You may call him the Gipper, but at least 77 people call him Lifeguard.

7 Feb

Yesterday would have been Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday, so NPR ran a story discussing his life and legacy. It was a generous, human look at an actor-turned-politician.

From what I hear, people apparently adore the man. I won’t say anything beyond that, because my last few attempts to write a sentence ended up with: a) an essay about Alzheimer’s, and b) imagining how I would feel about a puppy becoming the POTUS. While both are debatably relevant to this post, neither is especially helpful nor likely to endear me to you, my patient readers.

So what I learned while listening to NPR’s profile that was REALLY fascinating to me is that Reagan allegedly pulled 77 people out of the water when he was a lifeguard. (They interviewed #70, who said that “Dutch” was a really great guy.)

A few observations…

Image by Frank Uyttenhove. Visit his work at

First: SEVENTY SEVEN. Again: 77! Let’s think about that for a moment. That’s a shit-ton of people who can’t swim or otherwise don’t belong near water. What are they THINKING? I can understand victim #1. That person didn’t know drowning was a possibility. But after he had to be hauled out of the water by Ronnie? That’s the stuff urban legends are born of, that mothers everywhere pounce on as a cautionary tale along the lines of “you’ll shoot your eye out!”

Second: what body of water were they swimming in? The last time I checked, central Illinois doesn’t have a body of water with an undertow, which (I assume) is the leading cause of drownings. In fact, I don’t even think central Illinois has what is known as a “Lake District,” so I’m assuming this was either at a) a pool, or b) a pond. Both of which should have ample standing room to make even novices comfortable.

Third: Why did he keep going to work? I think after I had to save 5 people I would’ve maxxed out my threshold for dealing with idiots and quit. To keep showing up even after the count has topped double digits is beyond dedicated. Were it anyone else, I would have the plot for a bizarre Munchausen by Proxy style mystery on my hands. But not Reagan. He was just unlucky.

Actually, now that I think of it, this reminds me of a place in my hometown where there was usually at least one drowning per summer. And I mean Drowning with a capital D, the kind where someone isn’t just pulled from the water but actually requires CPR to restore breathing.

It was a  private “beach” which means a small pond with sand surrounding it. It had quite a reputation for drinking and weed, which potentially explains the unusually high drowning statistics. For the record: I was never allowed to go there.  I would wager that explanation might hold for Reagan as well, except I don’t think they’d even invented weed 80 years ago. Er, I mean, I’m sure it existed, but no one had thought to smoke it. Or, whatever.

Anyway, the moral of the story is this: Reagan’s status as a modern hero is debatable by some, but I think we can all agree he deserves some props for his dedication to the cause, whatever that cause may have been.

Happy birthday, Mr. President.

3 Responses to “You may call him the Gipper, but at least 77 people call him Lifeguard.”

  1. popdialectic February 8, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    That leaves him second in saves only to the great David Hasselhoff, who hasn’t run for President … yet.

    • Lucas February 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

      I pledge my allegiance, to the Hoff, of the United States of America, and to the Speedo, for which supports, one man, under hair, with cheeseburgers on the floor of a hotel room.

      • popdialectic February 10, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

        If that’s not a political platform, then I’ve never heard one. We have a little Hoff in the future of Washington. I’m starting a PAC …

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