Friday, November 10, 2006

Beginner's Swim

Regarding that last blog entry ... uh ... that was my fault. I mean, I'm the one that got the feces all over her because I'm the one who wouldn't give up believing that somewhere under all that crap there must be a pony.

Word to the wise: sometimes all there is at the bottom of a barrel of crap is the bottom of the barrel.

So yeah, I'm a slow learner. It took me three marriages to figure out I wasn't heterosexual, and it took me two years of muttering, "what a bunch of backstabbing liars and morons!" to figure out that I should remove the AOL message boards from my "favorite places" and turn my IM and e-mail controls to "not only no, but HELL no!"

But even a slow learner can be taught.

The summer I turned five my family moved from a small mining camp to the city. My parents bought a house in a neighborhood with a community pool and they signed me up for swimming lessons. I was too short to stand on the bottom of the pool and keep my head above water at the same time, so I learned to hold my breath and bob. What I couldn't do was the one thing that would get me out of Beginner's Swim ... I couldn't make it the length of the pool. I'd try mightily, but I'd always end up flailing and out of breath halfway down the pool, dog-paddling for the side and hanging on for dear life. This went on for three summers. Miss Green and I got where we just about couldn't stand the sight of each other.

Finally, one bright and glorious Saturday morning in the summer of my 7th year, we all lined up at the deep end of the pool like every other Saturday, Miss Green blew her whistle and we all dove in. I swam like my life depended on it. I stroke, stroke, stroked and kick, kick, kicked till my lungs felt like they were about to collapse. No one was more shocked than me when I nearly knocked myself unconscious slamming into the concrete at the OTHER end of the pool. I popped my head out of the water and looked around. I was the first kid to the end! I not only swam the length of the pool, I beat everyone else! At long last, after three years of struggle and shame, I would finally get that little fish pin and the certificate of achievement proving I was no longer a Beginner, but an Intermediate Swimmer.

And then I heard that infernal whistle blasting repeatedly and Miss Green's equally shrill voice calling out, "False start! Come back and do it again!" False start??? FALSE START??? This is Beginner's Swim, not the Olympics! I hated that woman in the red Speedo with a white-hot hatred, but I was not going to spend one more summer in Beginner's, and I would swim that pool all damn day if that's what it took, so I marched myself back to the deep end, hung my toes over the edge and put my arms in the starting position again. The whistle blew. I waited half a beat to make sure it was the real thing this time and I hit the water hell bent for Intermediate Swim. I didn't even make it out of the deep end. I just sank like a rock and Miss Green had to put down her thermos of coffee and dive in to save me.

The next summer I took private lessons from the nice man who lived two houses down and had a pool in his back yard. Today I can swim like nobody's business.

At seven years old I already knew there had to be better ways to spend a Saturday morning than dog-paddling to keep your head above water to prove something to people who don't particularly care about you anyway, especially when you suspect they might actually take some perverse pleasure in watching you nearly drown. I'm even smarter at 52.

So long, AOL. Hello, Advanced Swim!


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