It was a beautiful day for swimming, so naturally, the pool was packed.
While I waited for a lane to open up, I decided to do my warm up in the open area of the pool, where all the swim classes take place. As I would learn soon enough, sometimes it’s better to wait on the sidelines…
I kicked off the wall into my freestyle. Almost immediately, I nearly hit a child. I managed to swing my body right… right into the swimming path of a woman, who I barely missed. I swam faster, past the child, past the woman, then left again to avoid another swimmer. I raised my head slightly to check for more people.
That’s when I realized I was about to swim into an old guy in a speedo. I opened my mouth in a silent, watery scream, bracing myself for the inevitable—
I just ended up swallowing a lot of water. I stood up, sighed, and thought they should put up a sign on this side of the pool that reads “Swim at your own risk.”
Today, the pool wasn’t as crowded.
I got my own lane. I had fully expected to have to share, but magically, I didn’t need to. As I swam, I thought about life; I thought about my stroke; but most of all, I thought about how much I didn’t want a goggle and cap tan again this summer. Having a line straight across your forehead is never a good fashion statement.
I focused on my swim, trying to avoid small talk with other swimmers. Sometimes people like to talk to you when you’re resting between sets, but every now and then, these conversations get too personal for my liking.
I saw a lot of splashing coming from the open area of the pool. The adult class had already ended, but one of the women was determined to continue practicing. With her hands on a kick board and her face in the water, she was kicking as hard as she could. Unfortunately, she was bending her legs at the knee instead of at the hip. I could see her heels coming out of the water about a foot too high, sending lots of white water into the air but barely propelling her forward. She looked tired and frustrated, knowing something was wrong but not exactly what.
A mini debate started in my head.
Should I swim over there and offer advice? I generally don’t like to do that sort of thing because 1) I’m not a swimming instructor, and 2) because honestly, I see too many people with bad swimming habits to go around correcting everyone.
But this case was a little different. I sort of knew that lady in that way you sort of know someone who goes to the gym at the same time as you. You struggle along together, even from afar, and an unspoken camaraderie forms. She had talked to me once or twice before too, mostly to compliment me. She really liked my backstroke, how my arm cut gracefully through the air then swung back into the water. Of course, she didn’t realize the reason I looked so relaxed was actually because I was desperately trying to catch my breath and not swim sideways into a lane divider.
I had thanked her for the compliments and encouraged her to keep swimming. Over the last few months, I’ve gained a new appreciation for adults learning to swim. Since I learned when I was young, I take swimming for granted. I’ve always felt comfortable in the water; sometimes, I even enjoy the sensation of sinking. Now though, every two weeks, I watch a new batch of adults try to learn how to swim. Most of them look nervous in the 3 ft. section, afraid to even put their face in the water. Yet I admire them because they’re facing a fear head-on and learning a new skill. You don’t do that every day once you get past a certain age.
I saw that the woman was still splashing and struggling.
I made my choice.
I dunked my head under the pool divider and swam over to her side.
Today, the lanes were full, but the open area was actually kinda “open” for once.
I was only a couple hundred yards into my swim when I heard a loud horn, followed by a lifeguard yelling, “EVERYONE OUT OF THE POOL.”
I knew what that horn meant. I didn’t need to be told twice, unlike some of the other lap swimmers who stood around dazed and confused, wondering why they could possibly be asking us to get out on such a nice day. One swimmer even yelled back, “But I had ONE more lap!”
The pool supervisor walked over to him. She smiled, then whispered, “We had a little accident over at the shallow end.”
“Aw, crap,” someone said.
I thought, “Yeah, that sums it up pretty well.”
There’s still no sign about swimming at your own risk.