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Lifeguard - Juan Manuel Flores
“The job is more satisfying when we are busy..."
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Flight Attendant - Samantha Serrano
“I really don’t mind working in August, even though it’s busier..."
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Hotel Receptionist - Javier Novell Jiménez
"...the majority of people still like to ask the receptionist. We have to know what services the city has to offer. "
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Fireman - Frank Requena
“How busy we are and how many forest fires there are depends on the condition of the forest, the weather and luck. "
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Tourist Guide - James Midgley
“For me, working in August is brilliant because everybody that comes here is happy to be on holidays...”
When August finally rolls around the Barcelona summer is well and truly here—it is hot and sticky and many people’s thoughts turn to getting as far away from here as possible. The ensuing mass exodus can leave the city feeling like a ghost town. For some people, however, August means more hours and their busiest time of year, catering for the non-stop flow of tourists and looking after the residents who remain. We talk to five people for whom August means a full working day.
The shift starts at 11am and Flores and the five others on duty work until 7pm. The first task of the day is to check the condition of the sea and set out the corresponding flag, then the team split up and head for the watchtowers to begin look out. Most of their job is prevention, making sure people don’t get into danger. “The job is more satisfying when we are busy. It sounds strange, obviously we don’t like seeing people injured, but a lot of the job satisfaction comes from attending people.”
Thankfully, the typical day isn’t all about mouth-to-mouth situations, and mainly means attending to people with first-aid needs. The rise in the number of jellyfish stings means more beach-goers require the services of a lifeguard’s medical skills.
Many of the summer lifeguards are from South America, and Flores said it’s a job that many come over to do just for the summer then return home. He, too, had planned to return to Argentina after one season but instead stayed, working in a covered pool during the winter; five years on and with a baby on the way, it looks like he is here to stay for many more hot summer months looking after us as we take to the beaches.
Working in August has become second nature to Samantha Serrano, 27, who is a flight attendant for Barcelona-based Vueling airline. Born in Ibiza, she lived in Holland for six years and then returned to Barcelona in 2006. Serrano has always loved travelling and has turned her globe-trotting into a career.
In August, she sometimes works 13-hour days, flying a mixture of international and national flights during her shifts. There are many more flights in the schedule and the planes are always full—packed with holiday-makers going to or returning from their two-week respites in the sun.
At other times of the year, the El Prat airport is often hectic during peak hours, but in August it’s that way all day, everyday. However, Serrano said she thrives on the atmosphere of the season and looks forward to the summer and the work it brings. “We have a lot of children on board and the passengers tend to be relaxed because they are going on their holidays.”
While she’s on duty there is not much let-up in the pace of her workdays, but she also admitted she still manages to get in a little time working on her tan. “I really don’t mind working in August, even though it’s busier, because with our irregular shifts I’m able to go to the beach during the week.”
Born and brought up in Barcelona, 41-year-old Javier Novell Jiménez is used to seeing his hometown besieged with tourists and visitors in the summer months. But unlike many who might resent the influx of visitors, Novell said he relishes it. Having worked as a receptionist at the Prestige Paseo de Gràcia hotel for six years, the role his job plays in the experiences of his guests is important to him and he takes pride in doing his job well.
Working in the hotel trade requires that there is unbroken service 24 hours a day, and during the summer Novell will be working one of three different shifts: 7am-3pm, 3pm-11pm or 11pm-7am. His typical day sees him review each check-in before the guests arrive, and once they are there making sure that each of their individual needs is met, whether that means providing baby cots, flowers, quiet rooms or VIP privileges.
For Novell, one of the things that makes a great receptionist is providing a comprehensive concierge service. “Although you can reserve, hire any service or obtain routes and maps on the internet, the majority of people still like to ask the receptionist. We have to know what services the city has to offer. Every guest, whether business or pleasure, will have different expectations and it’s our job to do more than meet those expectations, and give our guests a positive and satisfactory stay.”
As well as those who aim to help people enjoy their summers as much as possible, there are some who make sure that it is a safe time for everyone. Barcelona-based Frank Requena has been working as a fireman since 2006, after training for six months. The month of August for a firefighter is right in the middle of a busy season, with 24-hour shifts and three days off to ensure ample coverage for the increased number of forest fires. Although Requena is employed by the Ajuntament of Barcelona, the rise in frequency of forest fires during the season requires his team, the San Andres Parque de Bomberos, to assist in fighting forest fires.
“How busy we are and how many forest fires there are depends on the condition of the forest, the weather and luck. Last year was quiet, but three years ago we fought many forest fires.”
When not in action, the day is filled with training and practice in the station. After an 8am roll call, the firefighters are given their duties for the shift—they may be driving or on the engine, or they could be accompanying ambulance drivers. Later, they check the equipment to ensure everything is ready, then they do training exercises to make sure every procedure is fresh in their minds. After a hectic August, Requena will take his well-earned vacation in September.
The tourist trade has been a part of James Midgley’s life for nearly a decade—working in such far-flung places as Las Vegas, Australia and Spain. His career in the tourist industry started eight years ago when he realised that he could still enjoy the care-free ways of the traveller but get paid for it.
A long way from home, Tasmanian-born Midgley has been in Barcelona for six years, and working for Travel Bound for two. His typical day involves working with groups of tourists, organising activities, such as cooking, flamenco shows, boat trips and bike tours, and assisting them with their day-to-day holiday needs.
“For me, working in August is brilliant because everybody that comes here is happy to be on holidays, the nightlife is great and everybody has a story to tell from Barcelona whether it’s a good one or a bad one.”
His happy-go-lucky approach to working in the high season is evident when he states that because there is so much going on it feels like a holiday for him, anyway. “Working here in summer is awesome, every year there are new stories to tell about nights out or helping out somebody and making their day better and happier.”
It isn’t all fun and play though—being so far from home makes it hard for him to see family and friends, and he is planning a trip home to Australia for a month after summer has finished. But not before he enjoys another hard-working, hard-partying season in the sun.