Every Monday I go swimming; every Monday I get pissed off.
There is only really one time that I can go swimming in a week – Monday evening. The thing is, Monday evening is the only time that a lot of other people can go swimming. It makes for a busy pool, especially as it is only open to the public between 8:35pm and before 10pm (when the pool closes).
On a Monday, there is a swimming class that gets out of the pool at 8:35pm. Once they get out, where do they head? Straight to the showers. There’s the first obstacle – timing arrival at the pool so that I arrive early enough to shower myself before the class gets out. Arrive too early and I have a long, boring wait; arrive too late and I have a long, boring wait whilst the class takes a near-eternity to shower themselves. I don’t know how they manage to stay in too long.
Once I get out of the showers, I realise that I can no longer see. This can be quite a nuisance. Unless something is closer than about a foot to my face, it is not in focus – I am short-sighted, but my glasses are not the sort of thing that you’d wear swimming, and I have nothing else suitable to put on instead. For the next 40 minutes, then, I can see nothing with any clarity except the end of my nose and the water in front of my face.
This creates a number of problems. Firstly, I can’t see the boards which give the direction of the swimming in the lanes. I either have to wait for someone else to enter my lane first, or just wing it. It’s not that big of a deal. I also can’t see the clock. This isn’t a major problem either, but it means I have way of seeing what the time is, or of timing myself in an effort to improve my swimming speed. Finally, I can’t see people’s faces. There are often people that I know in adjacent lanes, waving and looking at me – but they get no response. I may notice the shape of a face looking in my direction, but unless I’m less than a couple of metres away then there’s no way that I can recognise them. When I do, there’s always a bit of a laugh, but I can always sense a very slight discomfort and embarrassment at the whole ‘blanking’ that I’d been doing. Sometimes I don’t even notice them at all, but it makes for an interesting conversation the next day.
However, there is one good bit to the whole lack-of-sight shenanigans – when I finally get to put my glasses it is like being able to look at the world in a completely new way. Even though it’s just the changing rooms, it feels like the first time I ever got to try on my first pair of glasses. I was amazed.
My main problem, however, is with the people. My fellow swimmers. Complete bastards, the lot of them1.
I swim in the second-slowest lane out of five. I’m a slow swimmer – I was one of those kids who couldn’t swim and was kept in the small pool whilst the rest of the class got to go diving into the deep end of the big one. I remember learning to swim, and I hated it – always getting water up my nose and in my eyes. But one day, it just clicked, and I could swim. My technique has never been great2 – I’ve given up on ever doing front crawl again – but I can do a perfectly alright and steady breast stroke.
The second lane is perhaps the worst to be in, but the slowest is way too slow, and the next fastest is just that bit too fast for me. I have no choice. Unfortunately for me, it seems like the world’s population of idiots is intent on erasing any piece of happiness that I may gain from my swimming session3.
First, let’s talk Dick Who Can’t Swim. Dick Who Can’t Swim, it may surprise you to hear, actually swims in the lane one up from me, and contrary to the impression you might get from his name, he is capable of ‘swimming’, though only in the loosest sense of the word – you certainly wouldn’t recognise it as such. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he is capable of ‘moving himself through the water’. Yes, I like that better.
His technique – if I can call it that – consists of taking a very deep breath, pushing himself off the side, and swimming under water for the first half of the length. Now, this bit is fine, I have no problem with that. My disagreement is with his actions once he surfaces. After half a length, Dick Who Can’t Swim’s capped head pokes above the water, pulls an arm up to the surface and WHACK! In one move, he takes this arm (which is lying flat next to him, as if standing at attention) wheels it round through the air, and slams it into the water. Spray flies everywhere – it’s just ridiculous. It’s understandable getting a bit of splash from a guy in the lane next to you, but these splashes from the middle lane reach not just its adjacent lanes, but also the outside lanes. Crazy.
To make matters worse, although he swims faster than me, at the end of each lap he takes a break. The result? We are always synchronised exactly, and I always seem to be right next to him when the thunder starts. ARGH.
Actually – last week, I happened to leave the second lane out of disgust, and I moved into the almost-empty slow lane. Guess what happened. Yep, that’s right – Dick Who Can’t Swim promptly moved over from the middle lane down into the second lane. There’s no getting away from his insidious spray. He just doesn’t know how to fucking swim.
There are other people who are just stupid. Something I’ve noticed whilst swimming in my beloved second-slowest lane and looking at the legs of the people in front of me, is that some people are just plain idiots. They kick in the most ridiculous way. When someone’s doing breaststroke, you expect their legs to mimick the action of something like a frog – kicking outwards in a nice, symmetrical way. Not so at Perth Leisure pool. Oh no. It seems the craze at the moment is to kick to the left. If an imaginary line through the body from tip to toe is the 0° line, then with these people, the left leg kicks at an angle of about 50° to the left, and the right one is at an angle of about 10° to the left. What the fuck? Do these people not realise that YOU ARE NOT DOING IT RIGHT. NOT AT ALL. Makes me sick.
The hordes of obese people also make me sick. Come on Scotland, shape up.
Kids are an annoyance too, but hey, they’re kids. At least they stay out of my lane, and only seem to annoy those people in the slowest lane. To be honest, if you want to twat about, do it in the leisure pool when it’s open; not the training pool where people are trying to get serious lengths done, albeit slowly. Oh, and kids – make sure you learn how to swim properly, and DON’T SPLASH. I’ve witnessed one too many outboard-motor-gone-wrong style kicking techniques to let that one go.
Finally, you may meet the Ugly Arses Who Won’t Swim. They’re the worst kind. There are two of them that come into my lane every week. What do they do? In the 40 minutes that I am there, in which I complete 50 lengths, these Ugly Arses Who Won’t Swim manage perhaps 10. In the rest of the time, they just talk and talk and talk. Oh – did I mention that they do this WHILST BLOCKING THE END OF THE FUCKING LANE. Sigh. Seriously – if you’re going to go swimming, can you please swim? Be a bit more considerate. There is nothing more annoying when you’re doing lengths then having to turn back before the end because the end is filled up with Ugly Arses Who Won’t Swim, or really needing a rest and not being able to due to said overcrowding. To add insult to injury, it’s not even as if the conversations are interesting – no, they’re always of the most banal subjects. Magazines. Shopping. The weather. Save me!
You may now ask: why do I continue to go swimming ? Mid-swim, I ask myself this question a lot, but when I get out of the pool and am walking out of the doors and entering into the starry night… I feel relaxed; I feel happy. Maybe there’s something in the water, maybe I’m just crazy. Who knows?