Here’s a cell phone picture of two moms timing at a swim meet, an exciting job all of us are supposed to perform at least once per meet.
I say “supposed to” because it always seems like some parents get out of it, the slackers. As with every organization out there involving kids, it’s always the same group of parents doing most of the volunteering.
And I say “an exciting job” because timers are surrounded by electrical equipment and lots and lots of water flung about every which way. So far I’ve never heard of anybody getting zapped, but the mere possibility of it happening adds a bit of a thrill to the job.
Timing is very serious business. Typically it’s set up so when swimmers finish a race, they hit a pad on the pool wall that’s connected to electronic timing equipment and their time is automatically calculated and sent to a big scoreboard.
But there are always two backup systems, probably so meet officials will be covered in case a parent volunteer gets zapped and shorts out the big scoreboard computer.
Backup System No. 1: Two parent volunteers stand at the edge of the pool and watch the finish as closely as we can. The instant we see the swimmer touch the wall, we hit a button on an electrical handheld timing device, thereby sending the swimmer’s time to another scoring computer.
Backup System No. 2: One parent holds a stopwatch and times the race while the other volunteer writes down the finish time on a timing sheet.
The timer with the stopwatch becomes kind of a two-fisted timing machine, holding the watch in one hand and the electrical handheld timing device in the other, a feat requiring a halfway decent combo of brain power and motor skills.
This is why I usually ask for the writing job, because more often than not I forget to press the stopwatch START button, or I press the little handheld END button instead.
Then I have to run over and pick up a stopwatch from the THIRD backup system: another parent volunteer whose job is to start 3 or 4 stopwatches every time the buzzer goes off, just in case doofuses like me mess up.
Every swim lane needs two timers, so for a meet where you might have, say, eight lanes, you’ll need 16 or so volunteers for every shift.
The morning shifts get taken fast by the smart parents who remember to sign up as soon as they get on the pool deck.
The rest of us get stuck with afternoon shifts, which everybody hates because some volunteers are more likely to quit and go home before doing their scheduled shifts—leaving those of us who DO show up stuck with timing for the rest of the day.
Of course, we use this time wisely, thinking all sorts of pleasant thoughts about the slacker parents, like how frizzy their hair will look after a major zapping.