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Pool Schmool

I’ve been honoring my self-commitment to swim at the pool twice a week, although some weeks I double-count my weekend sessions. Although I still enjoy swimming, my initial enthusiasm for the pool has waned somewhat, as the monotony of tallying countless laps sets in, as my hair becomes chlorine fried, and as I grow annoyed with the pool crowd at my gym.

On the weekends, the pool is crammed full of screaming children. Why do all kids shriek, yelp, and holler when they’re in a pool? I mean, these look like the type of well-heeled youth who can control themselves in school, church, and restaurants, so why do they suffer an utter breakdown in self-discipline during their swimming lesson? Kids, this isn’t little Debbie Jones’s pool party, this is a serious nautical facility. So stop flailing around in mock distress or trying to surf on your kickboard before I dunk you.

Even worse than kids in the pool are the kids in the locker room. The women’s locker room is bad enough on weekday mornings — you can’t move an inch without blocking some rich bitch’s view of herself in the mirrors — but changing my clothes in front of a bunch of 8 year olds is a wee uncomfortable. They look at everything with a frank, probing curiosity. There I am, fresh from the shower and preparing to put my bra on, and there’s a prepubescent staring at me. Our eyes met, and she doesn’t look away! She just keeps looking, like “Let’s see what you got.” God, kid, why are you making me be a pervert?

Last Saturday I was soaking in the whirlpool, which is adjacent to the showers. I could hear two ‘tween girls talking as they took a shower together. Kids around this age have yet to develop self-consciousness, and they either don’t realize or don’t care that other people can hear them.  “Do you know about hair and periods?” one girl asked the other. “Yes,” the other girl said hesitantly. “My mom told me all about hair and periods,” the first girl said. “But that’s all she told me. She said she would tell me about sex when I get hair and periods.”

The adults at the pool are a little better. At least, they are quieter and don’t gawk at each other’s bodies. Usually when I get to the pool, I have to ask someone if I can split a lane with them. This is a delicate task, as there seems to be very few “average” swimmers like myself. They are either propelling themselves through the pool with shark-like velocity or floating in the center of the lane like a clump of seaweed. Once a rather large elderly woman got in my lane and began sidestroking across the pool. In the time it took her to go 25 yards, I did about 75 yards. Both her body and her swimming style made it difficult to pass her without slowing down and skimming the side of the lane line. Once as I passed her, her gigantic leg whipped out like some sort of primordial sea monster, nipping the side of my thigh with its claw.

The strong swimmers don’t like to share lanes, and will — deliberately or not — ignore anyone who is attempting to ask them to split a lane. What are you going to do, grab their big toe as they flip-turn?

But my own worst enemy in the pool is, of course, myself. With no television or music to distract me, no instructor or coach to motivate me, and no clock or counter to free my mind from the tedium of counting laps, it is difficult to choose the pool over, say, yoga class or a stationary bike with the Bravo channel. Because when I’m in the pool, the only thing to do is obsess over how time I have left in the pool.

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