a certain way.  One of the marketing themes is that the user should be “immersed” in the application.  There should be no chrome and no distractions.  I don’t see how this squares up with business data, which is primarily a collection of relations.

In a business app, you can have an “Order”.  But that order has a related customer and products.  That customer has a related company and contacts and previous purchases, and each of those products has related inventory, cost information, purchase history, and so on.  How can you “immerse” the user in an “Order”?  If the user then wants to see the customer information, now you have to immerse the user in a “Customer”, despite the context that the focus is still an Order and you are viewing the Customer in the context of that Order.  Ditto with viewing any Product Details.

And I think that’s the part that bothers me to the point that I can’t even begin to want to understand it.  A Modern app feels like, “You are working on this. *click* Now you are working on this.  Do not think about what you were working on, this is what you are working on.”  In fact, the immediacy of “this” sums up my dislike of Modern apps.

When Windows 10 was previewed, I was excited that Modern apps could be run in windows instead of full-screen.  It didn’t dawn on me at the time that windowed Modern apps didn’t fix the root problem that the application itself was single-screen.  Even if you think about a lowly web application, even they can open pop-up windows.  And by that, I mean real windows, not just frames in the main window.

It all just feels like trying to sell a limitation as “the best way”.  We can’t do something that way, but that’s not important, because this is the best way to do it.  It’s similar to a situation I have at work on the application I help write.  The user can’t have more than one screen open at a time because of the way the form controls talk to the parent form.  It doesn’t have to be that way, but the early developers didn’t know how to do it correctly, so this limitation was created.  Now it’s considered best for the user to only be able to have one screen open at a time.

Get More

Many months ago, I had come across a book, The Four Hour Work Week, and I was quite unimpressed by it and its author.  Recently, a blogger that I follow read the book and was advocating for it.  Not for the processes in the book exactly, but more along the line of “getting your due.”

My personal employment situation is different than both the Four Hour author and this blogger.  I work for a company and I develop and maintain their internal software.  I’m not a consultant, so the blog author’s primary arguments about “you are paid $50/hr, but your employer gets paid $150-$300/hr for the work you do” don’t resonate with me.  Even so, I have held those jobs in the past, so I know what it’s about.

I know myself well enough to say, I’m not cut out for running a business.  I know because I’ve tried.  There’s a lot involved.  The blogger says that for the difference in what you get made vs what you could potentially make, you could hire the people that can make it happen for you.  Not a salesperson?  Hire one.  Not an accountant?  Hire one.  And I guess you could keep justifying that a lot.  After all you’re making 3-6x what you were making before.

At least you’d be making that much if you were perpetually busy.  Scott Adams recent book has a very wise observation that there is an upper bound on what you can make if your income is dependent on your labor.  And that’s the upper bound.  There is no lower bound. And when you start from scratch, you don’t have the luxury of a backlog of work and pay.

Bottom line is you have to be of the entrepreneur mold.  And there shouldn’t be anything wrong with not being of that type.  You should still be able to be successful by being the best you can be in your field.

With that position – my position – stated, I must say that I believe the teachings of the “four hour work week” are detrimental for young workers.  If you find this works for you, then you are already that type of person.  I don’t believe just anyone can become “that person”.  I know I couldn’t live with myself like that.  I’ve also learned in my time that I don’t want to be associated with people like that.

Which then brings me back to my inner conflict with a blogger I enjoy reading.  I guess I need to wish him well, because everyone has to find their own way.  My way has worked well for me.  Could I have more?  Probably.  Would I also have more stress in my life?  Probably.  Would I trade more money for more stress?  Absolutely not.

The Efficiency Of Procrastination

Today is a Monday, both literally and figuratively.  I left on Friday with something on my work plate and a clear plan as to what was needed when I came back in today.  Nothing went as planned.

The project I was working on was a final push on a task that had been dragging out for months and months.  It was an integration with another company. The dev on the other side and I were really dragging our feet on it.  But management was having no more of that, so we both got told to make it happen in a week.  I knew I didn’t have much to do in this, so I agreed right away.  That’s when I made my plan of what I needed to do.

I arrived this morning and got to work.  Preparing to do my initial smoke test, I fumbled around, because I hadn’t looked at the code in well over a month and wasn’t sure what steps needed performed for a successful service call.  After half an hour of research, I figured it out.  That is, I figured out it wasn’t complete.  In fact, it was fairly incomplete.  All the testing I’d done up to that point was manually faked.

So, I did what I normally do when I’m put up against the wall – I made a list of what must be done.  The list was short, but wasn’t pretty.  I had to get other people involved with some steps, so my “oversight” might be noticed.  And some was just some tedious coding.

Then, I wasted no time and got to work.  Within an hour, I had everything done that I could get done and now had to wait on someone else to do something for me.  And as I wait, I write this entry… (this isn’t procrastinating, btw)

I read a quote recently that was something like, “Procrastinators can make a 15 minute task last 8 hours and can do 8 hours of work in 15 minutes.”  Precisely.  I just did it.  Why didn’t I do it earlier?  It might have been the feeling that came over me today when I realized I wasn’t done.  Before I made the bullet list of work to do, I started thinking of what needed done and started second-guessing myself, wondering if that was really the best course of action.

It’s a problem I face regularly.  When you know so many different ways to accomplish something, you can have trouble choosing which one to do.  Everything has pros and cons, so you can talk yourself into (or out of) any choice you make.  So you enter what is termed analysis paralysis.  And you procrastinate, because if you make no decision, you haven’t made the wrong decision.

But, when it comes down to the wire, you have to make a choice and run with it.  And usually, you will find it is a workable solution.  If anything is horribly wrong with it, you can fix it then.

In Recognition

There’s a job that is pretty well underrated in the modern age and it needs a little more promotion.  That job is: Lifeguard.  When you read that word, what’s the first image that came to mind?  A person sitting in a high chair beside a pool or on a high deck at the beach?  Just sitting there all day?  Maybe yelling at people every once in a while?  Sounds like an easy and/or boring job.  Anyone could do it, right?

If your lifeguard is not doing anything at your local swim area, be grateful.  That means you have a community that is educated in water skills and water safety.  But, there are many places where this is not the case.  In my area, where people come on vacation to go to the water, it’s painfully obvious that water skills don’t come naturally.  And that is why you need lifeguards.

A lifeguard is not just someone who likes to swim.  A lifeguard is not even just someone who can pull another person out of the water.  Lifeguard certification consists of many specific saving techniques – ones that EMTs and Paramedics might not even know.  There are precise ways to handle different emergency situations and skills that must be honed to perfection to avoid causing additional injury to a victim.  A lifeguard is an emergency first responder and is essentially an ambulance in the water.

There is another element of being a lifeguard that elevates them above EMTs. (You wouldn’t think this to be the case, but it is.)  When an ambulance is called and an EMT is sent to an accident scene, the damage is already done.  The EMT can only keep things from getting worse.  In the role of lifeguard, there is the opportunity to stop an accident from even happening in the first place.  Lifeguards are trained to identify signs of distress and trouble and can respond before anything bad happens.  Of course, this can be completely underappreciated, since the person being saved wasn’t in desperate need of assistance yet.

So the specialized skills of a lifeguard are beyond those of an EMT because an EMT is too late to the scene to help.  If that isn’t impressive enough, consider what “late” means to a lifeguard: 20 seconds.  Can you look out into a crowd of people, identify someone having problems and get to them in 20 seconds?  And if you think that any good swimmer could be a substitute for a certified lifeguard, consider some of these.

Could you save a a struggling person without being drowned yourself?  The victim isn’t trying to kill you and it’s nothing personal, it’s just self-preservation.  Could you save a person with an injury without causing further injury?  What if it was the neck?  What if it was the spine?  How long can you do CPR?  You don’t stop until the ambulance gets there.  How are you with heat?  You’re in the sun for a long time.

Lifeguards are not beach bums and they are not Baywatch.  They are trained professionals who save lives when needed and prevent bad situations from becoming disasters.  They will be the ones who are first on the scene for emergency assistance, whether for cuts, broken bones, jellyfish stings, choking or even drowning.  You may never see one in action, for which you should be grateful, but don’t discount the level of safety they provide.

I am almost always fascinated by trade magazines, because they illustrate how serious and passionate people are about their individual profession.  For example, at my first jobs working at pizza shops, the store would have a subscription to Pizza Today.  Yes, there was plenty going on in that industry, with techniques and technology to keep up on.  So, check out Aquatics Intl and get an appreciation of a lifeguard’s world.  They take it seriously and there is constant education and training happening there as well.