The reference to “Caliban” comes from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” Caliban is a monster that dwells on an island somewhere near Naples and in one of the acts, he meets a drunkard by the name of Stephano and becomes fixated on his wine. When Caliban is crawling about praising him for the contents of his bottle, Stephano says “Come, swear to that, kiss the book. I will furnish it anon with new contents, swear.” Like Caliban, Thomas is crawling on the pool deck.
The busy summer is coming to a close….ok, not yet. Summer school is finished, however I am still attending rehearsals for a musical so I’m not there yet. About one month ago, I began rehearsing as part of the ensemble for Orange Community Players production of Oklahoma. I started late only because I did not intend to be in the show. I felt I had too much to do with summer school and work but theatre almost always has a shortage of guys. Guess who has to sing and dance now?
Since being out of summer school for a little over a week now, it’s been nice to sleep in each morning. Technically, I’m gonna need it because rehearsals are running a little bit later now as we get close to showtime. With gathering at the theatre every night and the production set to open this coming Thursday, it will be a busy week for all of the cast and crew.
If you are local in the triangle area, tickets may be purchased online at:
Orange Community Players
In the cartoon world, I’m getting a little work done with “Suits and Guarders” and in the process of doing copyright for “Ivan the Terrible.” I plan to get more done in August before the next school year cranks up. The architectural technology program is turning out to be a good fit for me so I am looking forward to classes starting back again.
There is no proper guidebook for housekeeping when one becomes a lifeguard, probably because every facility is different. Instead of a book, lifeguards have a checklist with daily chores which is discussed briefly by supervisors at an in-service. Whether or not the chores get done really depends on how thorough the staff is, how crowded the pool gets, or if we were really paying attention when we were briefed. Personally, I am glad that I don’t have to find something like this in a manual but I might look at it differently if my comics ever come to life.
Even the most coordinated sort of person may sometimes gets stuck in a peculiarly tangled situation. Unfortunately, Thomas is not one of those blessed with the ability of eye-hand coordination! I came up with this idea when I was watching a guard hose down the locker rooms at an outdoor pool about one year ago. While he was walking around with the hose trailing behind him, I began to ponder the “what if” the hose got tangled? The strangest things sure seem to enter my mind.
Now that summer school is over, I will have a little more spare time for cartooning again. This comic is the first of six in a series, because sometimes my imagination just runs wild!
Three weeks ago, I described the crazy things that can take place during rec swim. This week I reveal the hilarity of the lap swim hours. Lap swim begins at 6:00 in the morning and proceeds throughout the day, but the lively and humorous times generally start around 7:30. I think the reason is that by 7:30, the crowd who are trying to swim and get to work have mostly left. They are literally just trying to “get-er-dun” and get to work on time.
Many of the the lap swimmers where I work know of my cartoon and quite a few of them were my earliest subscribers. It’s all one large family where they jokingly heckle one another if one of them hasn’t been in the water in a while. Sometimes they banter to take a break from swimming laps too. There are many stories that they have shared from their lives, sometimes serious stories and other times just outright funny. Some of these stories, I have made into cartoons, which makes “Suits and Guarders” a fun collaboration, especially when it comes to my “lap swimmer” character.
I printed out the first panel of this comic and posted it on the bulletin board at the pool and encouraged the lap swimmers to fill in the blank on what they thought was the reason for tearing down the diving board. Not everyone draws cartoons, but most people are gifted humorists. I was intrigued at how each response, independent of each other, ranged from being seriously thought out to completely off the wall. Here are the responses, which may become cartoons at a later date:
Currently with my summer school schedule, I am not really available to work much at the pool, except for Fridays. This Friday, I was reunited with many lap swimmers whom I have not seen in months. One even gave me a hug just because we had not talked in ages. Another lap swimmer jokingly asked me in response to my previous blog if I had been to any good picnics recently. The small community of lap swimmers is the real reason why I love working morning shifts.
But the real gift of this past Friday came during recreational swim when a group of young guys walked in for free swim. They were all between the ages of 16 and 19 so I knew from the moment they walked out onto the pool deck that there was going to be some limit testing. There are easily eight comics here. Do you agree?
All of the stories above are true, without fabrication or exaggeration.
One of the guys was really interested in being a better swimmer and was asking about taking swim lessons. He also had the desire to learn how to do a flip turn. He was asking questions about how it was done. When I got off the stand on my down rotation, I hopped in the water and gave him the basics, and he probably wasn’t expecting that to happen. Once I gave some instruction to him, two more of his friends had joined in, and then another two. Sure enough, I was teaching all ten of them how to do a flip turn and how to dive from the side by the end of my shift.
Since Friday, I have spent time writing down dialog and thinking about developing a few teenage characters to add to the mix of Suits and Guarders. While I am still not sure where this will go, one thing is certain--it will be funny. And the characters will be very likeable because all of these guys were. Even though I don’t often work at the pool anymore, these strange, eventful and hilarious moments always seem to find me which is why I am still writing comic strips!
Happy Memorial Day!
Memorial day is a wonderful time for picnics and remembering our soldiers who have given their lives for our freedom. This cartoon is really just about picnics but I thought I would share it with you during this holiday weekend.
There are quite a few outdoor pools that are set up with grills right beside them. So in many ways, this comic was screaming to get written. I think Arnold is hopeful that someone will bring him some food. Kurt, on the other hand, isn’t so sure.
There are perks to having a grilling station near a pool, unless Hansel and Gretel start leaving bread crumbs on the pool deck for the wildlife. Then look out for the furry visitors!
Thomas clearly enjoys hosing down locker rooms, but doesn’t seem to grasp that Kurt may not enjoy it, even though he may deserve a good soaking! This particular strip is part of a set of outdoor comics which I pretty much wrote in one sitting after working at a few outdoor pools. There is a significant contrast in atmosphere, patrons and duties when comparing indoor lifeguarding to outdoor lifeguarding: The beating sunlight and neighborhood recreation swimmers versus a noisy HVAC with light fixtures and the lap swimmer that just got off work.
The secondary duties that a lifeguard has to perform are much different however. For instance, indoor locations require locking up and setting a facility alarm system at closing. Outdoor locations involve locking up as well, but also placing things like a backboard and shepherd’s crook in a storage closet before leaving. What inspired this comic was the fact that there may be no janitor for an outdoor pool, so lifeguards may be required to hose down the locker rooms every night. Not very many lifeguards enjoy hosing stuff down. (We can sometimes be a lazy bunch.) If Kurt receives a wet shirt in return for not doing the grunt work, maybe next time, he’ll pitch in!
I’m not going to lie. The comment made by Thomas has been true on numerous occasions, so I won’t go into detail on that one. The word Liz might be looking for is something more along the lines of relatable. Of course that would never happen, because if it did, there would be no mystery in the process of girl meets boy and guys might become bored with the whole process of interaction. Gee, imagine that?!
In this case, Julie is right, as always. Guys can be too observant, and yet, it still doesn’t make us more relatable. I know this because guys still go out and make fools of themselves. You may be asking yourself why? It’s plain and simple. We’re guys. Just think of all the entertainment that takes place whenever a guy says to another guy, “Hey, watch this!” I’d say Julie is pretty observant. Anyway, score one for Julie and zip for Liz!
If you want to inspire yourself to laugh more, being around kids is the best way to accomplish this. A kid asked me something similar to this once, however, it was much more skilled towards trickery and less obvious like it’s written here. The kid was sneaky and quite a handful, but what gave it away was the cheeky grin on his face which he was trying to hide when he asked the question. I replied back to him with something along the lines of, “Do you think that’s a good idea?” He knew it was wrong, but no one can blame a kid for genuinely asking a question---no matter how profound it may be. Overall, I think the kid was just curious to see what my response was.
It’s funny how children act towards lifeguards. Many of them know the rules because they are there frequently in the summertime, but they still enjoy pushing the boundaries just a little further each time. If the lifeguards handle this well and enforce the rules consistently, there is actually more respect between the kids and lifeguards, not at first, but overtime. Every child wants attention, but what they really want is someone who’s almost like a mentor, someone who accepts them. When they come to a pool, that authority figure is the lifeguard. If they obey the pool rules, they get to stay there all day, well, at least until closing time. You don’t have to do too much as a lifeguard to be liked by kids. Sometimes just giving a sincere look like Kurt does in the third panel is all that is needed.
Surveillance is and should be the practice of any diligent lifeguard. This method of scanning consists of counting the number of people that are in the water and watching their facial expressions. The common problem that lifeguards face is that every once in awhile, the pool will become so busy that it’s hard to complete a thorough headcount of patrons in the water and have a consistently steady result each time. This is why they set a ratio for a number of guards to patrons. Even though this makes the job easier, it’s still cumbersome because you still need to know exactly how many people you have in the water, what the limit is and what you can handle with the staff that you have.
It’s important to scan the pool quite frequently. In my almost six years of working as a lifeguard, there have been multiple times where I have realized that I am two or three people short. The first time this happened to me, I almost panicked and began asking myself “Why do they even trust 16 year olds like myself with this job?” After I got used to the fact that people actually move around in a pool, the startling sensation kind of went away. Now, whenever I have miscounted the number of patrons in the pool, I end up saying things like, “Well, no one is lying on the bottom so we’re doing great on that end of things.” Always after a minute passes, the two or three missing people reappear from the locker rooms. Hey, I’d much rather scare myself counting patrons that disappear from the premises temporarily than have a bunch of kids stay in the water for hours and hours for my sake because then I start to wonder if they’ve really “held it” that long. Don’t think about that one or you’ll never get in a pool again. Okay, to answer Jonathan’s question: “Why can’t they just stand still?!” The answer is simple: It’s water.
Ian Johnson was born with a crazy cartoon character perspective on the real world. “Suits and Guarders” is loosely based on his life as a lifeguard and swim instructor at a local pool. Any resemblance of characters in this work to persons, drawn or imagined, is purely coincidental.