By JOHN HOWELL Julia Choquette is dressed for the hot summer day in short pants, blue T-shirt and sandals. She's dressed for the beach, which is appropriate because she and Kylin Coffey are at Oakland Beach. They plan to stay for a while, actually for
Julia Choquette is dressed for the hot summer day in short pants, blue T-shirt and sandals. She’s dressed for the beach, which is appropriate because she and Kylin Coffey are at Oakland Beach. They plan to stay for a while, actually for more than eight hours on Tuesday and again on Wednesday and so on for the rest of the week.
But they won’t be cooling off in Greenwich Bay or stretching out on a towel to catch some rays. The cooling off in bay waters is left to Chase Andersen and Cam Maxwell. That’s part of their job. They are bare footed, wearing bathing suits and sheltered from the sun by a giant umbrella.
All four are either high school or college students. They’re working for the city this summer. Julia and Kylin are two of eight students checking vehicles for beach parking passes or collecting the money from motorists who don’t have passes. Chase and Cam are two of 20 full- and part-time city lifeguards. Depending on qualifications, lifeguards are paid between $13.50 and $16 an hour.
The city has neither enough lifeguards nor beach parking attendants to man Oakland Beach, City Park beach and Conimicut Point. The positions have been advertised, but for now, says Mayor Frank Picozzi, the city isn’t covering Conimicut Point. The city has sufficient lifeguards to reopen McDermott Pool, although there’s no knowing when that will happen. Picozzi said Tuesday the latest problems involve a giant electrical box – he spread his arms to illustrate its size – and a leak. The mayor is not surprised by the leak. After all, the pool was without water for more than a year. In that time, seams open up. He said technicians using dye would track the leak(s) down.
As for the electronics, Picozzi chalked those problems up to the overall lack of maintenance given city assets by the prior administration. He said a day doesn’t go by without some breakdown somewhere. On Tuesday, it was the toilets in Fire Station 2. The system was plugged up and, he said, Chief Peter McMichael and Department of Public Works Director Eric Earls were exploring temporary alternatives depending on the severity of the problem.
For Julia, who is following in her mother’s footsteps for a student summer job, being at the beach couldn’t be better. Attendants are paid $13.50 an hour. That’s not to suggest the job is without challenges. The wind kept blowing over the metal sign directing motorists to stop for the attendant with a startling clang. Then, she and Kylin are faced with listening to the complainers, like the woman walking her dog Tuesday morning.
The woman didn’t need a pass – those walking or riding bikes into the parking lot to walk the rocks or the beach aren’t required to pay – yet she wanted to complain.
“It costs you to do anything today,” she declared with annoyance. Julia and Kylin listened sympathetically. Kylin broke off to talk to a motorist who had just pulled up in his truck with two small dogs in his lap. He said he was from Oakland Beach and asked since when was it going to cost him to visit the seawall. Kylin explained he could get a season parking pass at the library for a fraction of what it would cost him if he visited the beach daily.
“I’m not staying. I’m just going to turn and leave,” he said. Kylin took his word and waved him through.
That’s not always the case. Most motorists back up to make a turn and look for parking elsewhere. That’s not always safe. Julia said a motorist backed up to hit a motorcycle on Monday. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Generally, Julia and Kylin agreed that locals are pleased to see the parking fees and those from out of town aren’t. Approved by the City Council and mayor, the fees are directed at the wanton disregard by some people of the beaches.
On the other hand, Chase, a senior at Hendricken, and Cam, a senior at Pilgrim, don’t have to put up with people who feel they should freely park where they like. Rather, their work so far this summer has principally consisted of warning people of the dangers of the rock jetties and patching up minor scratches of a few who failed to heed their advice. Chase got some lip from a couple of women who has swum way beyond what is considered an acceptable distance from shore. He blew his whistle and went out to tell them to come in, which they grumbled about.
Having to persistently scan the beach, lifeguards can’t catch up on their summer reading. However, as they are working in pairs, there’s lots of time for talking. They are also permitted to listen to music.
So far, the best part of the job for Chase has been the kids. He loves their wide-eyed admiration and talking with them. What could be better?