Last weekend, for reasons I won't bore you with, I made the mistake of taking Zoe to the pool at the club that is closer to our house. The pool that we usually go to is a boring square, rarely has more than ten people in it, is quiet and as far as icky pools go, I love it. The closer-to-us pool is zero-entry, has a water slide and swinging ropes, is complete mayhem and I hate it. As soon as I walked in, I wanted to run away. At least a hundred people were stewing in the chlorine, and unless Zoe wanted to scream with her mouth two inches away from my face (which I strongly discourage), there was no way I would be able to hear her over the deafening sound of chaos.
I followed Zoe into the pool, trying not to step on any of the moms who were sitting in the water and talking. How anyone could have a conversation was a mystery to me, but there were two women in particular (let's call them "Clueless" and "Selfish") that somehow pulled this off. I don't know what they were talking about, but Clueless and Selfish were so absorbed in their chatter that Selfish completely lost track of one of her kids.
While Zoe was doing her best shark impression around my ankles, I saw a lifeguard walk from the deep end with a sobbing, disoriented four-year-old boy. I instantly knew who this kid belonged to, and sure enough saw Clueless nudge Selfish in the arm and say, "Hey, I think Billy needs you."
Selfish slowly turned around, saw her crying kid standing there with the lifeguard and was instantly pissed. Then she said, in an accusatory tone: "Where was he? Why do you have him?"
"He was lost, and in an area of the pool that was almost over his head." hollered the lifeguard, as she gestured toward the deep end.
"Billy! You're not supposed to go that far! I had no idea where you were! Shame on you!" said Selfish as she slowly got off her butt and crawled toward the kid. (I won't bother to describe what Selfish looked like, since this story is about her incompetence, not her poorly tattooed, McDonald's-is-my-favorite-food-group appearance.) The lifeguard insisted that the little boy have a checkup in the office, so Selfish reluctantly emerged from the pool and went with them.
While she continued to yell at Billy for wandering away and almost drowning, I just stood there in disbelief. It wasn't until I looked back toward Clueless, who was looking right at me, that I realized I had been making a "What a stupid moron" face. Clueless gave me a "You're a stuck up bitch, mind your own business" face, and I didn't care, because she was obviously a stupid moron, too.
At some point everyone, and I mean everyone, has lost sight of their kid in a public place for a few seconds. Most of the time it's because they're hiding behind a bookshelf or in a circular rack of clothes at Target, or in Zoe's case, felt a little too comfortable at a tennis tournament and decided to go check out a match on a different court, by herself. In these situations, where a drowning hazard isn't present and the noise and screams aren't deafening, a normal parent feels an instant, sickening twinge of fear. I watched Clueless and Selfish sit on their asses for at least five minutes at a busy pool and would have never thought that either of them even had a little boy. They never looked around, never wondered where he was and never showed any concern.
When Selfish came back from the lifeguard's office, Clueless said something to her and then they both turned and looked right at me. At least now I knew what they were talking about.