Pool closure gives usual elf a Christmas vacation

Now accustomed to working Christmas Day, Ben Harrington has it off this year.

Ben Harrington

Now accustomed to working Christmas Day, Ben Harrington has it off this year.

He normally runs a bustling free afternoon swim at Oak Bay Recreation Centre, but with the pool out of commission, Harrington has the holiday off.

He was looking forward to the Dec. 25 shift, one he worked last year and the year before. The third-year University of Victoria student has worked at the recreation centre for more than five years, and now as team lead he supervises lifeguard shifts and on occasion, lesson shifts.

Christmas is one of the busiest days of the year and everyone’s cheery. “It’s busy,” he said. “When I tell people it’s busy they’re surprised, but it’s free and just the afternoon. Christmas morning people are opening presents and later they have dinner, in the afternoon they don’t have anything to do.”

He gears up the lifeguards in Santa hats or reindeer antlers and the mood is light with patrons even friendlier and more gracious than usual.

“The first year I was a lifeguard and I dressed up as Santa and went down the drop slide with everybody watching. That was pretty fun,” he said.

To battle the potential adrenaline, excitement and potential influx of morning sugar, they keep the games flowing and slides open Christmas Day.

“We try to keep them busy running the slides and games. Kids are kids, they’re always a bit insane,” Harrington said. “We have a bunch of lifeguards on so we always have games going.”

The afternoon time slot affords him the morning at home with his parents and brother, then a shift with the community and stops afterward to share Christmas greetings on the way home. “If I’m out, I might as well go and say hi to a few people,” he said.