Baltimore Sun

Summertime love potion

One in a series of articles about life at a community pool.

It's a sure sign of affection: Brett Angstadt and Lisa Simmonds give each other a good-natured shove as they stride across the Padonia Park Club pool deck. They're both in uniform: a club-issue polo shirt for him and a regulation red bathing suit underneath shorts and sweat shirt for her.

They met when Lisa, a swimming instructor and lifeguard, came to the snack bar, where Brett is grill manager, and asked for a cup of ice.

"I don't drink water. I eat ice," she explains.

Later, Brett and Lisa, both 19, attended a mutual friend's party. They were in civilian clothes and at ease and had a chance to chat. Before too long, they were together.

The summer romance: When 200 or so young adults work together for the recreational good of all, it's inevitable. At Padonia, a significant number of these romances survive the prolonged absences that follow the season's end and some even result in marriage.

It's unclear how Brett and Lisa, both sophomores, will handle the distance when he returns to West Virginia University and she to York College next semester. "We haven't gotten that far yet," Lisa says.

Brett grew up at the Cockeysville club, where his mother, Kathy Angstadt, helps run the family business. "I'm always here in summer," he says. Even as a kid at the pool day camp, Brett can remember, "There have always been couples all over everywhere around here."

In an environment where the snack bar crew, lifeguards, camp counselors and other workers tend to stick together in little neighborhoods, Brett and Lisa have transcended cliques. Having a girlfriend who is a lifeguard "gives you a reason to venture from your own work area," he says.

The downside of a pool courtship is "the community rumor mill," he says.

"If you meet someone you're interested in, you're likely to tell one of their friends, who will tell one of their friends. And then [that someone finds] out before you get a chance to tell them," Brett says.

For that reason, a pre-emptive declaration of affection isn't a bad idea.

Breakups can be painful as well. Brett knows of one former couple who are both working at the pool this summer. "It's pretty awkward, I think, for these two."

Brett and Lisa have their own conflict: She doesn't eat fast food and has never ordered anything from the snack bar except ice. She brings her lunch.

At his Mays Chapel home one night, though, Brett proved he can do more than short orders. He prepared citrus-marinated chicken, basil rigatoni and a salad of spinach and cherry tomatoes.

It was good, says Lisa, who lives in Lutherville. Would she order it if was on the snack bar menu?

Probably not. "It kind of creeps me out back there," she says.

Most bosses aren't keen on the notion of office romances. But Kathy Angstadt takes pride in relationships that blossom among her employees, and seems to have a knack for spotting potential matches even before the parties involved do.

When Melissa Quinn, member services manager, interviewed Frank Tiralla for a lifeguard job in the spring of 2000, Angstadt felt their chemistry right away. It took Melissa and Frank three whole weeks to figure it out for themselves, though.

It all became clear in the women's restroom, Frank, 25, recalls. He and Melissa were prepping for the season, painting the room. He said he'd like to try sky diving and she agreed. Frank, now a computer design drafter for a civil engineering firm, recognized a kindred spirit.

"We just clicked," says Melissa, 26, who works in human resources at Kernan Hospital. "It's kind of funny. Once the pool opened, the other lifeguards had a bet going on how long it would take before we got together."

They haven't gotten around to sky diving but have embarked on another extreme sport - marriage. The two wed in May and had their reception at Padonia. The Tirallas now live nearby in Hunt Valley, but are too busy to join the pool.

Caryn Martin was a snack bar employee and Marc McMahon was a maintenance man when they met at Padonia in 1993. She was about to enter the University of Maryland College Park and he was a year-round employee at the pool.

When Marc came to the snack bar, "He always wanted lemonade and orange juice combined, half and half," Caryn says. She thought it an odd request, and she also thought, "Well, he's cute."

Their romance was "a little bit of a shocker for people," since Marc was 24 and Caryn was all of 18. The two dated while she was in college, and they worked together for a couple of summers in the pool's catering department, where Marc was her boss. They survived what Caryn, who now works in the marketing department at the Baltimore Museum of Art, calls a bit of a "power struggle" and were married in 2000.

She and Marc, a tax accountant at Black & Decker, live in Rodgers Forge. They stay in touch with other couples who also met at the pool around the same time, Caryn says. One year, the group vacationed together in the Cayman Islands.

For Caryn, who belonged to the pool as a child and does now as well, Padonia holds many "great memories."

It is "a magical place for me. I met my husband there."