Conor Sheehey has heard the "Baywatch" jokes. All of them, thank you.
But like his fictional TV counterparts, Sheehey is all business when he's sitting in the chair.
Clad in Ray-Ban black aviator shades, he peers out, scanning the pool for infractions. The sunglasses are his accessory of choice.
"Almost every lifeguard chooses sunglasses" over hats, he jokes. "The sunglasses give you a very intimidating look. People don't know what's behind those things."
"Only one bounce," he tells a boy on the diving board. Even while answering questions, Sheehey's eyes never leave the pool.
Wrapping up his third year at Padonia Park Club, Sheehey's job is parts lifeguard, customer service rep, custodian and membership chairman.
Padonia Park Club, a private club in Cockeysville, boasts the kind of setting that sitcoms are made of: lush greenery, paddle boats, basketball and volleyball courts on a hill; pools rimmed with lawn chairs, and a kaleidoscope of swimmers in multicolored suits and trunks taking it all in. On a blazing summer day, chlorine-treated water promises cool relief.
Swimming pools have long carried a special kind of magic for Sheehey. As a 2-year-old longing to try the slide on his backyard pool, his parents made a deal with him: Learn to swim to the other side of the pool by yourself and you can use the slide.
By age 3, he didn't even need to wear inflatable "water wings."
"I was like a fish," he remembers. "The pool was the No. 1 place I wanted to go."
These days, not much has changed.
He liked the idea of lifeguarding even before he got his job. His older sister Riley started working there a few years ago, and took him by Padonia Park to see if he'd like to give it a shot the summer before his sophomore year at Loyola Blakefield High School.
It was a no-brainer.
He enjoyed the camaraderie between the lifeguards and said he was impressed by their attitudes. Many told him they liked their job so much that they didn't mind taking on extra hours if needed.
"At a place like this, where people love to work, where I can be outside and be around the water, I thought it was the ideal kind of job," Sheehey said.
Since the 1960s, the family-owned Padonia Park has been a summer respite for suburbanites. It used to hire 60 employees each summer. Now a year-round operation, it has 160 employees in the summer months. Nearly all of them are between 14 and 20 years old.
When Pikesville resident Bonnie Greenberg met him while touring the club earlier this summer, she couldn't believe he was old enough to work there.