Dear former lifeguard:
I hope the high was worth it. Worth getting fired. Worth any embarrassment.
I’m sorry if I got you fired. I assume I did. I’m sorry if I ruined your summer. But, I’ll never be sorry for stepping up and making sure someone sober stood watch over hundreds of beach goers whose safety was your responsibility.
Thank you for calling attention to yourself. At first, when you blew your whistle, I thought you were alerting your teammates to trouble somewhere on the beach or in the water. Failing to get their attention, you began waving your arms wildly. When someone finally noticed, you scrambled down from your chair and made a beeline for the parking lot. My daughter and I were also headed that way. We arrived at the boardwalk at the same time you did, and I gestured to you to go first. I assumed you needed a bathroom break. And fast.
But, you cruised right past the porta potty and approached a car that had pulled up next to it. The windows were open and you thanked the occupants for rescuing you. Then you hopped into the back seat.
My daughter and I walked to our car to get the boogie boards. When we returned, we stood in line to use the porta potty. Right next to the car you were in. Then the car windows went up and I saw you bury your head between your knees. I thought perhaps you were sick or upset – I feared the worst, that maybe someone close to you had died. Until I saw you sit up and pass the bong. I was standing close enough that, had the car window been open, I could have reached in and taken a hit myself.
You’ve got to be kidding me, I said to myself. Look at all these people! In line to pee. Walking to the beach from the parking lot and vice versa.
It didn’t matter.
You abandoned your lifeguard chair. Got into a car. Poisoned your body with an illegal substance. Emerged from the vehicle. Casually ran your hand through your hair. Returned to your post. Climbed up. Looked out over the water. Intoxicated.
You rendered yourself incapable of doing the job for which you were being paid. In your impaired condition, you endangered every single person on the beach, whether or not they ever touched the water. My daughter swam in the water right in front of your chair. Your pedestal. The roost from which you reigned supreme. Invincible. Ruler of the beach. High as a kite.
You were not guarding lives. Not at all. The only person on your mind was yourself.
If you see something, say something. Right? But, it wasn’t that easy for me. It was a tough call to make. Because I have put people’s lives in danger with my own impairment. Because I have done my job high. And, no one likes a hypocrite.
I never got caught. No one ever stopped my behavior or ratted me out. I had to hit rock bottom to realize what a fool I was. I was really good at getting high in private. And alcohol’s not even illegal.
Did you think you could respond in an emergency situation the same exact way whether or not you were stone cold sober? Did you think you could do your job even better high? I totally understand. I used to believe I needed to be at least buzzed to function at all. But, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
You did no one any favors; least of all me, the one who witnessed your behavior and was left wrestling with a moral dilemma instead of enjoying a fun, peaceful, relaxing beach day with my family.
Please understand that by only contacting your employer, I did you a tremendous solid. I could have collected visual evidence. My phone was in my hand the whole time. I could have called the police.
Hopefully you only lost your job. Hopefully you understand why. Hopefully you care.
I’m sorry for killing your buzz. You killed mine, too.
Also published on Medium.