Tyler’s College Essay

Tyler Papula, Contributor

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We had only been open for a few days when the first AFR incident had occurred. As I was the one who initially noticed the “Infant Pebbles” (as they would become known to me), I was the one who had to clear the pool. With my signalling triple-whistle, the crowds began filing out of the water as the other guards rushed over preparing for the worst. Unfortunately, AFR stands for Accidental Fecal Release; and I was about to learn just what this horribly common acronym entails.

Senator P. Eugene Casey Memorial Pool is a small parcel of land tucked behind Milford Regional Hospital in my hometown. Shaded nicely by old maples that surround the perimeter, this free, public pool is a popular destination for many during the hot summer months. Enter me, Tyler, a rookie on the job. I had become a lifeguard with a cliched vision of the job akin to Baywatch, including but not limited to having a zinc covered nose, becoming instantly and unreasonably fit, and making many heroic rescues. After my first experience with an AFR, these dreams pretty much went away, leaving me with nothing but latex gloves and a nose clip that I now consider one of my most prized possessions. Though sickening, these regular occurrences quickly lost their heart-pounding, nauseating affect on me. The sights and smells of any given AFR became more and more bearable, and by my second year of working there, my tasks as the designated “pooper-scooper” became a quite mundane aspect of my job.

I learned recently that I have the opportunity to work elsewhere next summer. Initially, this thought is overwhelmingly enticing. I can ​leave ​Casey Pool? My instinct is only to jump at any opportunity of landing a better gig, but there is something that is making me hesitate. That foul place and all of its AFRs are something I will miss dearly. Why? Not because I like cleaning up human fecal matter, being mocked by children with a variety of insults that even I am too old to understand, suffocating on dust in the pump house, or trying to diffuse frequent physical and verbal fights, but because I value what I have learned coming out of these experiences. It wasn’t until my later position as an intern at a municipal urban planning office that I saw just how much my experiences at Casey Pool have refined my ability to approach a situation. It was a Tuesday night, which means I was sitting in the musty basement of a town hall typing away meeting minutes at an unusually intense Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. Sitting in the midst of a fierce crossfire of deeply personal remarks, I was able to find my chance to speak up, reminding the ZBA to focus on the applicant’s incompletion of their Request for a Special Permit, rather than their divorce, for grounds to deny the application. The argument was quickly subsided back to the peaceful bureaucratic proceedings it should be. This is not unique to the ZBA; I lead clubs, group projects, initiatives at work, and often find myself in situations where I feel the prerogative to take control. I consistently prove my composure as a leader, a skill that I can trace back directly to my time at Casey Pool. Though cleaning AFRs did not teach me how to be a better person or reveal some deep truth about me, it did reflect a small bit of potential within me that I have since carried a long way. My first time cleaning an AFR was traumatic and overwhelming, but I handled it well; after the tenth time or so it was a situation that I could handle with confidence. To me, all situations are like my first experience with an AFR. Though overwhelming, any situation can be taken control of with just a bit of composure and confidence.

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