Thursday, October 2, 2008
Adventures in Exercise: The Pool Rules
Swimming laps in a public rec center, you get to see a lot of mostly naked old people. At first, it's kind of disgusting, seeing the reanimated corpse of Strom Thurmond paddle past you wearing nothing but a marble bag. But eventually, you find the ability to ignore what he's wearing. Because I actually think he'd look a whole lot funnier wearing a pair of those oversized swimming trunks that the young hooligans wear. Not to mention that old Strom is there every single morning at 7 AM to get a good lane. That takes dedication.
You get a whole different crowd if you go in the evenings. Twenty-something guys who drink six Red Bulls beforehand and make thrashing love to the water, splashing everyone within three lanes of them with their pelvic thrusting "butterfly" maneuver. Or the old guy who does "calisthentics" at the far end of the pool with his crotch pressed up against the pool vent.
But which ever time you go and whatever crowd you swim with, the fact remains: people who use the public rec center pool are endlessly entertaining.
Men always have to do some elaborate stretching routine before entering the water. Either the Michael Phelps arm flap or some knee bend thing while gripping the ladder with one hand. Women tend to get right down to business, whether the business is the world's slowest dog paddle down the middle of the fast lane or a solid hour of freestyle.
There are big people and small people. There are people who are old and people who are young. There are people who seem to have taken a left instead of a right at the ping-pong tables and appear to be drowning. And still others who just like to sit on the edge of the pool and fiddle with their goggles for an hour before finally just getting up and going home.
And then, there are the lifeguards. I'm not quite sure I would put my life in their hands if it came to that. At the pool I visit in the evenings, the lifeguard sits with his lap full of Chinese takeout and sometimes wanders back into the staff office, rather than keeping an eye on the swimmers. Which is lucky if an eggroll starts to drown but unlucky for someone with a leg cramp. But if someone did actually call for help, I think he would gladly loan out his water wings. So there's that.
Most of the pool rules are unspoken ones. You swim up the right side and down the left. Don't get in the fast lane if you're just going to dog paddle. Alternately, don't get in the slow lane, swim fast, and expect people to get out of your way. And if you get tired, just stop at the end of your lane and adjust your goggles for ten minutes so that no one will think you're a pussy. It is permissible to kick people who are annoying you if you apologize like it was unintentional. And never trust people who use snorkels. (They're looking at you in your suit under the water. And then going to to the far end of the pool to do calisthenics with the pool vent.)
In the end, the most important thing is to do your giggling with your face under the water. Lift up your goggles before administering death stares, or no one will see it. And stay away from Strom's marbles. If you have any additional concerns or questions, please don't ask the lifeguard. He is out in the hallway ordering pizza.